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Repeat to Yourself: My Glassdoor Rating isn’t my Employer Brand


No matter what anyone says, your Glassdoor rating isn’t your employer brand.

First of all, Glassdoor has some really smart marketers. They created a summit, which focuses on employer branding, and invested in the right speakers to make it one of the best events for people interested in the concept.

That doesn’t mean Glassdoor is actually a solution to employer brand woes, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The company, which is winding down the level of financing they can obtain (they are on their Series H, which puts them at 200M raised and an estimated value of just under a billion dollars), needs to find a buyer or go public. In the next 18 months, it seems like a pretty safe bet that they are part of a company or they are going to drop an IPO.

For most organizations, the niche that Glassdoor serves doesn’t have a line item on a budget sheet outside of job postings. And the site thus far has done just that, subsisting on job advertisements and on-site reputation management through premium employer accounts. That’s nice, and the latter is unique, but it doesn’t really make them part of any solution that doesn’t involve solving problems that Glassdoor created (or, at least, illuminated).

But for large organizations, employer branding is a line item on a budget sheet. Granted, we’re probably talking good portion of the top 5,000ish companies but there’s a real need there.

But is Glassdoor an essential (or even a significant part) of most company’s employer brand efforts? With few exceptions, I’d say no. At least, not today. If you have a dedicated employer brand function, you only get an upgraded account if the price is really right.

I think there are two primary problems, both of which will be tough to fix.

1. Glassdoor Isn’t Yelp for employers

I really like Yelp (and TripAdvisor, and Amazon reviews, and any number of rating sites that Glassdoor has alternatively fashioned themselves after). When I travel, I use it to find great restaurants and it rarely steers me wrong.

Why Yelp (and consumer rating sites in general) works is that people eat out a lot. Before we had a kid, we would go out several times a week. Even now, we’ll go out a few times a month. Over a few years, you will start to find norms about the dining experience taking shape. Capture those normalized experiences in aggregate and you’ll know why Yelp works so well, at least as a restaurant rating site.

Compare getting dozens of sample points from different restaurants every year to your career. Now me, I feel like I’ve changed jobs more frequently than most people I know. I’ve had four proper jobs in the last ten years. Four experiences, over a decade? How can I insert any level of context or normalization into that equation? Most of us don’t have enough variety of employment experiences to give an accurate, comparative rating.

The risk factor is huge as well. Changing jobs is a disruptive event. If Yelp steers me wrong, I get a bad meal. Glassdoor? The consequences are on a completely different level.

Those aren’t the only problem.

For companies under a couple hundred people, which make up a vast majority of the employers in the U.S., the sample size is going to be too small to be of any value. Of course, Glassdoor won’t tell you that there’s a serious problem in drawing any conclusion about the employee experience from three reviews of a 100-person company. They hope you’ll look at it the same as you would a Yelp restaurant that only has a handful of reviews.

Well, what about large organizations?

It seems like it would be more reliable and maybe it is. They only have three aggregate measures that a prospective employee can look at: Recommend to a friend, CEO rating, and overall score. So when you read through a company profile like Amazon’s, nobody is going to hit 6,000+ reviews and the filtering capability seems pretty crude at this point. I’m more likely to look at the coverage from Amazon’s feature in The New York Times than anything I’ll get from Glassdoor.

In fact, it would be tough to imagine any case where I would consider a company’s Glassdoor reviews without a massive grain of salt. As a prospective employee, if I sit down and think about all of the shortcomings of anonymous employer reviews, it would be difficult to make the case that it should be any serious part of my consideration.

2. Reputation Management isn’t Enough

So, that just addresses what prospective employees care about. What about employers?

Large organizations that Glassdoor should be targeting are investing money in employer branding. Many of them run them through marketing while others do it as a standalone department in talent acquisition or human resources. Many of these companies invest their resources into branding activities that should be familiar to anyone in marketing — from traditional advertising, events, and in more innovative ways to reach prospects in the digital space.

If we’re using the Yelp example, large, formal dining chains do have internal initiatives to respond and improve their experience based on the reviews. There are people that are paid to respond to one-star reviews, offer comps and discounts, and, in general, be responsive to these types of sites. For most organizations, that falls under the auspices of a customer service department and their budget, at best, is a fraction of their overall marketing spend.

Right now, most — if not all — of the analytics and tools Glassdoor provides is for managing your presence and reputation on their site. That might be enough to bring in clients, but I don’t think that’s an attractive business to acquire or invest in for a long-term play outside of someone like LinkedIn — at least before they were acquired by Microsoft.

There’s an opportunity for Glassdoor to do more. Combining managing reputation with analytics that measure employer sentiment from data sources outside of Glassdoor would be a smart first step. Acquiring or building technology that allows for more granular brand management, especially as it relates to social is another avenue. Bringing in referral tools would be another opportunity, as would taking the approach of the Smashfly’s of the tech world and embracing the marketing role of talent acquisition with tools that are helpful across candidate marketing landscape.

That stuff may be in the cards. I haven’t taken a briefing with Glassdoor since I was with ERE and they hold their cards close when they do talk, especially about future plans.

* * * * *

Beyond the marketing hype and their PR brilliance is the truth: Glassdoor doesn’t have the right platform to address the key challenges facing employer brands. At least, not today. The score that some obsess about is largely irrelevant to a large majority of companies and job seekers.

That’s without mentioning things that always seem to come up in discussions with talent acquisition pros about Glassdoor, like gaming the review system, fake reviews from former employees and competitors, or Glassdoor’s incentive to properly moderate either one of these when review volume is so important to their business. These are all charges that Glassdoor always denies and there seems to be no hard evidence to the contrary. Not yet, at least.

Today, Glassdoor is a dissatisfied, largely former employee resolution solution and an okay job board, looking for a bigger problem to solve. And for once, I’ll say it: It’s not about marketing this time, it’s about product.

Maybe we’ll see the potential of Glassdoor at some point. Maybe they’ll turn into just another recruiting product pivot down the road when they need to actually start making money. I don’t know. But tooling along with what they are today isn’t going to cut it.

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Getting the Highest Marginal Value for Your Vote


You should vote for Gary Johnson. Maybe.

Let’s be clear: If you’re excited about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (or any other eligible candidate), you don’t need this post. Regardless of the relative value of your vote, having a candidate you’re excited about is a gift. You don’t need strategic voting.

For everyone else (and there’s probably a lot of you), I might make a case for you to think a little more strategically about your vote. Here’s the thinking behind it:

Most state’s electors (how we actually determine who will be president) are chosen in a winner take all manner. Washington State for example has 12 electoral votes. Whoever wins the most votes in Washington gets all 12 of those votes. In some states, like Nebraska and Maine, they divvy up electors by congressional district and then have two more to represent the entire state vote. But that’s the exception.

Because of that reality, most states are statistically out of contention. Washington has Clinton up by high double digits. Our next door neighbor Idaho has Trump up by high double digits. The statistical chance of Trump beating Clinton in Washington (or Clinton beating Trump in Idaho) is next to nothing. Most states are not in play. If you live in a swing state like Ohio or Florida, that means you get to see a lot of presidential candidate commercials and visits. Lucky you. That difference will be important in a bit, though.

There are also two third-party candidates who have a good chance of appearing on your ballot: Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee and Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee. These candidates and parties have to fight for ballot access, money, and exposure. But even in a winner take all election, getting some different voices to the table is incredibly important. Especially if you are cynical of your mainstream political choices (like me), the need for some alternative voices is even more important.

There are a couple of things that keeping third-party candidates from gaining traction:

  • Third parties have to use their limited resources to fight for ballot access in all states because many have automatic thresholds that are tough to get around if you don’t get enough votes in a particular state
  • Federal election matching funds are only available if you get 5% of the national vote. The last candidate to gain that level of support was Reform party nominee Ross Perot in 1996.
  • The presidential debates require that candidates have at least 15% polling in the days leading up to the debates. Ross Perot in 1992 was the last non-mainstream candidate to achieve this.

For me, as a voter in a very certain Washington state and who is not moved by either mainstream candidate, getting the highest marginal value for my vote means supporting and voting for the third-party candidate who has the best chance of reaching those thresholds, even if I might have individual issues with some of his or her policies. Today, that is Gary Johnson and that’s who has my vote in November.

People are obviously worried about the spoiler effect in a potentially close election. Many still blame Nader for costing Gore the election in 2000. But in a swing state, where there is a good chance that your individual vote will matter a great deal, strategic voting isn’t asking you to ignore that. Unfortunately, you have a tougher decision if you’re not in love with either candidate: Vote for the person you dislike less or go for a third-party, knowing that there is a greater chance your vote could’ve tipped the election.

Johnson is still a long shot to enter the debates. He’s hovering right around 8–10 percent right now. But if those votes come through, the next election might be easier.

A slight warning: Strategic voting isn’t popular (in fact, it doesn’t really make sense in any other race besides ones determined by the Electoral College) and it’s difficult to explain to either candidate true believers or the “Never” the other guy supporters. It’s dispassionate, which is the polar opposite of what this election seems to be about. But in my cynical political eyes, it’s the only reason I’ll put a checkmark beside any presidential candidate.

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Breaking Tech’s Glass Ceiling with @InFullBloomUS

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Somebody you care about is a woman. You should care about the opportunities she has, and technology is still one of the hardest industries to break into the upper echelons. Take five minutes out of your day to watch this great interview with Naomi Bloom.

Outside of being a Fortune 500 CEO or an economic advisor to Trump, technology is one of the toughest fields to get to the top of as a woman. Follow any male-dominated field close enough and you’ll find women who have experienced all kinds of obstacles and bullshit that men take for granted.

If you care about HR technology, you should care about the people who drive decisions that affect global workforces. Unfortunately, they’ve rarely reflected the diversity of the people they serve — a missed opportunity for organizations and an injustice to those directly affected.

In this episode of Bill Kutik’s excellent Firing Line with Bill Kutik, Bloom talks about what it will take for women to break into those coveted roles at the top of tech organizations. Well worth the watch today. And Bill, since I know you read all of your own press, I have one request: Bring back the podcast!

Update 8/16/16: Check out Bloom’s full post on her site. Great additional insight for anyone interested.

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Inbox by Google Changed My Life


Update September 2018: Google announced that it will be discontinuing Inbox in March 2019. I am incredibly bummed by this. While Gmail has adopted some of the features, the apps aren’t as good. I would like an alternative but right now, I am waiting out the end of Inbox.

Inbox by Google has been one of the most important pieces of software I’ve ever used. Yes, I’m serious.

Like many of you, I had an email problem. But maybe more importantly, I had a task management issue. My email box was a wasteland of good intentions gone to die. Commitments to get back to people. Tasks that I should complete. Documents and ideas awaiting my review.

Every time I opened my email, it was there. And every time, I was great at ignoring it.

One day, I responded to an email a month old and wrote something like, “I meant to get to this earlier.” What a dick move.

Anyway, I tried many solutions. I tried task management software and email solutions like CloudMagic. I was even thinking of using some sort of light CRM system to just keep crap in order. Which, yeah, all of these would probably be okay but eventually fairly simple things like search and tagging went haywire. I went back to my old familiar ways.

Fortunately, I’ve been lucky to work for organizations that use Google Apps instead of Outlook. While Gmail is what most people use to manage email (or maybe the stock Apple apps if they have a Mac), I switched to Inbox by Google six months ago. It worked.

The chorus sang.

Here’s why it works:

  • It works the same everywhere. On the web, iPhone, iPad, Android or even a Windows phone, it’s the same. Functionality in the app versus the web is only better because rich notifications and quicker load time.
  • I focus on what I can complete now. When an email comes in, I make a decision: Can I answer it immediately or does it need to wait? If I can answer it immediately, I do and if it needs to wait, I schedule it for later (in the evening, tomorrow, next week, etc…).
  • It’s more than an inbox. This is also where Inbox excels. It keeps my to-do list handy and I only have what I’m working on that day up in my inbox. If I need to push a task, it’s as easy to schedule as an email.
  • Smart functions. When I went to Europe, it bundled all of my trip information into one thread, keeping track of what was coming up that day, including live flight information. Also, when I’m responding to emails, it has smart replies that help me answer email better. If someone emails me to schedule a call, it will give me smart replies like, “What’s your schedule like?” or “How about Thursday or Friday?”
  • No integration headaches. It’s built by Google, hosted by Google, and it’s using Gmail. Reminders show on my Google calendar. Searching is native. Tags and everything transfer over.

Now are there downsides? Sure. Power users might find the stripped down interface too limiting. Things like filters and vacation notifiers are best handled in Gmail (which you can go to from within the Inbox interface).

Let me say that after my initial setup, I’m in Gmail maybe a couple times a month tops. It’s not a huge issue.

That image on top? That’s what it shows when your Inbox has no emails. That doesn’t mean I don’t have emails to answer, though. In my work inbox, I have about 40 emails and reminders snoozed for a variety of times for when I need to follow up. I never think about it because Google will pop it up automatically whenever I told it to.

I sit at a virtual inbox zero many days.

Maybe most importantly, I’m not spending all day in my email inbox, feeling like an idiot because I can never catch up. If you’re waiting for a response from me, it’s intentional and I will get back to you.

If you want to learn about some of the cool stuff you can do with Inbox, you can check out the Google team’s blog. They seem to be releasing features on a regular basis.

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No More New Ideas


Being a bad blogger isn’t the worst thing you could be. But today, I stand before you and tell you that’s exactly what I am: A bad blogger.

I wrote multiple posts a day for years. I write at least that much most days for clients. Putting my own words to my name is a lot tougher these days. It felt like I’ve run out of new ideas. Which is ridiculous, since I never had any new ideas in the first place.

I could roll out the excuses for you and tell you that I was busy. I was. Or that spending time with my daughter was more important than telling you why employee engagement should still matter. Both of those are true.

We make time for things we love and I’ll be honest with you: I fell out of love with blogging. I wanted to convert this into a podcast but I know from my own research that podcasts unsupported by blog content rarely gain traction. So it’s time to fall back in love with it.

I also realized I had to drop things in my life that got in the way of writing things. I’ve hosted a few websites that you may have heard of over the last five years that were all much bigger than my own. Their success outgrew my capabilities and thanks to their patience, they are slowly moving their way to hopefully more secure and responsive support.

I dropped my Tumblr, which I was using for a news aggregator/baby picture distribution service. I stopped publicly posting a lot of pictures of my daughter and aggregating news is a pretty nonsensical job unless you are doing it with some cohesive purpose, like in a newsletter.

While I wanted to write guest posts for a few places, it made no sense to clear my schedule to do that when I didn’t even have a blog to point anyone to. I don’t want to be active on LinkedIn because that’s not my approach and Medium seems to be good for open letters and little else.

So. I’m backish. With no word count minimum and hopefully less over editing that have prevented a lot of good, timely posts from being published.

And maybe later? Podcasts. Guest posts. But I have to write something, and it has to be something other than white papers and PowerPoint presentations.

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It’s Okay to Kill Your Company Culture, Especially if it Sucks

The title of this post may sound like the most obvious advice in the world.

In the land of employment branding and Silicon Valley startups, it’s not.

The party is over for Zenefits. Once the golden child of the HR technology scene with a funding round that valued them at $4.5 billion, they are on the wrong side of the roller coaster right now. They sacked their founder and CEO, laid off 17 percent of their workforce, and the fun’s not over yet. They’ll likely still have to pay massive fines for alleged compliance failures and see their workforce depleted and turned over.

Founder and former CEO Parker Conrad’s ouster has been in the cards since that massive funding round closed, though. Conrad’s inexperience in scaling and operating a company in a highly-regulated industry like insurance felt doomed to fail. Venture capitalists don’t like to see their investments get pissed away, either. I assumed he’d be out within a year and that Zenefits would be better off for it.

I might still be right about the latter point but it’s going to take awhile to clean up the mess made by Conrad and his cronies. New CEO David Sacks has a lot of work to do and the first thing he is doing is rewriting Zenefits’ culture.

Entertainingly enough, this is a move that’s not universally applauded. Grumblings of anonymous Zenefits employees have made their way to a few news stories and comment sections as the company has attempted to curb office drinking and sex in the stairways (for reals). Even as Zenefits tries to fix the issues from their alleged institutionalized cheating and reinvent a culture on the fly, some worry they will lose their mojo and bleed talent in a very competitive Silicon Valley.

They say that like it’s a bad thing.

Zenefits has moved so far off the reservation, it might take a complete employee turnover cycle to turn the company around. If you loved the day drinking, (alleged) cheating, reported compliance miscues, and using manual data entry as a way to overcome lacking technology, you probably won’t love a compliance-focused company that needs to improve their offerings make its investors happy before it blows through all that dough they gave them.

As part of my job, I do a lot of discovery and research to learn what makes an organization tick. It’s not in my nature to do value judgments on culture. There’s a lot of companies I wouldn’t work for that make for good clients, do great work, and are otherwise outstanding.

But Zenefits’ culture sucked. Its recklessness was destined to fail in an industry where precision and compliance are table stakes. While the tech press lapped up stories about disruptive HR technology, they failed to take a critical look under the hood to catch any red flags.

It’s safe to say the company won’t get that benefit for a long time. And it’s hard to see a path forward that doesn’t look bad, at least in the short term.

Of course, it’s easy to play the hindsight game but I’ve been down on Zenefits for a long time. The agency I work for had a scathing post that was written right after their funding round closed. I’ve heard too many stories from former Zenefits clients about their shoddy work. Meanwhile, everyone else was losing their shit over how Zenefits was going to make HR obsolete.

This isn’t to highlight that I’m brilliant. You already knew that (I kid, of course).

Shaking up Zenefits is the right thing to do. Killing their crappy company culture was step number one of 546 to get on track.

The moves from Zenefits and their new CEO so far gives me more confidence in the company going forward. Who knows if Zenefits will eventually become a bust? A lot of things have to go right in any case to make back that sort of investment. But, one less failure point can’t be bad, right?

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Kids These Days


I gotta admit, I was a little spellbound when I first read Talia Jane’s open letter to the CEO of Yelp, the company she worked for then (she was fired shortly after posting her story). I felt some cringe on her behalf as I made my way through the piece. Just looking back at the things I wrote when I was 25, I’m guessing I’m not alone in it feeling a little too familiar.

But this isn’t about bashing Jane’s post. Plenty have already done so, including one on Business Insider I’ve seen repeatedly.

Instead, I’ll try to not be the guy that yells about kids on his lawn for a few minutes.

Playing the Generational Card

I hate generational stereotypes and the biggest problem with Jane’s diatribe is that it plays right into the hands of people who love to hate on millennials as a whole. Entitlement is a tricky word but that’s exactly what this smells like. Moving to one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. for a job that doesn’t pay much is a recipe for disaster. Paying 80 percent of your income towards housing is not sustainable and should’ve been a red flag to any of the friends or family members in Jane’s life. A $20 co-pay is a luxury plenty of people don’t have, either.

A series of bad choices, published for all to see online, goes viral and like magic, old and young people alike start rattling off all that’s wrong about kids these days.

Listen, assholes: You made mistakes when you were young. So did I. We still make mistakes. And while this series of mistakes had a train wreck appeal and a predictable ending, let’s not pretend your generation of dead-end jobs and multiple divorces saw everything coming, either.

You didn’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps

That widely shared post I mentioned responding to Jane? Written by nearly 30-year-old Stefanie Williams, it shares a viewpoint that isn’t uncommon: Work harder, complain less.

Shit, I get it. That’s how I was raised, too. But it’s such a belittling piece, it’ll fall on deaf ears to those who could probably use an extra dose of suck it up.

First of all, many people don’t have the opportunity to live with parents while working low wage jobs like Williams did. Many of us don’t have family friends who will take pity on us and give us a job when we’re down on our luck. I guess if you don’t have that, you can always make your own luck, which is its own brand of bullshit made by people with money, power and opportunity already.

Williams’ tale of putting pride aside and working a job she initially didn’t want was less a lesson in work ethic and more a demonstration of the power of privilege. I worked shitty jobs over holidays and weekends, but let’s pretend that finding even a job you hate that’s in the right location that pays the bills isn’t an entitlement on its own.

Her condescending diss piece, made for an internet audience that gobbles this shit up like the lamest east coast/west coast rap war ever, was at least as offensive as the original.

Unfortunately, the whole thing plays out more like two poorly written fictional personas: the entitled princess who can’t understand why her bad career choices aren’t working for her and the wise-beyond-her-years character who simply parrots the same things her grandparents say about success but in a much more condescending, grating way.

Congrats for making me hate both sides of this argument.

I learned it from you

Of course, while many baby boomers cheer Jane’s professional demise from the sideline as a hard lesson they hope others will learn from, they can ignore the issues that have caused situations like Jane’s to be more common than just slacker, entitled kids getting their comeuppance. In fact, it’s snarled a lot of good kids who do work hard and find it difficult to move up without lucky breaks or knowing someone in high places. Specifically, these long-term issues have hurt young people’s ability to move up in the world:

  • A college degree is no longer a ticket to success: I’ve worked with a lot of older people with liberal arts degrees who are doing work significantly outside of the scope of their degree. Millennials were sold a bill of goods about college education that is a lot less certain today. There was a time when any degree was better than none and many parents and advisors assumed that would continue to be the case. Now, a horde of English and History graduates that used to get jobs in the 70s and 80s simply languish in today’s job market. When college was a few thousand dollars, that’s less of an issue but now, it’s much different.
  • Unaffordable education: When I started repaying my student loans in 2004, I had $12,000 in debt thanks mainly to the generosity of parents who floated me money for when finances got tight and my ability to work close to full-time at a place where I nearly set my own schedule. A student starting today at the same state university I attended, a little more than a decade later, will be that much in debt after their first year if they only financed tuition. Unless something major happens, I don’t think college tuition is going to decrease. Something will have to give. We can’t keep encouraging 18-year-olds to make house-sized debt gambles on careers.
  • Affordable housing: In many coastal U.S. cities, housing is insane. In my hometown, a bedroom community for Portland, rents rose the fastest in the nation last summer. White collar workers making six figures want baristas, servers, and retail workers next to their workplaces in high-rent high rises but they don’t seem to want to pay to either subsidize housing for them or pay the prices necessary to offer a livable wage for the area. Many younger workers and college grads are abandoning cities to find work away from the coast, if they can afford the move in the first place.
  • Lack of truly entry-level career opportunities: During every recession, training is one of the first departments to get cut to the bone and the last to get an increase in funding. While companies complain about the lack of talent, they are unwilling to put skin in the game to get those who are willing but may be lacking in certain skills up to speed. Going from the mailroom to the CEO requires not just hard work from the employee but also investment and risk from the company.

Of course, all of these hit minorities and women harder than people like me. It’s not a good situation but it’s one that was created by all of us.

It’s not about the trophy anymore

When you look at the odds young people face, you can see why they support someone like Bernie Sanders. And look, he’s not my cup of tea but it seems like young people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think it’s fair to look for relief, especially if it feels like you got a significantly worse deal than your parents did — which you did, because you could get a better job with a free high school diploma then than you can with many college degrees now by nearly every measure.

This whole idea of a “trophy for every kid” is what doomed an entire generation is just a load of hot garbage and every person with an ounce of honesty has to admit that argument has played itself out.

Entitlement is ripe in America. It has no age. When I see people complaining that taxes are still too high, I see entitlement. I beg these people to go back to the tax rates their parents paid. You didn’t walk uphill to school in the snow. You weren’t better off because you didn’t wear seat belts or helmets — you were lucky you didn’t die, dumbass.

If we’re honest, nothing has truly doomed millennials. There are many successful people under 35 years old. They have good jobs and kids. I’m one of them. I’ve worked with a lot of them. Many are my friends who are forging ahead with incredible success.

But I think we underestimate how much the deck is stacked against them compared to previous generations, even compared to what older millennials like myself faced.

Thinking ahead

Talia Jane’s situation is a unique one born of a tough situation for anyone her age, ignorance, and yes, we can all acknowledge, incredibly poor decision-making. Hardships and lessons like this are part of growing up. Did she handle it great? No, but I have an entire journal of shit I wrote when I thought I was super brilliant and had it all figured out at 23 (I didn’t). The only decision I made differently was to keep it all private.

But her situation is also becoming less unique. Not because millennials always make bad career choices but because even the best, most assured and smart career strategy today carries with it a much more significant risk of failure.

I want my kid to be successful and I think most people want millennials, including Jane, to find success. But the path forward for them is going to be different from yours and even mine. Calling her to the carpet for the predictable failings that a lot of 25-year-olds face (but don’t necessarily publicize) is your right.

For a lot of people who have taken on second jobs, moved in with roommates, sold every last thing they could, deferred massive student loan debt and still not squeeze by without the help of friends, family, and even kind strangers — don’t be surprised if they find something in Jane’s story that resonates more with their personal struggles than some tired appeal to just suck it up and work harder.

Sometimes, it’s not just the kids’ fault. We don’t have to coddle her mistakes while still admitting that it’s kind of a screwed up world out there for anyone looking to forge a living as a young adult.

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Every 2016 Prediction for HR Will Be Wrong


Every year, around this time, people look back at what happened in the past year and ahead to the next. In human resources, it’s no different. Anybody who’s written for public consumption for a couple of years has done it.

This past year, I spent a lot of time listening. Way more time listening than I did writing, for this blog or anywhere else. And as I read through listicles about what 2016 looks like for HR, you should know one thing:

Not a single one of them will come true.

HR isn’t a monolithic entity. This isn’t like picking the winner of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign (though, you might agree that we’ll probably all be losers, no matter the outcome). Let’s take a look at some quick numbers that support this point.

First of all, there are over 18,000 companies with 500 or more employees in the U.S. That’s at least 18,000 versions of HR, and for most organizations, there’s probably many disparities across locations and departments. Those 18k firms represent about half of the employment in the U.S.

The other half are the more than five million firms with less than 500 employees (but more than one). While 99% of companies with 500 or more employees have an HR department, many smaller firms don’t have a formal HR function. Frankly, most of them don’t need it. You can get what you need from some combination of outsourcing, technology, and decent management. The HR experience for those people are varied, from the literal worst to the literal best.

HR that is that big and that varied moves forward in the span of decades, not single years. In the largest organizations, which house the largest group of and most active HR professionals, a single change management initiative will take months at minimum and years, especially if it’s a large change. Its full impact might not be felt for five or more years.

That makes some predictions, like what HR will look like in 2020, seem nearly optimistic at this point. If you’re a large, 500+ person organization that’s behind the curve on major talent management or technology initiatives, 2020 isn’t going to happen. That’s four years away.

Even the biggest legislative change in the last decade, the Affordable Care Act, didn’t change much for the largest organizations and allowed smaller organizations years to get their ducks in a row to comply. Only now, going into 2016, will the smallest organizations come under more difficult and onerous rules for tracking and maintaining employer-provided insurance.

Outside of government induced change though, most changes in HR are slow. Even talent acquisition, which prides itself of being faster and more ahead of the curve than their HR brethren don’t change as fast as they’d like. Take a look at a decades worth of change in CareerXroads Source of Hire Report:

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Source: CareerXroads 2004 Source of Hire Report

Sure, there’s been some changes. Referrals have gone down, direct sourcing and agency usage has gone up. Newspapers have all but disappeared and some of the sites have changed. But this, the leading edge of the people management function, has been slow to change too. Again, this is a decade’s worth of movement too.

The biggest paradigm shifting change to both recruiting and HR on the technology front — the internet — took more than a decade to take hold. It still waits on the wings in some organizations that are holding on to the last throes of their non-cloud, non-SaaS based software. Mobile and social are natural extensions of this paradigm shift that will take years to take hold within HR.

In 2016, some companies will take big leaps forward but most will not. Many more companies will take baby steps forward or backward. For observers of HR as a massive, living entity, it will feel like things are standing still if you look at it through the lens of 366 days — we do get that extra day in 2016, lucky us. But exciting things are happening if you focus in on slivers of our little HR world.

When we focus on what [won’t] happen in 2016, we miss the bigger story: If you want to be part of an HR team that is doing interesting and progressive work, you can. Even if you’re not setting the world on fire or sparking a revolution that will consume HR, you can make an impact on thousands of people.

In 2016, my hope is that we’ll spend less time talking about the inevitable march to the cloud or cool tools and more about the people making the changes necessary that will show up in the bottom line three years from now. Don’t talk about technology without talking about the people who have to see it through and make it work. Those people have a vision that goes beyond 2016 — and that’s a good thing for everyone.

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How To Change A Person’s Mind


I’ve been thinking about my Facebook news feed lately. Like many of you, I have friends of various political and religious persuasions who make it their life’s work to make you aware of their views on issues.

Some of it is spice of life stuff. Something you might have found interesting, interspersed between pictures of adorable pets, or children, or feet on a beach in some desirable place. For others, it’s a calling and they spend their time either preaching to a handpicked, self-selected choir or trading comments with the chronically argumentative or bored.

These are good people, I think. They want to help educate the world. If that’s what you want to do with your free time, more power to you. But there’s some bad news that you should know before you spend too much time on this endeavor: People don’t want to change their minds.

A year old article in The New Yorker lays out the crux of the issue associated with the challenge: Any logical approach to changing minds simply doesn’t work.

In one such study, a team of scientists followed around a group of 2,000 parents for three years. Could they affect their views on vaccines based on a variety of methods?

Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.

The result was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing. None of the interventions worked.

Oof! And not only did they not work. In some of the cases, they made matters worse!

Logically, you would think that one or all of these besides the control group would have a positive impact on vaccination rates and attitudes. The fact that not a single one did speaks to a greater issue at hand: Beliefs can be very difficult to change, especially if they are closely held or part of our identity. In fact, the most difficult beliefs to change are those that are embedded in our sense of self.

You are, at a very basic level, trying to change the identity of an individual when you are trying to change their mind. When you challenge people with appeals to facts or emotion, you are also challenging who they are at their very core. The more important an issue is to the identity of the person and the longer they’ve held that point of view, the tougher it is to change their mind.

Study after study has shown that facts and stories are processed incredibly selectively based on how you identify as an individual. For example, people with high racial biases persisted in racially profiling crimes negatively against a minority, even after being corrected. Conversely, people with low racial biases persisted in racially profiling crimes positively toward a minority, even after being corrected.

There’s even a more problematic issue here: These studies dealt with mostly assessing views on factual information as it relates to a person’s identity or belief structure. The difficulty in convincing people on issues where there is no factually correct answer is even fuzzier. There is no factually correct minimum wage, or tax structure, or government subsidy for women’s health. It leaves more issues up for interpretation and a conclusion that can be taken in many different directions.

What’s the solution? Are we to think that it is utterly pointless to try to change minds?

Not exactly.

For one, people who haven’t firmly chosen or identified themselves with a particular issue are fairly easy to reason with. While you may not be changing a mind, you may be helping illuminate an issue they don’t know about.

For bigger issues, trying to present them in ways that don’t address political affiliation, ideology, or a reflection of who you are is a start.

That may seem like a Charmin soft approach to discussing and challenging issues that are near and dear to us. It certainly runs counter to the “punch you in the face” headlines and the “punch you in the nuts/ovaries” comment sections and social media commentary that seems to be the norm.

But that approach isn’t working. As someone who has had a closely held belief changed, it wasn’t through a pan slapped to the side of my head or some sort of lightbulb moment that made it happen. It was a culmination of years of being exposed to new information and people, and ultimately came to a true change in my own self and beliefs.

I don’t expect my social media feeds to change anytime soon. For some people, the exercise of political or ideological thought isn’t about discussion or changing minds. For some people, discussing issues isn’t about thoughtfully moving people in a positive direction. I don’t know anybody’s motives besides my own.

If you do care about changing people’s minds, you should know that it’s generally not easy or quick. The place it happens the least frequently is probably the comments of any website.

But, it’s a start.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the end, too.

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It’s Too Late For Us: Why the Fight for Parental Leave in the U.S. Should Continue


I’m 33. Many people in my age group are having kids and are realizing just how bad family leave policies are in the United States.

Me? I’ve known it my entire professional career.

  • The US offers just 12 weeks of job protected, unpaid leave for many, but not all, mothers
  • Out of 185 countries, the U.S. is one of three that offers no mandated paid maternity leave
  • 70+ countries even offer paid paternity leave for fathers
  • Three states offer paid leave and a joint study with CEPR, UCLA, Rutgers, and CUNY showed that for 90 percent of businesses in California, the law had a net positive or neutral impact on their profitability

The thing that is shocking to most people our age is that our mothers didn’t even have job protected unpaid leave. The Family Medical Leave Act only became law in 1993. In fact, depending on when you were born, your mother could’ve been denied or released from employment just because she was pregnant with you. That protection didn’t pass until 1978.

I’ve heard all of the arguments against paid leave. I don’t buy that the U.S. is in the right on this issue, along with Suriname and Papua New Guinea, against 182 other countries. It’s a global economy and it’s easier to be mobile than in any other time in history. At some point, it’s a competitive issue that’s likely to hurt the U.S. in the long term.

Obviously, I would’ve loved to have paid leave as would’ve my wife. She had always planned to go back to work after having our child and it wasn’t going to be a long time.

We had it better than almost everyone in our country, though. I had three full weeks of paid paternity leave. Plus, I work from home and spent the first year seeing her on demand just steps away. My wife spent 11 weeks at home getting almost her full paycheck and banking on some savings, along with a job that has her working four days a week most of the year.

We could’ve gone longer with our leaves but we chose not to. Most people don’t have that choice. Most people don’t have the advantage of substantial dual income, a parent working from home, and a wonderful nanny. People choosing between finding care for children who are just days out of the hospital are closer to the norm than our situation.

The fact is, it’s too late for people in my current generation: We’re not getting paid leave for our friends who are having kids tomorrow or next week. Just like it was too late for our mothers to get the job protection that almost everyone universally agrees is a good thing today. Maybe individual companies will continue to adopt more family friendly policies primarily catering to people who already can afford to take leave. I don’t see the tide turning that fast on any national legislative level.

So this isn’t about me or my friends anymore. It’s about our country. It’s about our daughters, sons, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. It’s about creating an environment that’s more friendly to women leaders in their 20s and 30s.

It’s about doing what’s right for people where 8–12 weeks of paid leave is the difference between taking hardly any time off for their pregnancy versus taking every single second of paid leave to soak up that time with their kid. Maybe they work in retail or hospitality. Maybe they work in an office or on a construction site. We want them back to work, sure. But according to the National Center for Health Statistics, 16 percent of mothers taking one to four weeks of time off and 33 percent taking no formal time away from work at all.

It’s an indictment on us all and it’s time to change this.

Of course, paid leave will be a pain in the ass to deal with it from the employer’s perspective. I know administering these programs come with administrative costs, the possibility of abuse, and real legal risk. I also know that paid leave schemes will likely cost companies hard dollars and cents. These are important issues which are worth acknowledging but aren’t insurmountable.

But the cost and hassle is worth it. And hopefully people in my generation will fight for it the same way our mothers and grandmothers fought for employment rights that protect pregnancy and parental leave today.