Quick Lessons Learned from the 2014 #NBASummerLeague

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I'm back from the now annual trip to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with most of the 8 Man Rotation (Steve Boese, Kris Dunn, Lance Haun).  The trip was filled with good food, conversation, music (in the form of Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails in concert) and, of course, basketball.  So, what can be gleaned from a 3 day trip watching exhibition basketball?  You can read Steve's take here and Kris' take here.   Here's mine:

"You'll be pleased" is the new "Fine."
Over burgers at Bobby Flay's Burger Palace, discussion turned to reference checks and performance reviews.  A little less than two years ago, K.D. wrote that "neutral is the new negative," meaning that if the person giving the reference is only sharing basic info, the candidate is not likely to be a star at your organization.  Further, like "awesome," "fine" has become overused and lost any authenticity when it comes to praise.  If a person says an applicant or performer is "fine," are you buying that he or she is of quality?  So, what did the group settle on as an authentic phrase of praise?  "You'll be pleased."  For example, to Atlanta Hawks superfan K.D., "You'll be pleased with 1st round draft pick from Michigan State, Adriean Payne."   

EVERYONE is looking to make an impression
Not only are players looking to become one of the chosen 450 to make an NBA roster, coaches are trying to move up the ranks, and refs are trying to make the big show.  But, even behind the scenes, moves are trying to be made.  You have the overenthusiastic announcer trying to show off his chops, "Dennis Horner from the Corner!" 
"P.J. Hairston with the flush!"  You also had the singer of the national anthem.  Who was he?  Not sure?  Did he do a competent job?  Yes.  Was he paid?  Probably not.  But, like the HR blogger being told that writing on a blog will give him/her valuable "exposure," I'm positive someone somewhere gave the singer advice that such a performance will lead to gigs down the road.

EVERYONE thinks they know talent
Rodney Hood, formerly of Duke, and now part of the Utah Jazz...not a fan.  Here's his stats for the 5 summer league games he played:

Game 1: 3-of-13 from the floor, 1-of-10 from 3, nine points
Game 2: 11-of-16 from the floor, 7-of-10 from 3, 29 points
Game 3: 1-of-9 from the floor, 0-of-2 from 3, three points
Game 4: 7-of-11 from the floor, 1-of-3 from 3, 19 points
Game 5: 2-of-8 from the floor, 1-of-3 from 3, seven points 

Needless to say, I pointed out his shortcomings rather loudly during his mediocre game 5 performance.  Who took exception?  The trio of 10-year-old boys in front of me who knew he was the best player on the court.

If the three takes regarding the 2014 Summer League are not enough, feel free to listen to the 27-minute HR Happy Hour podcast summing up the weekend here 

True Faith HR Replay: Why #HR Should Care About the NBA Summer League

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, July 14, 2014

On Thursday, I will join three of my colleagues behind the 8 Man Rotation in Las Vegas (we always leave one behind to keep it going in case something befalls the rest of us) for two to three days to catch some NBA Summer League action.
Why do we want to head to the desert in summer time to spend 8-10 hours a day in a gym watching exhibition basketball when those games don't matter?
Because, in actuality, the games DO matter....for those playing.   In his piece on Grantland, Steve McPherson describes what it is like for those involved:

These are guys who have worked their entire lives to be one of the 450 players in the top basketball league in the world. Guys who spent their whole lives being one of the best basketball players in any situation they ever found themselves in. And now it’s just the grind. They’re simply looking for their shot.
The ones hoping for that shot are almost universally flawed in one way or another: undersized or stuck between positions; not good enough at one specific thing to be useful to a team; dogged by problems we can’t even see, the kind of stuff many of us carry around.........
But for these players — who are among the top one or two percent of basketball players in the world — it’s their big chance. Not to become something they’re not, but to see their years of work turn them into what they’ve always been striving toward.

Those playing over these few days in Orlando and in Las Vegas are no different than the applicants to your organization.  They're polishing their resumes,  taking your work sample test, engaging in your role play or simulation, trying to impress you enough to take a chance on them.

For us watching, it will be passing entertainment...but for those involved, it will be all too real, with stakes that truly matter to them.

Should Your "A" Players Recruit For Your Organization?

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 30, 2014

Its long been mantra that great employees want to work with other great employees.  The organization can only be better when great employees see others putting out quality effort.  In "First, Break All The Rules," Marcus Buckingham wrote that one of the critical 12 questions that measures the strength of an organization is "Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?"

Interesting news, then, from the NBA, as the star of the Chicago Bulls is shying away from selling the organization to prospective players - in particular, talented free agent Carmelo Anthony.  According to Yahoo Sports

The Chicago Bulls are expected to pursue Carmelo Anthony in free agency. They just shouldn't expect Derrick Rose to participate in the recruiting.

Rose told Yahoo Sports on Sunday that he doesn't plan to recruit Anthony – or any free agent, for that matter – even though he likes Anthony's game and thinks they can play alongside each other.

Rose's reason is simple: He said it's "not his job."

"My thing is if they want to come, they can come," Rose said.

The goal of every player and team is to win that world championship (though some would rather make that max contract).  Each player should be looking at how they could make their team better.  Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose's teammate, has been doing everything possible to get Carmelo to come to Chicago:

According to several sources, including a teammate, Noah's All-Star Weekend “conversation'' with New York Knicks standout Carmelo Anthony didn't end in New Orleans. They had discussions via text the rest of the season, including the day after the Bulls were eliminated in the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

“I was kidding Jo that they were boys now,'' a source said in a phone interview Friday. “ ‘Well, get your boy to come to Chicago.' ''

Sources said Noah has been in Anthony's ear as often as possible, and he has told other Bulls to push hard for Anthony this summer. But there is one condition: Backup big man Taj Gibson can't be sacrificed.

So, what is the obligation of your superstar to sell your organization to prospective candidates?  Does he or she have any responsibility, particular when fellow employees are making a strong push as well?

Its less than 2 weeks until the start of the NBA Summer League, and the 8 Man Rotation is looking forward to its annual trip to Las Vegas, June 17-20.  If you're interested in joining us, let me know.

My Annual Love Letter to the @SHRMFoundation #SHRM14

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 23, 2014

Dear SHRM Foundation,

We’ve known each other for years.  We’ve had our ups (your support of the HRGames) and our downs (the 247 Director’s Circle pins you sent me as a sign of your affection).  However, despite this rollercoaster of emotions, I’ve always supported you and been in your corner.  So, in this public forum, it is time to declare my love for you and say that you’re the best thing under the SHRM umbrella.  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

  1.  I love your heart and generosity- you provided $200,000 in scholarships and awards in 2013  These scholarships and awards are available for such things as certification, studies in HR, as well as for dissertations and the HR Advisor of the Year (I'm a proud recipient in 2006).  Further, you continually give many of the products that are the result of your efforts away for free to the greater HR community.  You have changed and affected the lives of so many in such a positive, affirming away.
  2. I love your mind – You are the leading funder of HR research.  You provided more than $600,000 in research dollars in 2013.  You are changing the face of the HR profession with cutting-edge products, such as the Effective Practice Guidelines, and the DVD Series.  Your Thought Leadership Initiative is setting the tone by identifying trends that will impact the workplace in the next 5-10 years.
Thanks for all that you do to enrich and advance the profession.



P.S. if you know of others who love you as much as I do, please tell them to stop by Booth 2264 and contribute to make the Foundation even stronger.  If you are reading this at home, go visit the SHRM Foundation website at http://www.shrm.org/about/foundation/Pages/default.aspx, and read more about the great things the Foundation does.  You can also "Give on the Go" by texting SHRMF to 56512

The Four #SHRM14 Conference Keynote Archetypes

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, June 22, 2014

If you're a newbie to the SHRM Annual Conference, you'll see that a major attraction to entice people to attend is the array of keynotes providing guidance and inspiration.  Perhaps this was one of the critical factors influencing your decision.

After attending for 14 years, you'll see that their are 4 major types of keynotes (h/t to Matt Charney for inspiring the post) that SHRM brings in.

The CEO/Major Executive.  

This speaker shares his (usually) insight of how he views HR and the workplace.  Think Earl Graves, Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Tony Hsieh, Louis Gerstner or Steve Forbes.  This year we have David Novak.

The Management/HR Pundit

This individual usually has a best selling book on HR and is sharing his or her results.  Think John Kotter, Patrick Lencioni, Malcolm Gladwell, Jim Collins, Marcus Buckingham, or Dan Pink.   This year it is Tom Friedman.

The Celebrity/Political LeaderIn the past, SHRM has brought in such names as Tom Brokaw, Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Al Gore, Rudy Guiliani, Al Gore, Bill Cosby, and Sidney Poitier.  This year, we have Laura Bush.

The Inspirational/Motivational Speaker

This speaker usually has a message that gets us excited about what HR is about, or inspires us about how he/she overcame obstacles.  Sometimes, this overlaps with the celebrity speaker.  Such audience pleasers have included Lee Woodruff, Captain Mark Kelly & Gabby Giffirds, Erin Gruwell, Liz Murray, Michael J. Fox, and Lance Armstrong.  This year is Robin Roberts.

Keep these archetypes in minds for future SHRM conferences.

#HRPickUpLines and the #SHRM14 Expo Hall

by Matthew Stollak

This is the 14th SHRM Annual Conference I've attended, so I'm a bit jaded when it comes to the promotion from vendors to visit their booths.  However, this year, Careerbuilder has a unique take by using the hashtag #HRPickUpLines as a way to get attention to their name.  The "best" lines can win an iPad air.  Here is the first winning line:

Here is a sampling of my entries:

Which ones your favorite?  Have a better one?  Submit it, and you may win an iPad.  See you around the Exhibit Hall.

What Should Be Discussed Instead of Certification at #SHRM14

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The SHRM Big Show begins in less than a week as 15,000+ HR professionals descend on Orlando to hear about the latest in human resource management.  Unless you are a HR professional living under a rock, the topic du jour(s) will be the new SHRM certification being introduced....you won't be able to escape it.  SHRM will have 3 straight days of sessions dedicated to the topic.  HRCI, while banished from the conference, will be holding a Monday night event at EPCOT to share there insights.  Vegas has put better odds of snow occurring during the four days in Orlando than Hank Jackson NOT discussing certification during the opening session.  I fully expect that SHRM will hand out an HR action figure called "Certy" to attendees at their booth in the exhibit hall.

Never has so much attention been paid to an issue that has so little impact on the day-to-day functioning of HR.

I wish a modicum of attention was paid to these issues instead:

1.  Sleep

Did you hear about the accident that nearly killed TV star Tracy Morgan?  It was the result of a Walmart truck driver who had gone more than 24 hours without sleeping.  According to Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, "drivers feel pressure from their employers to drive more than 60-70 hours a week with insufficient rest."  Further, Congress is attempting to make regulation of truck driver rest even more lax:

Days before Morgan's accident thrust trucking safety into the news, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would undo rules that only went into effect last year that mandated certain rest periods for truck drivers. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) added an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill that would suspend a regulation that truck drivers rest for 34 consecutive hours, including two nights from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM, before driving again.

Issues involving sleep are not limited to the trucking industry.  As a parent of 15-month old twins, getting 6+ hours of uninterrupted sleep is a luxury.  The impact of less sleep is huge:


Instead of certification, we should be discussing how the profession can assist employees in ensuring they are properly rested so they may perform at a more productive level.

2.  Wage Theft 

According to the New York Times,

When wage theft against low-wage workers is combined with that against highly paid workers, a bad problem becomes much worse. Data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute show that in 2012, the Department of Labor helped 308,000 workers recover $280 million in back pay for wage-theft violations — nearly double the amount stolen that year in robberies on the street, at banks, gas stations and convenience stores.

Moreover, the recovered wages are surely only a fraction of the wage theft nationwide because the Labor Department has only about 1,100 wage-and-hour investigators to monitor seven million employers and several states have ended or curtailed wage enforcement efforts.

This is a huge black eye for the profession, and we should be discussing how to minimize this occurrence.

3.  A Living Wage

My wonderful blogging colleagues at SHRM14 are putting together a little charity event on Sunday night to raise money for No Kid Hungry.  It truly is a worthy endeavor.

At the same time, how much discussion is going into their Congressional representatives cutting funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families?  Or, eliminating unemployment benefits after a certain period of time, even when unemployment remains high.  Each contribute significantly to childhood hunger.

Recently, Seattle passed a minimum wage increase of $15 an hour.  Given HR's role in setting compensation, what influence, if any, should they have to address the impact of wage stagnation?