Archive for Work/Office

The One Where You Get to Drink

Zapoos HippoEarlier this week I had a phone/video call with a friend in Australia about all manner of things related to work, business, and HR. As the conversation progressed we entered the realm of HR/business cliches when we got to talking about Zappos. It’s a cliche of course, because ‘replicating’ the Zappos culture is the wet unrealistic dream of numerous HR ladies and misguided organizational leaders. Therefore, any time the name Zappos is uttered in reverential tones, we are to take a drink.

Try it. It’s fun.

In any event, the two of us got to chatting about Zappos since a few months ago, during some trips to Vegas, he and I both went on tours of the HQ. While we didn’t go at the same time, we did end up being there within weeks of each other.

Naturally, as a good HR lady I wanted to take the tour for a number of years. It finally came to pass when my friends at Kronos arranged a visit for bloggers, press and analysts during the recent Kronos Works conference which meant that one afternoon a group of 20 hopped on a charter bus and headed from the Strip to downtown Vegas.

I was prepared of course; I know a few people who work there and I also follow the various #insidezappos accounts. I’ve seen pictures and heard stories from friends and I’ve read my share of insider reports. Over the years I’ve rolled my eyes when numerous ‘motivational” speakers with zero exposure to the real-world-of-work have breathlessly exhorted HR audience members to “be like Zappos.” I enjoyed Tony Hsieh’s book, thought the whole holacracy movement was crap, and applauded the recruiting team for eliminating job postings.

So…I was prepared for the tour. But still, let me tell you, I walked out of there in some serious fan girl mode. (Note – per a Zappos Sr. HR Manager I spoke with, there have been approximately 20,000 people who have gone on the tour in 2014).

Of course this went well beyond the putting green, hammocks, and free food. While I gasped and gaggled at the executive’s cubicles (cheek to jowl with their team members) and the throne in the room of the “coach” who is available to meet with any/all employees, there was way more to it than the sights, sounds and colors.

Because those sorts of ‘things’ – those perks, activities, and behaviors  – are all just outward manifestation of what’s underneath. And what’s underneath is solid, real and not manufactured.

It’s certainly not an environment for everyone. When I posted this photo of the HR Department there were friends and colleagues on my SM channels who didn’t believe that THIS was HR; after all, if you’re used to working in an insurance company or financial institution where the HR team attempts to set themselves above everyone else (“we have to be impartial!”) you’re probably not going to be comfortable sitting in an open, industrial environment with an electric fireplace and a ball pit (a la your neighborhood Chuck E. Cheese restaurant) situated underneath the Open Enrollment informational poster wall.

Zappos HR Dept

So yeah; I dug it. A lot.



I Want it Now: Entitlement in the Workplace

Veruca SaltEntitlement: the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges) Merriam-Webster


I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the damage that can be done – unintended consequences for the most part – when organizational leaders or well-intentioned HR professionals devise activities, reward programs, benefit packages, or other conditions of employment that create a feeling of entitlement amongst employees.

These sorts of things often start off quite innocently and are usually designed to address a critical business need. Countless HR directors have rolled out Attendance Bonus programs designed to ensure employees get to work on time and them scratched their head in wonderment when the only employees actually receiving any Attendance Bonus payouts are the same employees who have always reported to work on time.

And that’s not the only one that’s a favorite for HR folks to turn into some sort of ‘program’ – they’re also quite fond of over-thinking and over-crafting things like providing free snacks in the break room, running employee referral programs, and providing employer-covered supplemental benefit programs. I’ve seen HR professionals run in circles to provide free monthly car washes in the employee parking lot. I watched an HR manager wear herself out managing the logistical nightmare created when she decided to provide on-site flu shots for, at the end of the day, a meager percentage of her company’s employees.

So why do it? Oh sure, sometimes there’s a strategic reason related to talent attraction/retention. Or so company executives and talent acquisition leaders will say.

But seriously? At what stage did we enter this alternate universe where stuff like ongoing access to sleep-pods and the correct type of kale on the (free) salad bar in the cafeteria is expected in the workplace? Demanded by applicants? A reason whether an employee will prolong the employment relationship with a specific company?


Now I’m certainly not saying we should never strive to do the extras or provide added enticements to either attract candidates or enrich the employment experience for employees. If the pay is where it should be (or better) and the working conditions fit the talent pool and meet the needs of the business, then go  as wild as you want having pizza day, putting bean bag chairs in the conference rooms and providing pet insurance at no cost. Knock yourself out.

These sorts of things are nice and fluffy and let over-worked and under-appreciated HR ladies feel good about themselves. Of course it’s quite likely they’re not much more than window-dressing even though they land you a spot on some local “Best Employer List.” It’s also highly probable these initiatives are doing nothing to ‘impact the bottom line’ (which you like to tell your executive team at the quarterly staff meeting) since I bet you’re not performing any sort of cost-benefit analysis.

And maybe that’s OK; sometimes within a manageable scope and scale we just like to do nice things. Or maybe everyone in HR just wants to be able to bring their dogs to work too.

Just remember …  Yahoo ended work from homeBest Buy cancelled ROWE and that worn-out HR Manager cancelled the annual flu shot extravaganza.

So ask yourself this: “If, one day, we need to eliminate this activity, reward program, benefit package, or other condition of employment, how will that play in Peoria?”

THAT – my friends – is the million dollar question.

Take Inspiration from Relationships: Years of Service

cakeI’m a big fan of recognizing people at work for their contributions and their efforts. And I’ve talked about the good, bad and ugly of service awards before – one thing that drives me crazy is when we think it’s sufficient to applaud someone just for sticking it out at our crappy company for a given amount of time.

And I really hate it when when the bestowing of service awards becomes just another task-to-do of the HR Manager.

Look…I get it. Sometimes the phrase ‘planning and execution of the company’s annual service awards lunch’ is actually listed on the HR Manager’s job description. It’s a legacy process at her organization, left over from the industrial era, that she has neither the energy nor resources to get changed. The CEO (who inherited it) and his VPs (who could care less) are just not interested in giving it much thought; there are widgets to make after all. So service awards and recognition become something that can, as far as they’re concerned, continue to reside firmly in HR’s domain.

But you know what? If you’re in HR and as fed up with pins and postcards and an annual boring luncheon you can change all that pretty easily.

Service awards, as part of your company’s recognition process, can have a huge impact. It’s easier than you think to ditch the laser-engraved card and polo shirt with the company logo. Make a bold move from the check-listed chore that needs to be squeezed in sometime between the time your EEO-1 Report is due and Open Enrollment kicks off.

If you embrace a holistic system of recognition and celebration, then regular acknowledgement and reinforcement of the behaviors that the organization wants and cherishes will become second nature.

A while back an employee named Patsy who worked on my team celebrated 20 years as an employee. She had been with the company from its origin – a “founding member” if you will – and everyone knew her. We didn’t have much in the way of technology beyond email and our intranet but we had lots of memories. So almost everyone in the building gathered in the employee cafeteria for cake (white cake with white frosting!!) and drinks. A handful of employees brought photo albums and someone from Marketing dug up company newsletters from the mid 90’s. The CEO, choking back some tears, reminisced about the days when she and Patsy shared a desk when the company opened its doors.

What was particularly awesome about this day was that we celebrated Patsy’s service by letting all her coworkers and colleagues honor her. She had spent so much time with everyone in the company and they all had the opportunity to publicly share their stories.

I was reminded of Patsy recently when checking out this video from Globoforce about their new product Service Timelines. I like it a lot. (note: this is an actual Globoforce employee celebrating her 15 year anniversary).



That – to me – says human. That – to me – exemplifies the type of people processes I want to embrace. Honoring employees and making sure they continue to feel connected to my organization in a personal and meaningful way.

You can gather in the cafeteria (like we did for Patsy) or you can take videos and post on message boards and internal networks (cool for a dispersed workforce of course). The key though is to gather input from across the organization. After all, it’s not just the employee’s manager with whom they work. It’s Steve in Accounting. It’s Bill in the next cubicle. It’s Carrie who worked with her on a project team.

That’s the stuff that makes people happy; that’s the stuff that makes people want to stay and work for you. Relationships of all kinds matter. Not just the one with the boss.


note: I’m partnering with Globoforce as a paid contributor and, as I should, am disclosing this to you in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Hot DAMN: Clarity and Consistency

pillowsThe invitation arrived several weeks ago: “You’re invited to a Romance FUN Party.” The accompanying image showed four impossibly attractive women with perfect hair toasting each other with glasses of champagne. “Bring 3 Guests and Win a ‘Date Night’ bag!” we were promised. In a separate email the hostess pointed out “ladies only!”

Yeah. You know what this was all about. As did everyone who responded “yes” on their RSVP.

The gals arrived with handbags in tow and quickly set about consuming wine and cupcakes while checking out the dizzying array of merchandise on display. After 30 minutes of readiness (alcoholic lubrication as it were) the hostess gathered us all together and the Personal Romance Consultant took over.

We introduced ourselves by playing a game – “Hi! I’m Debbie. My porn name is Fluffy Bayridge and my secret bedroom name is ‘Tiger”!” More games followed; some using props. There was a slide show.

Then we got down to business. There were stories and demonstrations. The jargon flowed freely; no need to sugar coat what this was all about. As we were indoctrinated into the world of “Romance” the Personal Romance Consultant was very clear to point out that the greatest romance you have is with yourself (“You are ALL beautiful!!”).

“Can you explain again the 4 different ways to use that product?” asked Debbie.

“Let me show you again,” said the Personal Romance Consultant as she deftly manipulated the merchandise she held in her hand. “I use this myself; it’s my favorite.”

And with that the store was open for business. Purchases were made in the privacy of the hostesses’ spare bedroom.

Debbie left the party with a sizable credit card bill and a smile on her face.


The letters arrived several weeks ago: “Welcome to our company!” The accompanying glossy brochure displayed four impossibly happy looking ‘employees’ (age, gender, and race diverse!) kicking back on colorful sofas in what appeared to be a common work area. “We’re so pleased you’re part of our team!” the brochure stated. “Employees are our most important asset,” began one sentence, “and we demonstrate that by living our values of communication, transparency and personal empowerment.”

Yeah. You know what this was all about. As did the eager new recruits, or so they thought, who had just landed a job.

The new employees arrived on day 1 and quickly set about consuming coffee and donuts while looking askance at the piles of paperwork and binders placed at each seat. After a brief period of strained chit chat the HR Representative quieted the group and the day began.

New employees introduced themselves by playing a game – “Hi! I’m Carla. I have a 12 year old son and a 14 year old daughter. My hobbies are playing bunco and working in my garden.” More games followed; some using props. There was a slide show.

Then they got down to business. There were stories and demonstrations. The jargon flowed freely. It was an indoctrination into the company with the HR Representative taking great pains to point out that the company was committed to providing a great work environment (“You are ALL important!”).

“Can you further explain the company’s flexible work policy listed in the brochure you sent me? asked Carla. “The recruiter told me about it but he didn’t have all the details.”

“Your manager will determine if your position qualifies,” said the HR Representative as she deftly shuffled the stack of I-9s on the conference room table. “You’re eligible to be considered for flex scheduling or telecommuting once you’ve been here 12 months and have received satisfactory performance appraisals with no disciplinary actions.”

And with that the new job tenure began; clarification of company values and policies to be made in the privacy of individual managers’ offices.

Carla never did manage to find that common work area with the colorful sofas… before she resigned on day 65.