Employee Relations, Tough Conversations, and #SHRM15

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Several years ago, long-time family and friends got together over the holidays for a good meal.  Grown children were back in the nest, and we enjoyed the repast reminiscing about days gone by.

The conversation, however, drifted into a discussion regarding what we remember as the most upsetting or painful interaction we had with our parent/child.  For example, one son mentioned his father yelling at him across a blackjack table, "If you're not going to play RIGHT, don't play at all."

What emerged was that every child had a painful memory that the parent had no recollection of doing.  Similarly, parents held onto a moment of regret that did not even register as important to the child.


A HR manager who has served an organization for a significant period of time has likely had many a difficult conversation with his or her work "family."

It would not be surprising that many of these managers have held on to memories of painful discussions they have had with some of their current employees.

However, if the discussion with our friends is any indication, it is likely those employees are not hung up on those past interactions.

The theme of the 2015 SHRM Annual Conference was "tHRive."  If today's managers want to truly thrive, they'd be wise to let go of those interactions that haunt them.  They are not as important as one would believe.


#SHRM15 Day 1 Quick Impressions

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 29, 2015

This is my fifteenth straight year of attending the SHRM Annual Conference.  Here are my quick impressions from day 1:

  • As always, kudos to the many volunteers helping to support the Annual Conference.  If you have an opportunity, be sure to thank the many individuals who give up their time to make the conference succeed
  • Special shout out goes to Terry Starr and the Dice team for sponsoring the SHRM15 Blogger lounge.   The SHRM bloggers are here to provide content and perspective on the going-ons and we hope you get a few positive takeaways from them.
  • Magician and entertainer Penn Jillette gave a rousing opening highlighting what it takes to thrive in Las Vegas, echoing the theme of the conference.  However, I wonder if the 100 pounds he lost referred to his silent partner Teller, who was nowhere to be seen.
  • CEO Hank Jackson's opening address most likely resonated with first time attendees.   However, was there anything unique in his points that couldn't have been said in 2013 or 2014?  How is HR different today than it was one or two years ago?  How has SHRM changed in what they do this year compared to what they did last year?
  • I was not looking forward to Coach K's keynote, and, being from Wisconsin, it was certainly crushing to have to revisit the "highlights" of Duke's championship win over the Badgers.  However, I appreciated his three main points of employees and employers needing to be adaptable, taking ownership of their actions (does this include flopping on the court?), and demonstrating one's feelings.
  • Most embarrassing use of Twitter - the continued reference to @coachkwisdom, an account that is neither affiliated with Duke University nor Coach K.  While I am sure the manager of the account appreciated the attention, be better people.
Onto day 2....

Eleven Things NOT to DO at #SHRM15

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In about a month, individuals will be heading to Las Vegas to attend the 2015 SHRM Annual Conference.  This will be my 15th SHRM Annual Conference, and, based on my years of experience, here are the things you do NOT want to do while attending.

1.  Do NOT avoid drinking water 
Its the desert, people.  Every day will likely be 100 degrees and it will be a dry heat, so you won't even feel like you're sweating.  But, given the significant amount of walking you're likely to do as well as the arctic temperatures inside the convention center to counteract the heat, you'll need all the H20 you can handle.  Bring a portable water bottle and keep it filled and by your side at all times.

2.  Do NOT suffer from SWAG remorse.

The exhibit hall is going to open at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 28 and you going to be tempted by every vendor with some sort of gee-gaw or doo-dad that you absolutely have to bring back to the office.  You may have already received an inch tall pile of vendor mail and you've mapped out your strategy for maximizing your haul.  You may have even packed light so that you have plenty of room in your suitcase for all the giveaways.  It is free, right?  You HAVE To grab it.  Trust me, as a former victim, you will suffer from SWAG remorse.  It may take a week....it may take a month, but you are going to look at that tote bag full of "goodies" you brought back and you are going to ask yourself why you grabbed that 7th t-shirt or 14th squeeze ball.  Regret always tastes sour.

3.   Do NOT accept anything being handed to you by anyone on the Las Vegas Strip

You'll suffer from more than SWAG remorse.  Trust me on this one.

4.  Do NOT bring a rollerbag to the conference

I have posted this several times since 2010, and people are still not listening.  Rollerbags are the scourge of the exhibit hall.  They get underfoot, and people are often unaware of the people behind them when toting it along.  Don't be that person.
5. Do NOT get in the way

You make think the exhibit hall is huge, but the rows are narrower than you think.  If you see someone you know, step out of the way, so that others can traverse the area more freely.  If people have to walk around you, you're doing it wrong.
6.  Do NOT use the phrase "Seat at the Table" or you'll be fined $100

The phrase "seat at the table" is officially barred from mention at the conference.  If you say it, you owe $100 to the SHRM Foundation.  If you overhear it in Las Vegas, tell that person they owe $100 to the SHRM Foundation. If a speaker uses it in a session, please tweet out the following phrase:

"(Insert speaker name here) owes $100 to the @shrmfoundation for saying "Seat at the table." #SHRM15 #SHRMShame"

7.  Do NOT be Gwyneth Paltrow in "Contagion"

I know you are excited to be going to Las Vegas, and hanging with 13,000+ of your favorite HR friends.  You may have already spent significant dollars on travel, hotel, Cirque tickets, etc.  However, if you are even remotely close to being ill, please consider staying home.  It seems I get ill once every couple of years, and most likely I caught something from a sick person.  So, do not be patient zero.  Dr. Oz may be a keynote speaker, but I doubt he can magically prevent germs from being spread.
8.  Do NOT treat students with disrespect

This one goes out to the exhibit hall vendors.  Ideally, every person who walks through the exhibit hall should be treated with respect.  However, it is inevitable every year that my students will come back with horror stories about being treated rudely by someone manning an exhibit hall booth.  I know you are there to make potential sales connections, and a student is unlikely to be a customer anytime soon.  However, if these students are dedicated enough to travel to Las Vegas to attend the conference, they are dedicated to the profession, and will likely be a potential customer in the future.  Don't burn a bridge before it has a chance to be constructed, as those students will remember who did them wrong!
9.  Do NOT text or tweet and walk

There will be 13,000+ individuals in attendance at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  When that General Session with Marcus Buckingham or Dr. Oz lets out, you and all your new friends will simultaneously be trying to get out of the hall and head to the next session, the bathroom, or to grab some coffee.  Please do not start walking and stare down at your phone.  I am excited that you have the Twitter, Facebook, or Hootsuite app, and you are using the #SHRM15 hashtag.   But, inevitably, you will run into the back of someone.  This will not be one of those "meet cute" scenarios you see in the movies. Instead, you will likely be called out because that person you just ran into will see your name on your badge.
10.  Do NOT make me stand up & participate during your session 

If you are a speaker and part of your schtick is to get me to do some activity as part of the session (particularly as a warm-up at the beginning), unless it magically causes me to lose 40 pounds, you will receive the lowest rating possible.  It tells me you do not have enough material for the time required.
11.  Do NOT wear your SHRM Conference badge at night.

As SHRM notes, wearing your badge outside of the convention center will peg you as a visitor from out of town and a target for crime.  Even worse, many of you will likely heading to one of the bevy of parties that are out there.  Bad behavior might ensue.  Wearing your badge will likely make your name live in infamy as people mention your sordid exploits at future conferences.  Try to drink in relative anonymity and leave your badge in your hotel room.  Sight see, but do NOT be a sight to be seen.

So, what else would you tell attendees NOT to do?  Leave a note below, or tweet your suggestion to #SHRM15Festivus .  Also, check out the #NextChat twitter discussion on Wednesday, June 3 at 3:00 p.m./2:00 Central for all things #SHRM15 related from the #SHRM15Blogger crew

Sign of a Strong Employment Brand? Candidates Doing the Recruiting

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

There are good times to be a Michigan State Spartans fan.  In fact, if you were a member of the MSU Class of 2015, you've known nothing but success.  Michigan State is the first school in NCAA history to win four consecutive bowl games and reach the Sweet 16 in basketball for four consecutive years.

So, what has that meant to the Spartan brand?  As Head Football Coach Mark Dantonio says, "When we came here back in 2007, the reality of the situation was that we were selling hopes.  It's to a point now where we're selling results, and that's the big difference."

These results are translating into something unique: recruits selling the brand to others in the hope of joining them.

Class of 2016 members Cam Chambers, Abdul Adams, and Messiah deWeaver have created a Twitter account, @MSUDreamTeam2016, in the hopes of attracting others to play at Michigan State.

Chambers and offensive lineman Matt Allen (Hinsdale, Ill.) were MSU's only commitments at that point. Now the class stands at 12 verbals, is ranked in the top 10 nationally by every major recruiting service and appears poised for more prominent additions soon.

Receiver Donnie Corley (Detroit King), safety Kenney Lyke (Palatine, Ill.) and defensive ends Josh King (Darien, Ill.) and Auston Robertson (Fort Wayne, Ind.) are among the celebrated targets close to decisions and viewed as MSU leans by some analysts. Some may have privately chosen MSU already.

That was the case with deWeaver, long before his announcement. And all who pick the Spartans are added to an ongoing group text deWeaver started. That's where the "real" talk happens, not on the Twitter account.

"It seems like we're adding people to it every night," deWeaver said.

"I think people are not talking enough about the big story here, the group text message that is going on," said Steve Wiltfong, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com. "The Twitter account, other people do that and that is what people see publicly, but this is different. You want to go to college with people you enjoy being around. I believe recruiting is a game of inches, and this is another way Michigan State is capitalizing on every inch right now."

This kind of communication helping committed prospects recruit others "has predecessors," said Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com, but "Michigan State is in the mold where they're perfecting it."

These are not employees who have been with the organization for years, experiencing the ups and downs of the business, and sharing their thoughts with a candidate.  These are future "employees" who will, for the most part, not join the organization full-time for at least a year.  They want quality workers to join them to make the organization a success.  They have already bought into the brand and can't wait to sell it to others.

So, as you look at the high school or college junior who just joined your organization on a part-time job or internship, are they espousing the virtues of your organization to their friends or on social media?  Do you have a DreamTeam2016 of your own in place?

Ph.D.'s Gotta Ph.D.: 4 Ways Academic Staffing Differs from Traditional Staffing

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, March 3, 2015

As we head into spring, most colleges and universities are currently wrapping up or have already completed, their search for tenure-track faculty members.  Having served on five search committees for our department over the past four years, and as an outside member for several other searches, here are four ways academic staffing differs from traditional staffing.

1.  Faculty run the search, not HR.

From writing the job placement ads to corresponding with potential candidates who respond, it is the faculty members on the committee responsible for conducting and leading the search. They are the ones who travel to conferences to interview prospective candidates. They are the ones sifting through (often) hundreds of vitae to narrow the field (no ATS here).  They are the ones on the phone interviewing their top 10 candidates.  They are the ones who host the top 3-4 candidates on the on-campus interview and recommend their choice to the Dean for approval.  HR will review the placement ad, conduct background checks, and work with the Dean on salary recommendations, but, for the most part, it is the faculty's show.

Why faculty, and not HR?  Presumably only other faculty members are uniquely qualified to judge the merits of other faculty on topics such as quality of research.

2.  A.C.R.E.A.M. (Academic Calendars Rule Everything Around Me)

Unlike traditional recruiting, the academic calendar is the master that oversees the search.  There is only one date that most colleges and universities use to guide their decision - the start of the Fall quarter or semester.  One of our current searches is in its last throes.  Unless a miracle candidate suddenly falls in our lap, we will begin our search for a tenure-track management professor this summer for someone to start in August of 2016. Yes, August 2016.  

The job placement ad will be sent out in June of 2015.  The major academic conference (Academy of Management) takes place in August of 2015 (in Vancouver).  Not only is it the meeting place for sharing and discussion of the latest in academic research, but it is the largest job fair for academics (we interviewed 32 candidates during the conference several years ago).  Fall 2015 will be a review of additional vitae, and, if lucky, phone/skype interviews with the top 8-10 candidates.  If all goes well, top candidates will be invited to campus in November, with a recommendation (if any) to hire by December of 2015.  As the Fall schedule is being set in February/March, colleges and universities want someone in place to be able to offer the courses needed for students to graduate. Most want to be able to offer a name next to the course instead of "TBD" or "Staff" (though if your last name is "Staff," you'll be teaching A LOT of courses).  Which means....

3.  ....Your hire may not start for several months

A new academic hire usually will not start in two weeks after being selected.  For some positions, it may be 8-10 months before he or she steps foot on campus to begin the new role.  It is unusual for a new hire to start at the beginning of the spring semester/quarter.  There is certainly a "secondary" market that exists in the spring consisting of those not initially chosen in the Fall, as well as those colleges and universities dealing with the ripple effect of someone departing.  Colleges and universities also recognize that a faculty member may always leave, and its too disruptive to try to find a replacement in that short time for a specific set of courses.

4. A new hire is on board a minimum of two years

Colleges and universities not only hire slow, but fire even slower.  Most tenure-track hires are often given two or three years to show proficiency in the classroom.  Scholarship takes several years to come to fruition.  Unless the hire clearly demonstrates incompetency or does something so egregious to warrant termination, he or she will be with the organization for several years before potentially losing his or her job for poor performance.

So, HR folk, is academia doing it wrong?

The 2014 Season of the #8ManRotation is Here!

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Like the Replacements 2015 tour, the latest edition of the 8 Man Rotation is back by unpopular demand.  Hot takes from Steve Boese, Kris Dunn, Lance Haun, Tim Sackett and myself on all that happened in the world of sports in 2014 and how HR can learn from our favorite athletes.

What is the 8 Man Rotation?  From the 1st edition:

"The 8 Man Rotation. In basketball parlance, it refers to the five starters and three players off the bench who play the primary amount of minutes during a game. Given that most basketball rosters contain 12 or more players, the coach has decided that the combination of these 8 players provides the team with the best opportunity to win. Team chemistry and production are at its maximum. 

The keys to success with an 8 man rotation and sports is not much different than the keys to success in human resource management. As co-contributor SteveBoese writes, “Where else but in big-time sports can you see the effects of talent assessment, recruiting, leadership, and employee engagement played out, in public, under the spotlight, every day of the year? What players to draft, which ones to develop, which ones to cut loose, and how to build the right mix of personalities and talent to achieve team goals are the primary concern of all sports franchises.”

The 2014 edition brings 64 all new posts comprising 161 pages, with a special foreword from proud Ohio State alum Paul Hebert, and, as always, the great 8 Man Rotation logo from Lizzie and Isaiah Maldonado

Over the five seasons, we have now totaled 278 posts and 688 pages of sports and HR goodness.  Luckily, sports continue to entertain and amaze each year providing new fodder to contemplate. 

Check out the latest edition below or at our dedicated site, the8manrotation.com.

#SHRM Chapter Advisors, the SHRM Case Competition & Career Summit #SHRMStudent

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, February 9, 2015

One of the underappreciated roles among SHRM volunteers is the SHRM student chapter advisor.  The success of a SHRM student chapter is typically dependent on a willing faculty member to step up and take responsibility for being the lead contact.  He or she advises and assists the students in running their chapter through guidance, not doing the work.  A chapter advisor truly lives by the St. Norbert College motto: “Docere verbo et exemplo (to teach by word and example).”
How does a SHRM student chapter advisor accomplish the above? 

First, the advisor acts as the official point of contact for the chapter.  The advisor is the liaison with SHRM ensuring the chapter maintains the appropriate chapter roster as well as collects all mailings.  The advisor them disseminates information and materials to the student officers and members.  Second, the advisor maintains the continuity of the chapter.  Since annual membership turnover is usually 40-50% due to graduating members, advisors play a critical role to provide continuity from year to year. Third, the advisor works with the professional chapter liaison to foster leadership and organizational skills in the student chapter executive board.  Fourth, the advisor often will take time out of their schedule to travel with students to state, regional, and national conferences.  Finally, the advisor acts as an advocate for the chapter in school affairs as needed.

Unfortunately, volunteering as a student chapter advisor is not often appreciated at many colleges and universities, as it  takes time away from research and scholarship.   Even an excellent advisor might not get much credit for promotion and tenure.  As a result, it takes a dedicated individual to take time out of their schedule to attend chapter meetings, or prepare the students for the HR Case Competition. 

However, advisors are not alone in making a student chapter a success.  The advisor leans on the many HR professionals, both locally and statewide.  These professionals often come speak at chapter meetings, serve as mentors for students, or even provide tours of their local companies or shadow them in their jobs.

With that in mind, the regional SHRM Case Competition and Career Summit is an opportunity to get professionals, chapter advisors, and students together.  According to SHRM, "the case scenarios reviewed during the competition can focus on any number of HR issues and requires strategic thinking, ethical decision-making, and strong leadership and presentation skills."  In addition, the Career Summit allows students to hear from keynote speakers and get 1-on-1 time with HR professionals to discuss career development.  As SHRM has cancelled the Student Conference at the 2015 Annual Conference after 15-plus years, the regional event may be the only event that many students will have that is student-focused.

The West Division takes place March 13-14 in Ontario, CA.   The early registration deadline is February 17.

The East Division takes place March 20-21 in Baltimore, MD.  The early registration  deadline is February 19.

The Central Division takes place April 24-25 in Covington, KY.  The early registration deadline is March 26.

If you are a HR professional near any one of these areas, take some time to volunteer and meet the dedicated advisors and the future HR leaders of tomorrow.