Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Ode To The HR Professional

You work in Human Resources, you have too much to do.
The promise of new software, never quite comes true.
The sales guy you spoke to, says he has it all.
But then you ask the price and it almost makes you fall.

At the last convention, the future sure looked bright.
So many new inventions, to solve the HR plight.
One company does Big Data, but talks in terabyte.
They've never done HR, and you know he can’t be right.

Your company just merged, and your new boss looks 16
You hope she is much older, but you know it’s just a dream.
Now you have to teach her, how your job gets done
But every time she shows up, she’s always on the run.

Oh, you work in human resources, and you know that it's true
Every project that you need, is back in the IT queue.
The CEO says people, are always number one
But every time you ask for money, something else needs done.

But in the end you love your job, and take some time to Tweet
You let the world around you, know your job is neat.
At times you do think back, to what mama used to say,
You don’t work in HR, if you’re in it for the pay!

You’ll probably stay around, another year or two
You hear that HR mobile, will make your dreams come true.
So maybe if you ask her, your boss will not turn blue
When you ask to have your cell phone 
.........Upgraded from 2002.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Quick Study Finds 3 Reasons Employees Won’t Refer

We recently conducted an experiment with 178 employees to find out how they would react to a new employee referral program. 42 signed up. That is 23.6%. Not bad, but also not anywhere good enough. I wanted to know why more did not participate.

Before we started this experiment we did a little researching of our own to find out what to expect. How many employees usually participate in referral programs? I had a hard time finding a study that focused specifically on that, but the number seems rather small. Less than 10% seems to be a common number I hear. (If you know of a study that provides good data about this – please send me the link)

That means if you have a company of 250 great employees that you would love to clone, you only get about 20 to 25 of them that ever pass on names for you to consider. Why is that?

After running our test for 3 weeks I interviewed a subset of the employees that participated in the referral program and a subset that did not. The responses were interesting and I will write about some more of them in future blogs, but here are the top three reasons employees did not want to participate in referrals:
  1. Email Noise: This one surprised me (though maybe it should not have). An overwhelming number of the participants in both groups interviewed said they barely read emails that aren’t critical to the task at hand. Emails from HR or “corporate” get perused, but unless it really affects them right now, today, they put it aside. It is not that they have anything against participating in a referral program; they just didn’t slow down enough to read the email.
  2. Fear of Failure Effect: Employees don’t want to be associated with a bad referral. They even stated in our conversation that they realized referrals usually resulted in better employees, but they were unwilling to pass along any name that might not be seen as a great referral.
  3. Refer vs. Recommend (or just passing along a name): This reason was related to the Fear of Failure reason above but was different in a very important way. They did no trust that HR would still put a referral through the same kind of scrutiny they would a non-referred candidate. The employees said they knew a lot of people, but that was not the same thing as knowing whether they would fit in as employees. They were happy to pass on the name, but were not comfortable saying the person was a guaranteed good fit.
What's your experience with referrals? If you have any information on employee participation in referrals that you're willing to share,  I’d love to hear about it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Doing Laundry: 4 Lessons for Building Great HR Software

Doing The HR Laundry

Doing laundry is only drudgery if it keeps you from doing something else.
One of the many advantages of being a “basement-office entrepreneur” is you can do the laundry during the day, and today I thought about 4 lessons that doing laundry can teach us about building great HR software. (OK, it’s a stretch – but hang with me here….)

Lesson 1: Separate the Light from the Dark. OK, this is no missive from a Jedi Master, but its roots are the same. Developers get so bogged down in the problems and exceptions that they forget to focus on the really good stuff. I have found a much better approach is to build in all the good stuff, make the software as delightful as possible, and then go back and eradicate all the evil with your Light Saber.

Lesson 2: Don’t Overload the Machine. Stop putting in so many features that you can no longer tell what the real purpose of the application is supposed to be. Have you ever tried posting a job in one of the “Top 3” recruiting solutions? Give me a break. I just need one button that says GO.

Lesson 3: Watch out for Imbalances During the Spin Cycle. This is all about evaluating your solution (taking it for a spin). Most HR solutions designers get too fixated on one or two issues and then over design the system to deal with that; while forgetting that the whole system needs to be in balance. This problem becomes particularly obvious to your customers when all your sales staff can talk about are two features. OK, I understand that your system can be in both English and Urdu, but can it actually track employee leave?

Lesson 4: Take Things Out Before They Wrinkle. This is not a statement supporting age discrimination.  This is the fact that most HR solutions designers don’t know when to stop. Have you ever noticed that Version 1.0 is often so much better than Version 2. Who told them we needed a feature to automatically schedule a lunch break when setting up the interview schedule (and to make it impossible to change it). I’ll eat when I want to eat!

Now, back to folding socks, maybe it’ll teach me how to play tennis. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Take a Slice out of Big Data

Big data is a lot like refrigerators are to teenagers. Even though there’s a ton of food in it, they can’t find anything to eat.
How many new Tweets, blog posts, Link-In updates, Google+ posts are there in a day, or even in an hour. It is mind boggling. Yet there are companies out there screaming at HR professionals to get into BIG DATA, as though it is some kind of parachute that will help you from your inevitable fall.

Just because you now have access to every bit of information about your employees, your potential recruits, your competition for resources, or what your boss ate for breakfast doesn't mean any of this information is really going to help you run your business.

I have worked for big data companies in the past, and now I am starting up my own company that focuses on big data. But we never called it big data. If anything, we might have called it small data. You don’t need to know about everything going on out there; you only need to know about the things that are important to you.

Most people in the big data business don’t get HR. And because they don’t get HR they stick you in front of the refrigerator and tell you there is everything you need in there to make a meal.

But data is like ingredients, it needs a recipe to make it a meal. The recipes have to come from HR. 

Those crazy data-wonks that come to you with a "show and tell" full of charts rarely know what it is you do and what data you need to succeed. So if you plan on spending any time growing your big data capabilities, make sure you – the HR professional – pick the recipe and decides what ingredients need to be gathered.

Together we can make a fine soufflé

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ask Employees What They Think When Designing HR Products

70% of employees hate the HR systems they have to use. I just made that up, but in my own informal survey of the 10 people sitting next to me, seven of them said they think the systems we use for payroll, benefits, HR, etc. was designed poorly. We use one of those “highly rated systems”.

Who do they ask when they conduct surveys about those systems anyway? HR people – right.

There is an old saying in the design world: Don’t just design for your customer, design for your customer’s customer.  The customer’s customer for HR Products is the employee.

But how many of the companies building HR products do that? I mean really do that? I will admit that I do not know all of the companies out there, I have not directly seen the processes of more than a dozen of them, but what I have seen is the results. Most of the software out there does not make it easy for an employee to do what they want to do.

You see it at trade-shows too. And you see it in that terrible sales and marketing stuff they send you. They don’t talk much about the employee. Oh sure – they give it lip service: Employees will love it, or It will make employees more productive. How do they know? Who did they ask? Mostly it is all about HR productivity and HR improvement and HR happiness.  HR is not happy if the employees aren't happy.

So to all you builders of HR product solutions; next time you build a new feature, don’t just interview a bunch of your customers. Interview their customers. Ask the employees what they need!