30 November 2007

Challenge: J.T. O'Donnell's 5 Things

I was checking out Technorati and found by chance a link to J.T. O’Donnell's Deathbed Advice To Managers.

I absolutely love this statement:
There’s just no room for poor management styles anymore because employees are fighting back by quitting. HR knows best: replacing ineffective management is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce turnover.
And if you think that "Employees hear what they see" sounds intriguing, then you absolutely have to read J.T.'s full list.

PS: My Technorati rank went up 2'879'935 in the last 40 days. But maybe this just means that almost 3 million people registered their blog after I did ;-)

J-2: Template for Resignation Letter

This is a guest post by my good friend Johnny. He knows stuff about me, so I let him write on my blog...

By Jaded Johnny (J-2)

The other day an employee asked me for a resignation letter template. We in HR don't accept additional work lightly, but in this case it makes sense.

When no employees leave the company, the turnover is low and there's no need to recruit replacements. So who needs HR in a perfect world? Therefore "high turnover = job security for HR".

So I created two quick and dirty templates for resignation letters. The first one is boring, the other one should only be used if you're really pissed off.

27 November 2007

Lifehack: Don't Forget Your Lunch Tomorrow

The last time I cooked something for the next day, I arrived at work and realized that my yummy lunch was still in the fridge at home.

But today I was very proud of myself.

Last night I prepared a chicken-egg-salad. But when I went to bed, I thought "Oh no, tomorrow I'll forget to take it with me again." So I picked up an empty food container in the kitchen, put it on the table next to the door and laid my wallet and keys next to it.

Today I had a chicken-egg-salad for lunch. Looks like my obsession with productivity and life hacks is finally starting to pay off.

PS: Does anybody know how to avoid chicken getting dry when you heat it up in the microwave?

22 November 2007

Laurie's Challenge: Expressing Gratitude

Laurie, the great HR Punk Rock Lady, issued a challenge:
[..] If you’re going to express gratitude, this Thanksgiving, I’m challenging you to be honest. Tell me what you’re most thankful for and don’t lie to me.
How could I ever lie to Laurie...

Read her list (see link above), it's much funnier than mine will be (once I come up with something)...

The lovely HR Wench also accepted the challenge and posted her own list. She had plenty of time to come up with some cool stuff since everybody's celebrating Thanksgiving in the US and apparently nobody bothered her at work (if only we could have Thanksgiving in Switzerland, if only...).

But enough stalling, here's my "honestly, I'm grateful for these things. Really!" list:
  1. A few days ago, my ISP upgraded my upload rate from 40kbps to 70kbps.
  2. I don't take care of my lawn as well as a Swiss person should. And yet none of my neighbors ever complained.
  3. I can do grocery shopping online and they even feature my favorite Vodka brand.
  4. My boss fully supports the HR version of "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".
  5. I have a wonderful family (my mom doesn't call every week, my dad shares his moonshine with me, and my brother always tells me what he thinks, especially when I'm wrong).
  6. The new season of BBC's Spooks is awesome.
  7. I recently started my own blog and many HR Bloggers have been very friendly and even supportive [1].
  8. My monthly US comics package has arrived. As soon as I manage to leave work early, I'll be able to pick up 59 new issues of comics goodness at the post office [2].
  9. Firefox: pretty much the best invention since sliced bread
  10. After almost 10 years in HR, I still don't take drugs, never had a nervous breakdown and haven't beaten up an employee (yet).
  11. I get along (surprisingly) well with my colleagues at Finance.
Okay, I didn't post 10 things, but that's just "Spinal Tap"-style [3].

[1] comments are welcome. Really! Please... Pretty please... Ah, come on, just leave a comment. Just something, anything... ;-)
[2] what are The Boys up to? How can Ellis make Black Summer and Doktor Sleepless even more crazy? What happens to Faith in Buffy Season 8? Captain America is still dead, but what are Bucky and Fury up to? Will Catwoman really leave everything behind to protect her daughter? Madame Mirage... looks a bit like Laurie?
Yeah, turn it up to 11, baby! And the bass player still has the coolest walruss moustache ever. Lemmy is getting pretty close, though...

21 November 2007

Link: Laurie's Marketing Statement

What do you do when you think of something again and again and you just can't get it out of your head?

According to GTD [1] you write it down. Once it's on paper, it should be out of your head.

Laurie Rüttimann posted her Personal Marketing Statement.

I read it, closed the browser and went to bed.

The next day I tried to get some work done (TTGSWD), but in the end read the whole post to my boss. She disappeared under her desk and all I could hear were hysterical giggles [2].

Later on, I emailed the link to my colleague abroad. The reply was:
remove "big-breasted" and use Laurie's statement on your CV.
(do they want to see me gone?)

All I'm trying to say is: read Laurie's Marketing Statement!

She's too cool and life's too short to miss this.

[1] GTD or Getting Things Done is a productivity system developed by David Allen. Some people say that it's worthless and spawned a cult-like following, many others love it and some even found ways to adapt it to geek's needs (see 43folders, Lifehacker.com). And since this blog is supposed to be also about productivity and lifehacks, here ya go! Follow the links ;-)
[2] This is just a test. If tomorrow my boss is pissed at me, this means that she's secretly reading my blog...

20 November 2007

Challenge: Frank's 5 Things

Frank over at The Employment File joined Rachel (also from The Employment File) and posted his own morbid advice.
if it ain’t broke, break it
This is certainly some controversial advice and of course I posted only part of it as it sounds more provocative this way.

This really makes you want to click on the nice link above and read Frank's "5 Things", right?

16 November 2007

Challenge: Rachel's 5 Things

Rachel over at The Employment File posted her Deathbed Managerial Advice. After the somber organ music etc. now we even got a deathbed. I definitely don't want to see what your HR offices look like...

Here's my favorite:
Don't let the title go to your head.
I also read on The Employment File that Rachel just completed her Master's degree in HR this summer. Congratulations!

Of course, ze liste has been updated (mais naturellement).

Oh yes, and in case somebody asks for "the Swiss HR Priest who started the HR Death Cult", please tell them that I disappeared without leaving a forwarding address. Thanks.

I wish you all to live long and prosper!

Founder, Owner and Proud Contributor to the THE Blog
(also President, Senior Vice President, Chief Communications Officer for Global Publishing and all around Executive Nice Guy)

15 November 2007

Link: Carnival of HR (Guerilla HR)

The HR freaks are partying again. This time, the Carnival of HR is hosted by Patrick Williams at Guerilla HR.

It's all about sports, sports... and HR.

In the introduction to the Carnival, Patrick links to an article about Home Depot. Quote from a Home Depot employee:
If you think being a customer at Home Depot stinks, try being an employee.

Some people pretend that I once said:
It's not that I really want to work in HR. But unfortunately, I'm not qualified to do anything else.
The newest Carnival of HR shows once again why working in Human Resources is so fascinating: lots of different people with different points of view writing about completely different topics.

And in the end it boils down to this thing we love so much: HR.

14 November 2007

Challenge: Ask A Manager's 5 Things

I asked a manager and she answered!

Ask A Manager's "deathbed advice" features the 5 final things she would say to managers.

And yes, I did say in the challenge: "Imagine, you're an HR professional and you will die soon". But I never thought that so many people would take it literally ("last gasp", "somber organ music", "things I must tell you before I go", "deathbed").

I guess it's true, HR people have a wicked sense of humor...

And the list has been updated.

Correction (2 December 2007):
I always thought the wise one was a man. I was wrong and corrected the text above.

Challenge: Liz' 5 Things

Liz Williams over at Collaboration Zone accepted the challenge and posted her "Five Things I Must Tell You Before I Go".

My favorite is no. 5: Leave room for others to add their thoughts.

I've added Liz' 5 things to the list.

13 November 2007

Is It Okay If HR Says F*** (...oops, almost said the F-Word...)

As I always say, HR is supposed to represent the company. So saying "fuck" is a big no-no! Really?

To Cuss Or Not To Cuss?

Deb over at 8 hours & a lunch made me think about this. I already linked to her post How Sensitive Should HR Be? (where she dropped the f*** bomb. Just "f***", mind you, she's a decent girl!) and she even left a comment on this blog (this means a lot to a rising star (heh?), wanna-be blogger! But like one of my role models recently said: "It takes a while to build a blog up").

The Fucking Bleeps!

So you have MTV or various Gordon Ramsay shows [1] where people are using all these dirty words but you can't hear them because they're bleeped out. But you know exactly what they mean. Or, if "u'r inglesh ain't that guhd", you assume it's just shit and fuck. Although when you have three bleeps in a row, it gets a bit hard to translate.

Back to the initial question

But the question was, should HR use these ugly words or not? I'm a "find the right balance" guy. I believe in wrong or right, but in day-to-day situations, I also believe that what's black today can be white tomorrow.

If your conviction is that cussing is always wrong, then don't ever say "shit". If somebody just told you that the CEO was addicted to heroin, the CFO was under investigation for insider trading and that right now the FBI was looking through all your personnel files, then stay true to yourself and just say "oops".

White can mean to be polite and to choose your words wisely. But in some private discussions with employees, spicing up your message with a few strong words can help the communication. After all, outside of work, most of your employees wouldn't say "Oh phooey, I burned the darn muffins." [2]

Be Wise!

So, as always, it depends on the situation. During a job interview you wouldn't say "this company is fucking cool" unless the candidate is borderline comatose from nervousness and you're absolutely sure that this statement will help him relax. If you're working in ER (=employee relations, not emergency room, although sometimes the lines can get a bit blurry), then you probably know your customers quite well. So saying "I damn well understand what you're going through" might help. Remember the "darn muffins"?

My Theory

Cussing is often bleeped out on US TV (not so much on British programs, though). This may seem to confirm the theory that Americans are rude hypocrites while the British are cultured, decent and polite.
But this explanation just seems too easy...

My Theory. Now really...

My theory is that it's just a cultural-linguistical problem. Somehow the US culture has developed these F-, S-, L- and whatever words.

In French and German there are no S- or C-words. Either you say "Scheisse" or "Mist", or you say "con" or "idiot". There's nothing in between. No F*bleep*k or buhl**shh***i*d**.

My recommendation

If you want to be rude, then spell it out! Say the words. Period! (".")
Otherwise, use polite words.
And if you're convinced of what you say, then you won't need any strong language.

[1] Gordon Ramsay is a world-class chef who owns several restaurants all over the world and hosts a few TV shows (Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, etc.)
[2] this is a quote from the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight with Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis. They don't use "pure HR speak" all the time.

09 November 2007

How Does HR Cope With Stress?

HR often has this huge advantage: we have offices with doors. This makes sense since we have to conduct confidential conversations.

But then there's the open door policy...

There are days when employees almost queue in front of the HR office. Closing the door from time to time can be very helpful. After all, what are we paid for: talking to nice people or getting stuff done?

Find a soul mate

If you're lucky, you can talk to your boss.

Otherwise I recommend finding a soul mate. If you're the only HR SPOC (Single Point of Contact) in the company, it could be somebody you trust (and you know can keep their mouth shut!). This last recommendation can be tricky. After all, this trusted person also has to deal with their own worries and needs to talk about them sometimes.

Friends? What-cha-mean?

Another possibility is to have friends. This might sound strange, but I recently heard of this revolutionary new idea:

Don't spend every waking hour at the office!

Instead, have a social life and meet people working for other companies (or not working at all). They will have a different perspective and might give you valuable advice or ask interesting questions.


=if("HR headcount" > 1, "this might help", "you're screwed") [1]

If you're the only HR person in your company, this might not work. On the other hand, keep in mind the unofficial US Marine Corp's motto [2]:
Show some fucking adaptability!
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas

Close the door to the HR office and say whatever you want (as long as your HR colleagues are fine with it). You might say "this is such a wonderful day, I feel like hugging everybody" or "I hate procrastinating, why do we have so many documents to file?" or even "the guy from Purchasing is such an asshole, why do I have to put up with his shit?".

And when the next internal customer (in Dilbert speak: "valued employee" [3]) shows up, you'll be all smiles and say something like "Hi there, what can I do for you?"

[1] I know, I'm an Excel geek. I just couldn't resist ;-)
[2] Actually, I'm not sure if this is really the US Marine Corp's unofficial motto. But I thought it sounded cool. This is a quote from Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I luh-ho-huv this book!
[3] Dilbert is a comic strip about business and IT. I've been working for IT companies for a long time, but I'm always surprised how many people don't know about Dilbert. Anyway, I couldn't stop smiling for the next 15 hours after an employee once called me "Catbert".

08 November 2007

Weblog Awards: Evil HR Lady Won A Medal!

The polls of the 2007 Weblog Awards closed 20 minutes ago and the absolutely un-evil but totally sarcastic (in a good HR way) Evil HR Lady made 3rd place in the Best Business Blog category!

And since I'm not just a touchy-feely HR Guy, but also a hands-on numbers geek:
  • 4'354 votes in total
  • 508 (11.7%) votes for our girl
  • the winning blog didn't even make the majority ("only" 36.4%)
This is nothing new to those who are familiar with the blog of the Mistress Of Precious HR Advice, but:


Challenge: Wally's 5 Things

Wally Bock over at the Three Star Leadership Blog has accepted my challenge and posted a great article called Last gasp advice for managers.

But sharing wisdom from his rich experience isn't enough for him. He also took the "you will die soon" part seriously, even including "somber organ music".

Finally, he calls me the "Swiss HR Priest". Do I see new business cards in the near future?

The challenge is still open! You can get more information here and also read HR Wench's "5 Things" whose article "I Say Good Day Sir!" inspired this challenge.

04 November 2007

Challenge: 5 Things to say to Managers

Imagine: You're an HR Professional and you will die soon. What are the 5 things you would say to the managers in your company?

Remember, you're dying. You have nothing to loose. And if you believe in Karma, lets assume for the sake of this challenge that your comments don't count against your Karma score. So you can say whatever you want.

What would you say?

Here is some background information. I challenge every HR Blogger to write about their "5 Things" and send me the link to their post.

Link: How not to reply in a job interview

Here's a great post from HR Wench about what not to say in a job interview.

The Perfect Candidate, is the description of a phone interview. The candidate is so honest it almost hurts...

I'm all about honesty, that's not the question here. But if an HR professional gets these answers and doesn't reject the application, this could almost be a reason for termination for cause (depending on the national or local legislation, of course).

Needless to say, it's hilarious. Example:
Well he's used to being paid more but it will do while he looks for something else.

Go read it, it's worth it!

Link: Carnival of HR

Carnival means party. Carnival of HR means... well, it's not like us HR freaks didn't know how to party... really...

Anyway, the other day I posted a link to the incredibly evil, oops... incredibly wonderful Evil HR Lady's post about Halloween and Terminations. But I forgot to mention that this article was part of the newest edition of the Carnival of HR hosted this time by the HRO Manager.

The beauty of the Carnival is that it features articles about many different topics written by people from various backgrounds with sometimes very different points of view. But at the end of the day, it's all about HR!

The articles I read so far:

Evil HR Lady: of course. See above.

Ask A Manager: How should new managers be trained?
You want to see a diploma when hiring a Systems Administrator, but who trains your managers? Lots of useful information.

Michael Wade: Dangerous beliefs
You know how to behave in a company and what to expect? Read this post. Even if you already know everything mentioned in this post, read it and enjoy. Sometimes it's good to be reminded and to think about what we thought we knew.

Deb Owen: How sensitive should HR be?
Sometimes it's our job to listen and be understanding, other times we must be able to say no. Deb also doesn't mind if somebody drops the "f*** bomb" (translation for non-US readers: "fuck bomb". The Yanks like to write in riddles, or in the case of MTV, in bleeps).

Actually, the HRO Manager's comments are much better than mine, so go check out his quick summaries here and then click the links for the original articles.

The other day somebody asked me:
"What do you want to do when you grow up?"

My answer:
"I want to participate in the Carnival of HR!"

I've been told before that my sense of humor is kinda strange ;-)

03 November 2007

J-2: HR cares

This is a guest post by my good friend Johnny. According to him, he's the bestest HR Manager in the world. But he also knows some stuff about me and thus convinced me that it was in my interest to let him use my blog to voice his opinions from time to time. Or else...

By Jaded Johnny (J-2)

The other day an employee interrupted one of my numerous "quality thinking sessions" (QTS). Since my office door is always closed, the knock on the door alerted me and gave me enough time to safely store my trusted cushion in the file cabinet. But I digress...

The good man had a question for me. I don't remember what he said exactly, but it had something to do with "yadda yadda... unfair... me want raise... are you actually listening... I'm entitled to... blah blah... right now."

After giving him my full attention like any HR professional would do, weighting both sides carefully and taking a sip of cold coffee (a good QTS session takes its time and coffee gets cold after some time), I asked him one question. After that the case was closed and he left.

That's the way to do it: listen closely! And instead of telling people what to do, ask them a challenging question and help them find their own answers. I think the appropriate buzz word is "empowerment".

My question was:
Just out of curiosity, what was it exactly that gave you the impression that I care?

01 November 2007

Recruiting: Send regret emails efficiently (2/2)

Part 1 was a walk down memory lane. Back then when HR still received applications by snail mail.

In this part I'll describe how you can send a regret email within seconds.

If you receive all applications by email (to your personal email address or a team mailbox) and need to answer each message individually, this might be helpful.

The tools: Outlook with a few shortcuts and Texter

Texter is a nifty little tool developed by the great people at Lifehacker [1]. It's Windows only and also portable, this means that you can launch it from a USB stick if you aren't allowed to install programs on your work computer.

Once started, right click on the Texter icon on the task bar (usually on the lower right corner of the screen) and add a standard text. Example:

Thank you for applying with The Rebellion Inc.
However, we regret to inform you that your professional experience doesn't completely match the requirements of the position.

We wish you all the best and hope that you will soon find your way back to the light side of the Force.

Best regards

Mon Mothma
Leader of the Alliance
Assign a keyword or an abbreviation to this text snippet, but make sure that you use something that you wouldn't usually type. So instead of "regret" you could use "eemregret". Finally, define a key that will activate the text insertion, for example the space key.

Faster than the naked eye can see

First put all emails you want to reply to in a single folder.
  1. select the first message and click "Enter" to open it
  2. press Ctrl+r to reply
  3. select the tab key until you're in the body of the email
  4. type "eemregret" and press the space key to insert the text
  5. use the arrow key to go to the 1st line and type "Mr. Vader" after "Dear"
  6. select Alt+s to send the message
  7. press Ctrl+d to delete the original email and activate the next application

And if you want to finish with some cleaning up:
  • all deleted messages are in the "Deleted Items" folder. Sort by date, select all applications and move them in one quick swoop to your archive folder
  • repeat for all sent replies (you will find them in the "Sent Items" folder)

The secret is to always keep your fingers on the keyboard. If this is too difficult, hide the mouse in a drawer.

Practice until the movements become automatic and your fingers are just a blur.

[1] Lifehacker.com is a productivity blog with something for everyone from utilities under Windows, Mac or Linux to time management and even clever household tips.
[2] Mon Mothma is a character from Star Wars.