13 November 2013

Is Stack-Rating the right approach for your company?

Have you heard that MicroSoft is eliminating stack rating?  What took them so long!  My supervisor sent me the link to a Wall Street Journal article that set me on fire with the desire to finally update my blog.  Here is the link: http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/BL-DGB-30765

To be a charitable as possible, I would say that stack rating was invented by someone who loved numbers and finance and wished to manage people using a system of rewards with a direct tie to share-holder value.  Good in theory, but with some unforeseen side-effects

The key hypothesis of this approach to performance management is that all employees could be rated in order of contribution to the company.  These numbers could be then used to make fast decisions about who stays or goes in a period of crisis (fast reductions in force to correct stock value depreciation).

I don't know what it's like to work at MicroSoft, but another CT-based firm was an infamous and used stack rating religiously .  I worked with several of this company's survivors and heard stories.  I reported to one who must have had PTSD from the experience - no lie...  I too survived and lived to tell the tale.

Aptly nicknamed hell-curve - the bell-curve applied quotas that surmised that (for example) 5% of your employees are worthless, 20% are just not pulling their weight, 50% are okay, 20% are above avg, and 5% are amazing.

Under the approach, managers have to fit their people into the 'quota' - compensation departments would see the people reports and an exception report would kick out any groups that didn't fit this model.

So even if the manager had a great staff who all contributed (which should always be the goal) they would be forced to rank 5% every performance management period as candidates for elimination - and start documenting this 'fact' for ultimate termination.  

It creates a highly competitive (high casualty) work environment.  It can be useful for huge and old companies in serious need of trimming the fat.  Companies who've been around forever and have lots of long-term employees getting by (we've all seen it).  Many managers avoid having the tough conversations with employees like the plague, this is a way to make them do it by force.  

Then all they need to do is hire some blood-thirsty sociopaths in HR and away they go... (I don't fit this model - I promise.)  This approach is not sustainable.  Employers make the mistake by not knowing when to stop.  Trim too much fat and then you start going for the muscle.  By then the only employees that remain are workaholics, so stressed out they can't manage their lives - and in a while there is a severe drop in productivity.  

By then, Management and HR has a taste for blood and won't stop without a real set-change.  This approach will likely be followed by other staff changes within senior management, HR and finance.  Step in the right direction and wishing them luck on their journey.

I thanked him very much for sharing the article, I love this stuff and really am glad it's going away, but like I said above, there are reasons for its existence that may actually be justified.

Age-old and well-tested quotes:

"The right tool for the right job."  -Unknown
    Ad slogan used by Right Temper Tools since 1907, but has been in use in America before then.

"Of all the stratagems, knowing when to quit is the best" -Unknown
    Chinese proverb

09 April 2013

Is Your Kid's College Education Worth It?

Why your son/daughter's university may owe you an apology.  Here's the reason:  if there is no international component, i.e., time spent studying or working overseas, chances are they won't be ready for the new economy.

After speaking with Joanne DoudsVice President of Development and Global Markets Prominent Properties Sothebys International Realty, she feels strongly that a university education may be worthless if your son or daughter is not exposed to diversity and work or study in another country.

We can no longer 'protect' our children from regions of the world that we may not understand, know the language or culture.  We cannot expect that our children will remain in the US and be as successful as we want and hope them to be.

The cost of university has become very expensive.  It's well known that the average student loan bill is now 6-figure debt.  Is this true for your son or daughter?  

The time is now to adapt to the new economy, to insist that your children receive a complete education.  We are laying out too much on the table for them not to have all the tools in their inbox to succeed.  

You need to insist upon:
  1. Foreign Language (Spanish, Chinese, etc.) to near fluency;
  2. Overseas assignment, for a period of six-months or longer if possible;
  3. Some type of cultural immersion different from his or her own culture;

“We are all equal in the fact that we are all different. We are all the same in the fact that we will never be the same. We are united by the reality that all colours and all cultures are distinct & individual. We are harmonious in the reality that we are all held to this earth by the same gravity. We don't share blood, but we share the air that keeps us alive. 
"I will not blind myself and say that my black brother is not different from me. I will not blind myself and say that my brown sister is not different from me. But my black brother is he as much as I am me. But my brown sister is she as much as I am me.” 
― C. JoyBell C.

28 February 2013

The Least You Can Do...

You may see from my resume that my experience is heavy on the corporate side.  I've only worked with two defense contractors since moving to this area.  And with the combined four months that I've worked with these two organizations, I've learned a lot about the ways of working.  I hope to continue this work which I find to be exhilarating.

Working with people in dangerous locations is one thing, but the numbers are overwhelming.  This is high-impact HR.  It's hard to separate yourself from the work you are doing.  I feel at times (because the people I work with are in danger) that I too, in a strange way, are also deployed.

I cannot believe how life goes on with so many in harms way right now, fighting for our freedom.  It's so strange that people don't notice and go about their daily business.  The flags that have gone down after 911 haven't come up again - yet the people there deployed need us in mind and spirit.  The families they left behind, too, need us.  Need us to remember their sacrifice.  

If you ask me what you can do, I'll tell you.  Every time you have the opportunity to send a letter, do it.  Every time you hear someone busting the military, stop them.  Every chance you get, send flowers to the wife of someone whose husband is away.

Do this and pray for them, too.

That is all.

With loving regards,