Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Data Science | Entrepreneurship | ..and sometimes Photography

Tag: Human Resources (page 2 of 4)

Are you looking after your employees?

wanted to follow up my post titled “In a downturn, people are vital” with a few more thoughts on the subject.

In that post, I said that “employees are your most important asset in any economy”…which is absolutely true.  I started thinking about that comment and realized that although many people might agree, you might not really understand what that means.

  • In good times, companies are more willing to pay out bonuses.  In bad times, bonuses disappear.
  • In good times, companies are hiring the best and brightest and salary can be negotiated based on experience and need.  In bad times, companies  revert to their ‘standard practices’ of paying ‘market rates’ regardless of how experienced the person is.
  • In good times, companies will ask for employees to give 110 percent.  In bad times, they ask for 350%.
  • In good times, training is plentiful.  In bad times, training is non-existent.
  • In good times, lunches and perks are plentiful.  In bad times, employees are lucky to get a free pizza for their efforts.

Does anyone see an issue here?

Why should we only treat employees well during the good times?

If you are an employer in a bad economy, your focus is on saving money and riding out the bad times.  Wrong move.  Your focus should be on growing your employees and making them happier than they were during the good times.

Why?  It’s simple.

During bad times, jobs are hard to come by so people will put up with a lot of crap.  But…when the market picks up, those people that have been worked to death and feel neglected will go somewhere else.  They WILL go somewhere else.

If you are a manager, ask yourself this question:

Do I want any of my team members to go work for my competitor?  If the answer is no (as it should be) you better be treating your people right or they will most likely end up somewhere else as soon as the economy picks up.

When times are tough, its tough  to spend on your employees…but many times, the simplest things will go a long way.  Don’t work your team too hard.  Say Thank You.  Take your team out to lunch. Send your staff to training courses…or at least allow them to take some time during the week to do some self-study.

The simple things will help you make it through a downturn in the economy and be ready to blow competitors away.

Anyone have any other ideas that can help during rough times?  Let me know in the comments.

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In a downturn, people are vital

Management Issues had an article on Sept 25 titled “Looking after talent is vital in a downturn” that gave me hope when I saw the title.

The article discusses results of a survey Personnel Decisions International that shows that organizations are starting to realize that people are key…especially during hard times.

The article says:

Despite the economy taking a nosedive and more firms cutting jobs, U.S managers say they are now spending more time working on retaining key staff, including paying them bonuses and sending them on training courses.

According to a poll of more than 530 HR and other professionals by recruitment firm Personnel Decisions International, nearly a third ranked “accelerating development of key employees” as their top strategy when it came to retaining top talent, followed by “competitive pay and benefits”.

Interesting results.

The article continues with other statistics from the PDI research and other surveys….but it seems that only the first few sentences are related to ‘looking after talent in a downturn’.  I was hoping to read an essay on how, during an economic downturn, your people are one of your most important assets.  I guess I’ll have to write that essay myself 🙂

While I don’t want to get into now…and don’t have time to do the research (I have a paper that is due in 3 hours), I would like to say:

Employees are your most important asset during Good AND Bad times.

There…ok..I feel better. 🙂

The rest of the article has some interesting statistics related to employee engagement:

  • nearly six out of 10 workers said they were not fully engaged, according to the poll of more than 2,000 employees.
  • Having a good relationship with a supervisor was a key element of feeling engaged, cited by nearly eight out of 10 workers
  • seven out of 10 workers polled said they had been asked to accomplish tasks without receiving proper training beforehand

These are very interesting but don’t relate to the title…these are engagement issues that will are interesting in and of themselves. I get the feeling the author of the article needed some filler and tried (unsuccessfully) to link the two topics.

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The job hunt

A friend of mine was applying for an IT position posted on a staffing/recruiting company website. The position was for Director of IT for a Dallas energy company and it seemed like a good fit for her.

She went to the staffing agency website, entered in the basic info and uploaded her resume. She was then sent to a secondary page for more details (Contact info, etc). After filling out the contact information, she was directed to a page that had specific questions related to the job.

Imagine her surprise when she starts answering the questions and gets to #4…there’s no question (See image below).  Question #5 has no question either…yet both ‘questions’ are required before you can proceed.

(Click Image for larger view)

She took a second to think about the type of company that would would require someone to fill out an answer for a non-existent question. She surmised that it was a simple mistake…we all make mistakes right? She decided to go ahead and submit the answers and she wrote “this question doesn’t exist” on #4 and #5…and took a screen shot just to be on the safe side.

She’s glad she did. She received an email a few days later stating “Because you didn’t answer all of the questions, your resume isn’t being considered for this position”. She responded with #4 and #5 being blank and sent them the screenshot, which they flatly refused to accept.

Needless to say…she wasn’t’ real heartbroken by not getting an interview. She passed along this story (and screenshot) to me and I immediately asked to use it on my blog (which she agreed to of course).

Moral of this story? If you use technology to screen candidates, at least make sure it works.

Zemanta Pixie

A Thought on Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has been seen as a ‘buzzword’ for some time but also been touted as something that every organization should focus on. It appears that there is some progress toward engaging employees (see the “Further Reading” below) but of course, many organization’s just don’t “get it”.

Instead of talking about how to engage employees (like I’ve done here and here), I wanted to take a second to address one simple little topic that any organization and/or person can implement that will help with employee engagement…or more importantly, help not to disengage employees.

What is the tiny & simple thing that you can avoid doing?

Don’t make your employees feel like under-appreciated (or worse unappreciated) drones.


You bust your hump working overtime to bring a project in on time. You put in 50 to 60 hours and your team does the same. Each team member has demonstrated their abilities to get the job done many times over and morale is quite high.

After the project is complete and you’ve got some down-time, you have an opportunity to attend a seminar. The seminar is free and is directly related to your job and is being held at a local restaurant over lunch. You sign up for the seminar (hey…its free food an an interesting topic right?) and tell your boss that you plan on attending the seminar and then going home and plan to work from there the rest of the afternoon. Your bosses’ response:

Sure…go ahead..sounds interesting. But…I’m not sure I’m comfortable with you working from home…you’ll need to take a half-day off to do this.

Talk about pulling the wind of your sails….perfect way to disengage an employee.

Remember…if you want to get your employees more engaged, make sure they know they are appreciated. Pay attention to the small things…take an afternoon and go bowling with the team. Buy them a pizza occasionally. It’s usually these small things that will benefit you the most….and hurt the most if you don’t attend to them.

Further Reading:

When half an hour is greater than 14.5 hours

Heard a wonderful story last week from a developer friend of mine and thought I’d share (with commentary of course!).

He had taken a full-time job at an organization as a Senior .NET developer and was working an average of 55 hours a week for them. He liked the work he was doing but wasn’t too keen on the ‘punch-in/punch-out’ timeclock that they used to track all employees. Nonetheless, he was happy…it was interesting work and good pay.

At the end of his third week there, he decided to head out early one Friday afternoon and get an early start on the weekend. He ‘clocked out’ 1/2 hour early and enjoyed his weekend.

Monday morning comes along and what does he find in his email? A message from his boss stating that he would need to stay an extra 1/2 hour to make up for the previous week. He went to see his boss figuring it might be an automated message from HR but was told that he was expected to work a minimum eight hour day and would need to make up the time.

His response to his boss? A respectful question about the additional 14.5 hours he had worked the previous week and why those hours didn’t make up for early departure the previous week. ‘

The response from his boss is classic ignorance: “we pay you for 8 hours a day…we expect a full 8 hour day from you“. It also shows his ignorance in math…..since when did 0.5 become greater than 14.5 (the number of hours he worked in addition to the 40 hours)?

Needless to say, my friend resigned and is now working as a contractor being paid hourly for the work that he does.

His boss, and the company that he had worked for, were a classic example of the ‘old school’ business management mindset: You must be in your chair for 8 hours a day to do your job. This is so wrong…especially with the research studies that are coming out left and right (see this post and this one).

Flexible working hours revisted

Management issues had posted another article (see the previous one here and my comments on the topic here) topic titled “Still suspicious of flexible working” that discusses a newly released study by HR consultancy Hewitt Associates. An excerpt follows:

The survey of 90 U.S. employers also found that two thirds believed that flexibility increased employee engagement and boosted employee retention, while half believed that it helped their recruitment efforts.

But despite this, flexible working still seems to be something of a corporate Cinderella, with barely more than a quarter of those surveyed having company-wide, formal written policies and almost the same proportion not even formally communicating the flexible working options they offer to their employees.

Four out of 10 companies have policies or guidelines that vary by location, business unit, department, or job class, and a third only offer flexibility at the discretion of individual managers. Moreover, seven out of 10 admitted they don’t measure the effectiveness of their programs in any way.

It’s good to see this type of research coming out and I hope that more organizations start looking at flexible working arrangements. As you probably know, I’m a big proponent of this type of work…a person doesn’t need to be sitting in their office to do their job (for the most part).

Viva la flextime! 🙂

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