by Krista Ogburn Francis in Workplace
I haven’t posted here much in the last year. At this time a year ago, I was seriously preparing for my SPHR exam, which I scheduled for the last possible day, January 30th. In retrospect, it would have been smart to book an earlier date in case a winter blizzard shut down all testing sites or I came down with a bad case of scurvy or something. But whatever. I tested on the very last day, and afterwards, following those months of intense work, I was so incredibly relieved that I went into an extended period of complete indolence. I watched old episodes of Lost, which is saying something because I never watch TV. And with my son a high school senior, I enjoyed quasi-empty-nesthood with great abandon, scheduling happy hours with friends probably three times a week! It’s like I’m 22 again, except I get home at 7:00 p.m. instead of 3:00 a.m.
Anyway, blogging about HR just hasn’t felt pressing to me recently, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still passionate about HR. I am still the HR Director for a nonprofit that serves adults with disabilities, and during the last year, our employee count has grown by 20%. Rose and I are a two-person office and we don’t use outside recruiters. During the last year, we have hired about a zillion new employees…which we then have to orient, onboard, sign up for benefits and enroll in extensive training mandated by regulations. And on top of that, we have all the same demands anyone else does: meetings, email, challenges that derail our day, planning/reporting, and sooo many other things pulling us in countless directions. In addition, when my boss is gone, I am Acting Executive Director. When he traveled to Asia for a month this summer, it was an eventful time indeed because we were in expansion mode. So it’s been a crazy time in my work and home life, but this is what I’m working on recently:
1. Recruited two HR interns, one undergrad and the other in graduate school. More about that in my next post.
2. Made a video to communicate with staff about a new aspect of our performance management system. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but I *hate* having my picture taken, much less appearing on film, so I am pretty darn proud of myself.
3. Re-arranged my office. This might sound insignificant, but I’ve been contemplating the issue for months. Given our rapid growth, office space is at a premium. Rose and I are stuck with a less-than-desirable layout; we find ourselves in connected offices, with her space an essentially an outer vestibule and mine an inner chamber (see photo). This is not ideal for many reasons, including the fact that I am forced to invade her space dozens of times daily. In addition, staff perceive me as inaccessible because they see Rose as a gatekeeper. Because I was tucked away around a corner, they asked: “Is Krista in? Can I see her?”
What a horrible, crappy message from human resources! I am not the Wizard of Oz. I don’t need someone to vet my appointments.
Also, people would walk by our office, say hello to Rose, and keep walking–because they couldn’t see me. Too late, I would be like: “Hello! I’m here! Hi! Hello???” I hated it. I felt invisible. And it was lonely.
Although I wracked my brains for months, given our growth, I couldn’t figure out how to wrangle a private office for Rose. But it occurred to me that I could manage the perception around my availability just by re-arranging my office. And so when our new CFO wanted a different desk, I took her cast-off and got rid of my old clunky L-shaped unit that had been tucked into a dark, back corner. I moved the new desk so that I am in the line-of-sight of any employee walking past our office (see photo.)
In the two weeks since I’ve made the switch, I’ve gotten a new and steady stream of visitors every day, including quite a few employees who haven’t been in my office since their original interview with me years ago. I’m accessible again. Sure, I get a lot more interruptions than before, but it’s so worth it. After all, these people are the reason I have this job.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. What have you been doing?
If you liked that post, then try these...
Five Craziest Things in my Desk by Krista Ogburn Francis on November 5th, 2010
Why Do You Do What You Do? by Krista Ogburn Francis on November 21st, 2010
Do you ever think about why you chose your profession? I mean why from a deep down place, not the easy answer, not the surface response.
My organization offer some unique positions that include free housing. “Debra,” who used to live here before moving out-of-state, wanted to relocate to the DC area after being laid off in North Carolina. Our live-in position would make that goal a reality. She was eager and motivated and it was clear she wanted the job very badly.
The problem was that despite some good experience and lots of great intentions, her interview did not go well for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into out of respect for her. It was clear she was not a good fit for the position. Meanwhile, we found another candidate, Tamara, who was a better match and accepted our offer.
Which meant I needed to call Debra.I procrastinated for half a day because calling her wouldn’t be fun. To say I was disappointing her is like saying that the sun is warm. I knew I was quashing her dream of moving home. I freely admit that I briefly entertained the notion of sending her an email, which would be so much easier and less painful!
On my end, at least. But probably not on hers.
Debra had driven eight hours overnight to interview with me. She’d thrown everything into it and given it her all. She’d invested so much in her application, and I knew the least I could do was pick up the phone and tell her the outcome myself, rather than hiding behind Outlook. To mix metaphors, I had man up and put on my big girl pants.
So I steeled myself and called her, and it was as painful as I expected. It sucked, as a matter of fact. Those ten minutes were a very raw, painful time in my workweek. At the same time, the very human discomfort actually grounded and centered me.
Because in Human Resources, H stands for human. We HR pros need to continuously return to that concept. When we lose that human connection, we are lost.
H is for human. If I ever forget that, if I ever sink to the place that I can callously make employment decisions without regard to impact on real people, it’s time to hang up my HR hat.
photo: this is a screenshot of the new Tshirt I just created and ordered from CustomInk.
by Krista Ogburn Francis in Workplace
Most workplaces probably struggle with gossip from time to time. Being human, it’s so easy for any of us to fall into the trap of complaining to a third party rather than addressing issues with the person actually involved. As an HR pro, I have lots of opportunity to redirect people back to the source when they come to me to vent and complain. I feel like I am constantly asking, “Have you talked to _____?” and reinforcing this theme by reminding them, sometimes repeatedly, “You really need to talk to ____ directly.” It doesn’t help if I interject my HR self. It just muddies the waters. Although there are certainly times when it’s appropriate for HR to become involved, I can’t solve your routine interpersonal problems for you. You need to talk to the person who is directly involved.
One day when talking to an employee, slightly different wording came out of my mouth. When Kamilla complained “She did A, she did B, then she had the nerve to do C,” I found myself asking some magic words:
“What did she say when you talked to her about that?”
Kamilla’s eyes got big. She looked like a deer in headlights. “Well, I didn’t actually talk to her, but, she, yeah, I, well, she…..” she stammered. I reiterated my “You need to talk with her about it” mantra and we brainstormed several approaches she could use. And the gossip stopped in its tracks.
Ever since that day, “What did he/she say when you talked about it?” has been my go-to phrase when people complain about a third party. Responding to complaining gossip is difficult and somewhat awkward. Saying, “We really shouldn’t talk about her behind her back,” risks coming off as haughty and self-righteous, despite the truth of the sentiment. (An exception: when a group intentionally set up cultural norms embracing direct communication and core values of respect, agreeing that gossip is unacceptable. In that case, it is relatively easy to refer back to the agreement without sounding like the moral police.)
Countering with a positive statement about the other person sometimes helps deflate gossip, but often doesn’t seem powerful enough. When I do this, it’s better than nothing, but I personally often feel like a somewhat ineffectual Pollyanna.
Asking some version of “What did she say when you brought it to her attention?” seems like a happy medium to me. When I ask that, I am communicating my matter-of-fact assumption that they have already done the right thing before asking for my help. It conveys my expectation as HR Director that in my workplace, employees first address issues with each other directly instead of defaulting to complaining to someone else.
So, this is what works for me. But we’re all different; what works for you or your organization?
photo by val.pearl
by Krista Ogburn Francis in Nonprofit management
Ours is a rapidly changing business; it could hardly be changing more rapidly if we were manufacturers of CD’s. Our organizations need to adjust to new realities, our equivalent of the realization, “You know what, I don’t think this iPod thing is going away.” If we can’t do that, our relevance and our existence are both in jeopardy. We are constantly challenged to reinvent ourselves and creatively do more with less, while achieving better outcomes. The best, most forward-thinking organizations and leaders in our field don’t think outside the box, they throw the box out and build a better model from scratch.
The three day conference organized by my hero Gail Godwin of Shared Support of Maryland focused as much on change management as on general leadership. Interestingly, several groups of people were conspicuously absent:
- Competitors in a downward spiral. (Duh.)
- HR professionals. As far as I know, I was the only HR pro there.
- CEO’s. What’s that about?
If I’m ever a CEO, I hope I never stop learning, growing and challenging my organization to do business in new and more effective ways. Meanwhile, the six of us who attended from my organization* are energized and excited to go back to work on Monday and shake things up.
photo by timsamoff
*This is not intended as a criticism of my own boss. He’s getting ready to travel to Asia for a month, taking advantage of our awesome sabbatical benefit, and three days out of the office was not in the cards right now. We’ll get him next time.
The other day, I had an exchange with a Facebook friend concerning an article about helicopter parents at work. She said, “Krista, do you see any helicopter parent involvement in the applications you receive? Any parents show up for the interview? This seems SO CRAZY.” I told her that I have HR colleagues who’ve had employees’ parents call to argue performance review ratings. And while I haven’t encountered that myself, sometimes young folks respond to job offers with,”I have to ask my mom.”
And I went on to say that ironically, I’m finding myself curbing my own helicopter leanings as my teenage son enters the workforce because I have turned into an alter-ego I call HR Mom. “Jake” is in his first real paid job doing something he’s passionate about. As thrilled as I am that he’s found something he loves, his onboarding at “Acme” has been anything but smooth. First he spent about two months “training,” meaning reporting to work several times weekly to shadow another staff. The upside? He was able to use the facilities free of charge. The downside? All his shadowing was also gratis. HR Mom was really wondering if this was legit because her understanding of Wage and Hour suggests that such extensive on-the-job training should be compensated. Hmmm. She so wanted to pick up the phone and have a little talk with Acme.
But she restrained herself.
Also, Jake never seemed to know when he was working. He said they posted the schedule daily, so his method of finding out if he should be at work was: bike six miles to check the board. Which seemed ludicrous. The last I checked, the year is 2012 and surely, as a modern business, they HAD to have a better communication system; he just needed to ask what it was. But he insisted that’s how it worked. And when it was him, his time and his bike, I didn’t worry too much about him wasting hours to learn he wasn’t working, figuring it was a teachable moment for him to turn around and ride six miles home. But on the occasions when I arranged my whole day or the weekend custody schedule over the assumption that he was working, only to find out he wasn’t, I got a little testy. HR Mom so wanted to stop by and chat with his boss.
But she didn’t.
And on top of that, Jake didn’t know how to submit a record of time worked once his training was complete. HR Mom said, “Jake, they have to have some kind of timesheet. Legally, they have to keep a record of every hour worked.” He insisted Payroll uses the schedule (remember that mythical schedule? The one posted on the board?) to calculate hours worked. Recalling the rather nebulous nature of that schedule, HR Mom was skeptical, but took a wait-and-see attitude. The weeks turned into a month, and still no paycheck. HR Mom kept asking him and he kept insisting he would get paid one of these days. He said he didn’t want to appear pushy. “Jake, it’s not being pushy to ask when and how you get paid!” HR Mom told him. “If you’re not comfortable asking your boss, ask a co-worker.”
Long story short(er), his first paycheck–after months of training and working–was $15. It turns out he wasn’t documenting his time the way they wanted. Again HR Mom‘s fingers itched and she had to sit on her hands to stop from calling Acme to helpfully share that a.) they might want to improve their orientation of young workers and b.) the Department of Labor requires them to pay hourly employees for all time “suffered or permitted to work.”
But she didn’t.
The good news is that by the time Jake got his $15 check, he finally figured out how to document his time and his next paycheck was more robust. And he’s been given some regular classes to teach, which means he is much more clear on when he’s working. In addition, he can ask to work extra side jobs; the schedules for which are coordinated by closed Facebook group, an arrangement that seems to work much better than the bulletin board. So for the moment, Jake appears to have figured out the basics and is loving his job. HR Mom breaths a big sigh of relief and steps out of the helicopter.
A couple thoughts and lessons.
For the employer: I suspect that Acme believes its scheduling and pay procedures to be much more self-evident than they actually appear to a newcomer. How often are our organizations guilty of a similar assumption? Rather than assuming, maybe we need to ask new hires what would work for them. Maybe we should ask recent hires to critique our onboarding efforts. Maybe we need to analyze that data and thoughtfully plan out an onboarding program that meets the needs of new hires, eliminates common concerns and doubts, helps us assist them to hit the ground running, gives them multiple means to get questions asked, etc. Sometimes you just need to ask.
For my other helicopter parents: As much as I was alarmed about Jake’s chaotic start at his new job, I had to continually remind myself that I don’t know everything. It could be that he was given a procedure manual and he lost it. It’s possible his boss explained everything, and he spaced out and forgot; Lord knows, he’s done that with me at home. As much as HR Mom wanted to get all helicopter on their a**, the fact is that honestly I don’t know. And I don’t do my young adult son any favors by rushing in to save the day. I can give him advice and he can take it or ignore it, but he is responsible for his work experience, not me. Intervening and rescuing teaches him that he is weak and incapable. As much as I’d love to insert myself and rationalize I’m doing so because “I know HR,” the fact is that I don’t belong at his job and he needs to learn to take care of and advocate for himself at work.
What stories do you have about helicopter parents in the workplace? Have you ever had to hold yourself back as a parent?
photo by heathervescent
Recently I enjoyed hearing SHRM’s Director HR Standards Lee Webster (JD-MBA, SPHR) speak at my local chapter about the Future of HR: What’s Next for the Profession?
I enjoyed his humor when he wryly commented on “legislators trying to do HR.” And I appreciated his optimism when he declared that current projects around human capital accounting will demonstrate that HR own 40% of ‘the table.’
But most of all, I connected with the very human stories he shared about branding or re-branding your company as a desirable place to work. He admitted that when workplace flexibility first came into the spotlight, he held on to some old-school wishes to return to the safety of the old command and control approach. But ultimately he realized that as long as he set expectations for performance clearly, he actually had to hold his employees back because their tendency was to work too much, rather than not enough. He said he would tell them, “Just because you’re wearing pajamas doesn’t mean you have to work 14 hours.”
And he told the story of the shirts. In a former life, he worked at an organization with a very conservative dress code; men were required to wear suits, ties and white dress shirts. Eventually, the dress code was amended to allow shirts of other hues. However, since the CEO religiously continued to don white shirts day after day, so did his senior leadership. And domino-like, so did their direct reports. As did the people below them. Lee shared that eventually he went to his own boss asking, “Do you think it would be okay to wear a rose-colored shirt?” His boss counseled him that would be acceptable….on casual Fridays.
Lee went on to relate his dress code anecdote back to flexible workplaces. He says that sometimes organizations give verbal support to a program, but when workers see that the C-suite sidesteps those very provisions, the message is very clear: although the policy manual says I can take advantage of __________, doing so is career suicide.
He suggested that we need to stop putting employees in that quandary. Either the rose-colored shirt is okay, or it isn’t. Either working at home is okay, or it’s not. When we have the opportunity to grant more flexibility or more current approaches, as leaders, let’s model the way.
As I listened, I realized that I’ve only worked from home during snow storms or when the power was out at the office. I haven’t taken advantage of our policy allowing us to work from home on a regular basis. Instead, I have sometimes been guilty of wanting to make myself look good by always being at the office. As I thought about this, I was forced to ask whether I’m really modeling what I want others, including my boss, to emulate.
And that’s why I’m working from home tomorrow.
photo by Mish Mish
Passing the SPHR is the equivalent of at least three drinks. Seriously, I’m not sure I was safe to drive after leaving the test site. Discombobulated, I left my phone behind. After retrieving it, I got on the highway going south when I should have gone north. I was in a daze and I kept catching myself speeding, which was scary because I was hardly “present.” My endorphin/adrenaline high lasted late into the night.
Passing the exam may feel intoxicating, but it was anything but a cheap high. As many of you would guess from your own experience, I spent many hundreds of dollars between materials and exam fees. And I devoted probably a hundred hours to my studies, becoming increasing hermit-like as the date approached, my poor hubby stoically supportive as I repeatedly neglected him, preferring to cuddle up with my oh-so-sexy test prep materials.
So after all that hard work and investment, I was chagrined to start the exam, whereupon it was rapidly apparent that very little of what I’d studied actually appeared on the test. Ironically, of course, unfamiliar terms and concepts showed up with monotonous and cheeky regularity.
Panic set in. Correction: Panic would have set in, had I not been prepared. Stories from other PHR’s/SPHR’s reassured me that many people are convinced they’re failing throughout the process, only to later learn they passed. I stayed calm and focused, and by the time I hit that final submit button, I crossed my fingers thinking there was a good chance I’d nailed it. Still, my heart pounded as I awaited my results. It seemed like I was standing on the edge of a cliff. When I saw my results, I felt like I toppled over the edge. Tears stung the back of my eyes and emotions coursed through me: gratitude, relief, pride, relief, joy, accomplishment, relief, empathy for all those who were walking out of the room with less happy results. Then I left to call friends and family, share the news on FaceBook and enjoy congratulations from people who’d been there before me or knew how hard I’d worked. To say the least, it was a golden, roller coaster day.
As is customary when someone passes these tests, I have a few tips to share:
Make a study plan. When you formulate your plan and select your materials, know yourself. It doesn’t matter what I did–what matters is what works for you. I have a fair amount of discipline and I’ve been doing HR for awhile, so I chose self-study. But if you’re a newer HR pro or you know you’ll have trouble staying on track, get into a study group or pay for a class. As far as materials go, for my primary source, I went with HRCP as recommended by my HR blogger friend Ben Eubanks. I also bought an SPHR-specific guide on my Kindle, so I’d have it everywhere I went. And I bought some audio CD’s from Distinctive HR so I could listen to exam tips and definitions on my daily commute. The variety of learning approaches worked for me. Figure out what would work for you.
Take chapter tests. Most materials have written or online tests at the end of the chapter or section. I’m ashamed to admit, but in the beginning I used to skip through those and rush to the next chapter. (Big learning reinforcement opportunity squandered.)
Take longer practice tests online. A lot of people give this advice but they don’t always tell you why. After all, none of those questions will be on your exam, and most of your practice tests do not approximate the questions you’ll actually encounter. For me, though, practice tests did three things: One, of course, is bring to light material I still needed to master. Two, you work up to the physical stamina needed to test for three or four hours. Three, and most importantly for me, after taking a number of the longer tests with 50, 100 or 225 questions, I started developing a sense of what it feels like to achieve 60%, 70%, 80%. In my actual exam experience, then, as I completed my final review, I felt there was a good chance I’d accomplished the magical 71%.
You can find tests all over the Internet. I took the ones through my purchased materials and also liked the free 225 question exam at HRCIstudy.
Take some time off, if you can. After ten years with the same employer, I have a lot of leave, so I took two weeks off just to study. I realize few people have that luxury, but I do know that studies indicate that many Americans lose vacation time every year because they don’t take it. So if you’ve got a few days or a week that you might lose anyway, why not use it to study?
Time your exam better than I did. Especially if the December holidays get busy for you, as they do for many of us. December was a wash for me in between work events, other obligations, family, never-ending gift-buying, my husband’s hospitalization over Christmas. In retrospect, the ideal testing dates in the December/January testing window would have been as early in December as possible.
Cover logistics. Gas up. Charge your phone. Put the address in your GPS. Double-check all instructions. Set two alarms. Put some bottled water in your car because you’ll probably be thirsty after the exam.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before. If you don’t know the material by now, there’s no sense cramming. In the morning, eat a good, balanced breakfast and don’t drink so much coffee that you’re jittery.
Take the tutorial. When I sat down at the test terminal, I almost bypassed the exam tutorial option; after all, I think I know how to use a dang computer! But my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking, and I wisely decided that the tutorial would be a nice little buffer/segue into the test. On a practical level, I learned something I otherwise wouldn’t have known: you can strikeout wrong answers, an awesome feature! I then started the test with my blood pressure and pulse lowered several notches.
Use the strikeout. As you review responses, you can click on wrong answers to
strike them out. As a visual learner, this feature helped organize my thoughts and reduce the feeling of overwhelm; suddenly I only had two or three choices instead of four.
Stay calm. Know that it’s normal to feel supreme confidence one moment, followed by despair the next. Stay focused on each question. If you are clueless, skip it and come back later. The correct answer may seem much more obvious later. Or another question may even supply the needed answer. If you’re not sure, mark the question and return to it later. Do a final review of all at the end.
Expect some “left field” questions. Most questions were short, somewhat subjective and concerned strategic HR, but a few were long and extraordinarily detailed about obscure areas of HR I’ve never read about nor encountered in my fifteen years. And as I said earlier, some terms and concepts were unfamiliar to me. When that happens, eliminate answers that seem far-fetched and make your best guess.
After the exam
Celebrate. Share your joy! Enjoy the hugs and congratulations. Thanks your friends and loved ones for supporting you. Order new business cards. Update your email signature and your social media profiles. Enjoy the moment.
If you’re contemplating taking the test, I sincerely wish you the best of luck. Twenty-four hours after my exam, I am glad it’s over and I hope never to repeat the experience. In fact, I am so “over” taking the SPHR that when I picked up my son after the test, I dramatically threw my study materials into the street. We both got a good laugh out of my defiant act, after which I gathered everything up again–after all, I paid good money for those books. And someone else could use them.
As I slogged through the SPHR exam, fresh from studying content/criterion/predictive validity (among three gazillion other topics), I couldn’t help but wonder about the validity of the test as a measure of HR pro performance and success. Still, all cynicism and questions aside, I’m happy I did it. I worked hard, sacrificed, persevered, reached a huge goal, and I feel really good about my accomplishment.
But not so good that I’d ever want to repeat the experience. There are no more SPHR exams in my future! From here on out, it’s all CEU’s for me.
by Kfrancis in HR
Guest post by Kyle Lagunas
A business is a well-oiled machine, relying on the seamless execution of a number of processes to drive it forward. Disruptions and delays (bottlenecks) will occur unless you keep these processes in ship shape. In the hiring process, bottlenecks are more than just an inconvenience. They can damage company culture and tarnish your brand – making it more difficult to attract and hire top talent. Smoothing out bumps in the road before they turn into more serious issues is essential to the ongoing success of your recruiting and hiring efforts.
That said, here are four leading causes of bottlenecks in the hiring process – and ways to avoid each one:
Living in the Dark Ages. Without the proper technology, the sheer volume of applications a single online job posting attracts can be nearly impossible to manage. As such, many organizations experience delays at the onset recruiting–which is frustrating for candidates and hiring managers alike. Accepting resumes and screening for experience and qualifications are a part of the process, but applicants perceive that nothing is happening until an interview takes place.
Online application and screening tools help companies maintain momentum by reducing time spent in this initial stage. If you don’t have an applicant tracking system, you need to get one. The first step toward minimizing bottlenecks in hiring is automating the most menial aspects of hiring so you can focus on engagement.
Communication breakdown. Breakdowns in communication–both internally and with applicants–make you look bad to candidates, not to mention the increased time to hire for new employees. Dragging candidates along and changing the rules of engagement from one manager to the next will hurt your ability to hire anyone at all.
Get proactive and minimize the chance for breakdowns by establishing expectations and define your process upfront with all parties involved (including candidates). Hiring and recruiting is largely a collaborative effort, and establishing ground rules for everyone involved will help reduce bottlenecks from interview to hire.
Lack of planning. When you lack a formalized process with a vision and end goal, getting from one stage to the next can be painful. A number of businesses’ primary concern is to quickly fill positions as they open. They use ad hoc processes to hire an adequate candidate rather than the right candidate.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to completely overhaul your process to create a cohesive hiring plan that’s aligned with corporate strategy. Start by asking what growth your leadership has on their horizon for the next quarter, six months, or year–and then plan accordingly. “If you start with a plan,” says George Bradt, managing director at PrimeGenesis, “then the variations of the plan are fewer and further between. Ad hoc hiring is going to happen, but there’s at least a unified plan to start with.”
Sequential hiring style. You post the same ad you used last time, find three candidates to interview, and hope one of them has what you’re looking for. If not, you go back to square one–you post the ad, find three candidates, and the cycle repeats. But relying on the same old iterated process to meet myriad staffing needs is more than shortsighted, it’s inefficient.
The greatest value lies in having a working process. By designing a hiring process that works in tandem with talent management and supports your business strategy, your recruiting efforts will be much easier to manage. You don’t have to read every book ever written on hiring strategies, but you do need a uniform process that meets your organization’s culture, values and needs.
Best Practices are the Cure for Hiccups
Strategic staffing requires the cooperation and shared effort of multiple parties, and as with any business process, hiccups and delays in hiring will happen. With a sound process in place that keeps stakeholders informed and engaged, however, bottlenecks will be fewer and further between. By incorporating the best practices that make the most sense to your organization–and by leveraging solid technology–you’ll be better prepared to deal with any other flaws that emerge.
About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice—a company that reviews online hr software. He blogs about technology, trends, and best practices in human resources and recruiting.
Earlier this week, a Facebook friend expressed frustration over the arduous employment application process her husband encountered at Best Buy. She suggested bloggers apply at bestbuy.com, document their experiences and write about it.
I had a few extra hours on my hands, so I got started. I was quickly frustrated when I tried to apply on my little tablet; I was informed I need to re-try on a standard sized screen.
So I waited for my turn on the family PC and I tried again. I was instructed to create a log-in and password, which I wasn’t excited about doing. And of course, I provided my e-mail.
Next, I got a screen warning me not to give false info, followed by a screen of helpful summary of ADA, a screen about Best Buy’s commitment to EEO, and one about my privacy rights.
Then I was prompted to enter a “restart code” in the event that the application process proved to be so frustrating that I felt a need to stop, take a break, and put my head through the wall. (Okay, that’s my wording, not theirs.) I declined. They helpfully asked again if I wanted a restart code. I said no thanks. Then I was told that Bad Things would happen if I didn’t sign up for the restart and later needed to take a break and return to my application. I decided to live dangerously and forgo their kind offer.
Then I was asked to give my SSN twice. After that, I was asked for personal info, such as my first and last name. Apparently, I wasn’t forthcoming enough because they followed up by asking for my middle name.
Then they wanted my phone number and they asked for e-mail AGAIN. Then my address.
And just knowing my address wasn’t enough. The following screen asked how long I had lived there, longer or shorter than five years. That felt a little intrusive. And what the heck does it have to do with anything? If I upgraded from apartment to house three years ago, does that make me a risk?
A bunch more screens followed about criminal background check, three pages of disclosures, a screen about my age.
Then, after all that, then they informed me that I could proceed to the next page and actually–can you believe it–BEGIN the employment application process itself! Yay, off to the races.
The next screen asked how old I am, 21+, 18+, 16+ or less than 16. Then they had a drop down list of positions I’m applying for, even though I thought I already communicated that when I put my cursor on the original position and hit “apply”. The next screen displayed the job description and the following one asked, can you do this?
Then they had a separate screen for each of the following: schedule, availability, other languages, referral source, EEO data, employment status, more on criminal background, drug testing.
And then they suddenly ask whether I was willing to work with the public. I’m thinking they might want to move that up near the top somewhere, maybe…?
More screens: Had I ever been fired over an attendance issue? They also wanted to know my disciplinary history and the three departments I would most like to work in.
And then suddenly out of left field, they asked if I am at least 16 years old, making it the third time they asked about my age.
More screens followed. They advised me that according to Maryland law, they can not require me to take a lie detector test. They asked if I had changed my name in the last five years. Then, almost as an afterthought, they asked (again) for my last name, first name, and middle name, in case I wasn’t sure the first or second time around. And by the way, did I have any felonies in the last 10 years? And hey, they needed my DOB for the criminal history.
Three screens for: Do I currently attend high school? Do I currently attend university? Do I currently attend other school?
More questions. Do I have any employment experience, part-time, seasonal, full-time or volunteer? Screens for references followed, then several for more disclosures. Then there were at least 10 screens asking about whether tax credits apply.
Finally, about 45 minutes into the process and almost 60 screens later, I hit “submit.” Had I really been applying for the position, had I been careful about my responses, my investment would have been longer.
And suddenly I knew why I can never find anyone at Best Buy to answer my questions. All the wanna-be sales associates are sitting at their computers, trying to get hired.
photo by liber(the poet)
Every relationship involves a honeymoon/infatuation stage. Although we most often think of the notion of ‘honeymoon’ in regard to romantic relationships, the concept also applies to the workplace. After all, new employees experience a honeymoon phase.
Here’s a little story*. Recently, we hired Elizabeth. After the manager Paul made the offer, HR called Elizabeth to arrange her orientation, being very careful to consult Paul because, as always, we want and need the manager to participate throughout the onboarding process.
On the appointed day, Elizabeth arrived, smiling brightly and expectantly. HR completed our section, but every time we went to look for Paul, he was either on the phone or in a closed door meeting. This went on for hours, and HR’s conversations with Elizabeth became increasingly pained until she finally gave up and left without seeing her new manager or having her questions answered.
I’m sure that Paul was under pressure dealing with this Real Emergency or that Valid Crisis. I’m sure there were deals and issues and problems I don’t even know about. Maybe some of them were life or death; who am I to say?
That said, let’s think about it from Elizabeth’s point of view: This is her first day on the job.
This is the day she said, “Yes!”
This is the day she gave up her former life and joined our company.
This is the day she hoped to be swept off her feet.
This is the day she expected to be WOWED.
This is the day she hoped for all that.
Instead, what happened? How long was Elizabeth’s honeymoon?
Less than 60 minutes.
Can I say this again? How long was her honeymoon?
About an hour.
Elizabeth’s new job excitement lasted a grand total of 60 minutes, give or take, before she realized her boss wasn’t coming. That’s almost like saying the groom didn’t show at the church. What a horrible, wrenching moment when you realize you’ve been left alone at the alter.
The experience may not be exactly the same, but it’s close. Elizabeth left another job to join our firm. She risked everything–her family’s livelihood, her mortgage, her future–she risked everything for this job. After risking everything, her confidence that she made the right career choice lasted less than an hour.
In less than 60 minutes, she was disillusioned or at the very least questioned her choice and her judgment. She quickly realized that her new boss has more important things to do than welcome a newcomer to the team; she learned he had more pressing matters than answering her questions; she saw he had higher priorities than making sure she has the information she needs to be successful in her new role.
It must have been a confusing and disappointing day for Elizabeth. It was also a frustrating and sad for the HR department, despite our attempts to smooth thing over for her. All honeymoons end, but we were crestfallen that hers ended so unnecessarily, tragically, and so #(&$% prematurely.
After all, why do we have crushes? What is the evolutionary purpose of an infatuation? In my opinion, these early, intense emotional experiences exist because they are a cushion allowing enough time that “real” love might have a fighting chance to sprout and grow.
All honeymoons end; that’s a given. The challenge is to set down deeper roots, real attachment, before infatuation fades away.
But when the honeymoon ends on Day One, real roots, real connections, real love, are very unlikely to form.
What a waste. HR friends, managers, we can do better.
What was your shortest work honeymoon, and how long did you stay at that job?
photo by teresachin2007