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Showing posts from 2007

For Context: Diabetic Basics

In order for the remaining post or two on corporate diabetes issues to make sense, we need to cover some fundamentals to provide context for non-diabetics or those newly diagnosed . Diabetes is a condition whereby the body fails to process blood sugar properly, resulting either in abnormally high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia) blood sugar levels in the body. The World Health Organization categorizes all diabetes into three types: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational. You might best remember Type 1 as genetically caused and most commonly associated with people who have required insulin since childhood. Gestational diabetes is typically temporary, associated with pregnancies in some women, and generally resolves itself after delivery. For purposes of our discussion we'll be concentrating on Type 2, also commonly known as Adult Onset Diabetes. Depending upon which health organization's data you believe, there are between 18 -21 million Type 2 Diabetics in the U.S. I am one of

I Got Silly Stringed in Texas!

I'm in Plano at our Live Events offices for a couple of days and was preparing for my first interview when one of our sales executives stuck her head in the door. "If you hear thunder, we're about to reach 100,000 over in Revolve." Interested, I followed her to the Revolve sales area and learned that: as of that minute they had reserved 99,998 slots for girls and young women at our Revolve arena events so far this year, and one of our GRCs was on the phone finalizing the booking for two more people. All around me were giddy young sales women shaking cans of something I couldn't make out, and jumping up and down giggling. The one remaining seated salesperson looked up and yelled that she had the booking, and silly string flew everywhere and on everyone. Someone pulled the string on a pinata hung from the ceiling, and "100 Grand" chocolate bars rained down through the group. Then, the team leader assembled everyone for a prayer of thanksgiving for th

New Series - Diabetes and the Corporate Life

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In August 2001, just four months after joining Thomas Nelson, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic. Outside of a few people in the company I tried for the longest time to keep that fact quiet. After all, personal health information isn't anyone else's business, there's a great lack of understanding about this condition and nobody wants to be the guy who can't chin the bar. I was fortunate to have an endocrinologist and dietitian at Vanderbilt, and a great Assistant with diabetes in her family who could help me manage through the day. Why not keep it quiet outside my staff and just those people who need to know? I know of others in the company who have my same condition. From time to time people struggling with diabetes who heard about my situation have come to see me after being diagnosed. Unfortunately, there is scientific disagreement between health care organizations and professionals as to what is acceptable blood sugar and how tightly to control it. I've heard

Managing Through the Micromanaging Myth

It is the ultimate derogatory comment among the 20-somethings in your workforce. It has replaced race and gender slurs as the lowest form of workplace insult. To be labeled a micro-manager carries with it a level of disdain somewhere just above sexual harasser. It is also largely a myth and an excuse wielded by some on your staff who lack the experience to know mentoring from meddling. That so many middle managers (and higher) buy into this corporate urban myth is disappointing; but it will one day go the way of all other ill-conceived management fads. Let me go out on a limb here and call out that labelling your supervisor as a micro-manager is a handy tool to escape supervision and accountability and that buying into it as a supervisor cheats your new hires out of needed coaching. The theory of the micro-manager is simple; close supervision is equal to a lack of confidence in the person you supervise and is therefore poor leadership. Moreover, if you've selected someone for your

What We're Doing About Training Needs

In our two job satisfaction surveys over the past three years the number one need identified by our workforce was training. A few weeks ago the HR department conducted a survey of exactly what training needs our people felt were most urgent. Here were the responses, in order, and what we're doing about it. 1. Excel 2. Power Point 3. IRMA (our home-grown ERP ) 4. Red Prairie (our WMS ) 5. Great Plains (our accounting system) 6. Management techniques (most mentioned by people who said their supervisor needed it) 7. Leadership Skills (basically a restatement of 6 above) 8. Word 9. Outlook 10. Hyperion 11. Team Building 12. Presentations (another way to state 9 above) 13. (tied) Conflict resolution, time management/personal organization, communication, cross-department training, and email etiquette. These responses really break down easily in four broad categories: systems training, leadership training, workplace communications, and fundamental work skills (email, time management, e

Lessons from a Phenomenal Turnaround

You may not know it, but one of the great turnarounds in American academic history is going on right up the road in Bowling Green, KY at Western Kentucky University . About seven years ago Dr. Gary Ransdell, a WKU alum and academic administrator extraordinaire took over the reigns at a campus whose facilities and maintenance had sunk to a level only surpassed in depth by its staff and faculty morale. This Fall Semester, WKU surpassed the University of Kentucky in undergraduate enrollment and launched a new multi-year plan to become "A Great American University with International Reach". Don't bet against this guy and his team. (By the way, Business and Culture SPU, we've published worse business and leadership books than this guy could write for us!) How did he do it, and what can we in leadership positions learn from it? 1. Come to stay, and commit . Ransdell stated from his first day on the job that he intended to retire as President of WKU. Others bef

Why Public Transportation Matters

We've done a lot of work these past two weeks culminating in the press release yesterday of a new shuttle service serving the Thomas Nelson campus in Nashville. The Donelson Shuttle is a free service provided under a six month grant from the Rail Transportation Authority ( RTA ) in Nashville and has been in discussions between Nelson HR and the RTA for about three years. The service will connect the fledgling Music City Star rail service and two Metro Transit Authority ( MTA ) bus lines to the front doors of our three Nashville buildings. So why does an HR department care about such things? How is this related to our departmental mission? Don't we have better things to do? All good questions, and deserving of an answer. The HR department's interest in public transportation is a strategic move in enhancing employee satisfaction, improving diversity, being a good corporate citizen, and positioning the company in alignment with the values of those young professionals who sh

How We Know All Employees Are Legal

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I have for some time wondered how long it would take the political demagoguery of the immigration issue to manifest itself as racist behavior in everyday people. The immigration debate in this year's local elections can best be described as putting the modifier "illegal" in front of a host of nouns (immigrant, foreigner, etc...) in order to mask mistrust and disapproval of foreign nationals in public forums. Leadership is communication, and with this type of local leadership we've been bound to get what happened this past week. We had a caller from outside the company reach one of my young staff members to question her as to how we screened for "illegals". When pressed for specifics, he mentioned one of our Hispanic employees by name and said that he "knew" she was illegal because she was on his list. He claimed to have a list of illegal immigrants working for our company, that he was with "the neighborhood watch" and that he would be &qu

We Interrupt The Business Life for Real Life

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At 2:15 a.m. on Saturday the phone rang, and it was my Dad telling me that my Grandfather was gravely ill in the Critical Care unit of the Regional Medical Center in Madisonville, KY. Having just celebrated his 90th birthday with us two weeks before, Ed Thomason had suffered a series of mini-strokes from which he recovered within 30 minutes to 3 hours each time; but had this time suffered a significant stroke from which the doctors did not expect him to recover. His nurse called my dad since he lived two hours away, and he gave me a heads-up that the situation was grave. At 4:45 a.m. the phone rang again; Dad was in Madisonville by that time and was calling in the family. Luther Edward Thomason departed this world at 8:15 a.m. with all of his descendants who could be reached holding hands around his bedside. This included his wife Louise, 88, to whom he had been married for 73 years and their only son, my dad, who turned 70 earlier this year. Such ended the earthly life not of one

Change Your (Work) Mind, Change Your (Work) World

Work was once much simpler than it is now. Your home life happened at home, your work life happened at work, and your social life happened everywhere else. The boundaries were easier to define: work happened at set hours and at a work site, and when you left the workplace you left your work. All of us working in knowledge work occupations know that this has changed dramatically. I'd be 10 years behind the times if I claimed that this was a new observation. But as we change our company culture and move towards more flexible work arrangements, what is a new observation for me is that the workforce that wants these arrangements is often its own impediment to change. I had to deal with a department this week that turned on one of its own, who was coming back from maternity leave on a flexible schedule to accommodate child care. The sniping about "full-time pay for part-time work" when the person was delivering their work assignments well and on time was troubling. I

How Maternity Leave Works

Although several young women each year take a leave of absence for the birth of a child, the actual mechanics of "maternity leave" are probably not well understood. A couple of times each year someone, usually in leadership, complains that we're not sufficiently "family friendly" in our policies. It may be a good time to review the issues and policies surrounding these types of leaves of absence and point out what benefits are and aren't available to women seeking maternity leaves. Although maternity leave is a common phrase, there actually is no such thing as a separate or distinct leave of absence for the birth of a child. These disappeared after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which in all good intention was enacted to provide better job protection to expectant and new mothers. The law made it illegal to treat pregnant workers differently than any other worker medically unable to work. The unintended consequence, however, was that companies&

Speak Well of Former Employees

While its true that not all turnover is a bad thing, and some people really shouldn't continue with the company, it lowers our corporate discourse to speak ill of the (vocationally) departed. Its an easy out; blame someone who had more than their fair share of human or career flaws and who is no longer here to take up for themselves. It's also unfair and can come to no good end. If the criticism is too harsh you may cross the legal threshold into disparagement. This is actionable on the part of the former employee. If the criticism is personal and distributed in writing (remember, email lives forever!) it can cross the threshold into slander. If it isn't that bad, its just cheap and should be beneath us. Remember, this industry and our company have a long history of recycling people, and today's whipping post may be next year's author, or customer, or boss. It has happened before... As with most business situations, the morally correct course is also the

New Initiatives

Its a busy summer in HR, as we're working on several corporate initiatives that I personally find exciting. While its adding to our workload, these are programs that have been approved but have "gone dark" during a period of a couple of months during which we'll be writing and debating policy language. Since some of these have been announced, but not all, I thought it might be helpful to give you a preview of what's coming down the road. 1. Equity Plan - We've completed the distribution of ESOP assets following the end of that plan. For those of you who aren't familiar with the terminology, programs that share some amount of ownership in the company are commonly called equity plans. We have Board approval for a plan that will provide most employees with an opportunity to build and share equity, although its not an ESOP plan (remember, we're privately held now). Anticipate an announcement in August and informational meetings in the August/Septem

New Faces for Summer

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Its been an interesting Spring in HR and promises to be an even more interesting Summer. We started off with an unexpectedly early maternity leave, followed by an expected and amicable resignation, followed by hiring a new staff member, and soon to be followed by a leave of absence before everyone comes back to work full-time in late July or early August. Since there are new faces, and some old faces in new places, here's an update on who's doing what in HR for the summer. First the easy stuff: Jack Leichty is still covering general HR issues as my #2 as well as leaves of absence, HR support for Service and Operations, the News Flash, and of course those all-important and ever-popular Lost and Found emails. Jack Kristie Cantrell still carries the majority of our recruiting load, handling all postings and recruiting for all parts of the company except Service and Operations and Live Events: Kristie From here down the fun starts. Amy Lindsey, who is in charge of payroll, compen

Bad Logic and Equal Pay

I am absolutely in favor of equal pay for equal work. I am also aghast at what passes for scientific study and logic when groups and publications report on this topic. I've been considering a blog post on the subject for some time, but today received a link to a post that covers the subject thoroughly. I can't say this any better and so offer up to you the following: http://reason.com/news/show/119920.html Jim

Sam Walton's 10 Rules

I am an unashamed fan of the late Sam Walton. Having worked in his organization and having met him on several occasions, I am as enthusiastic about his leadership and business brilliance as I am disappointed in what's happened to his company since his passing . Today someone passed along something I hadn't read in years; Sam's Ten Rules for Business Success. They are old, and timeless. The first person references below are Sam Walton's, not mine, and he uses "associates" and "partners" as interchangeable terms for his employees and vendors. That was his genius ; that he felt everyone who worked for him or supplied to him was his equal and an expert from whom he could learn, and his customers were treasured above all. ____ Rule 1: Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anyone else. I think I overcame every single one of my personal shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work. I don't know if you're born with this kind

Help, Healing, and (Corporate) Forgiveness

Much of the people business is repetitive. Basic human nature doesn't change, and a couple of years into an HR career you start to see the same issues and behaviors over and over again. Every so often, though, you have the opportunity to see a trend or a new variation in the behavior game, and this year has seen the emergence of what I believe to be Internet-based moral failure and addiction. Just to clarify, as workforces go ours is without a doubt the cleanest living of any I've served so don't think we're running a sin den here by any means. However, I've seen a very few go very far afield very quickly and I believe web technology is the accelerant. I'm old enough to remember a time when a person wanting to view pornography had to drive to a city at least the size of Nashville, and if you lived in a city that size you had to go to the "bad side of town". Now anything you want to see, and a ton of stuff you really don't want to see, is on y

How We Operate in HR

One of the biggest drawbacks to corporate work is that, if you're not careful, you develop narrow corporate vision. You get so busy with projects and deadlines that the things that get short changed are usually visiting with you in all the buildings and workplaces. After all, that doesn't give us an immediate return, and we have all these looming deadlines. First thing you know, you've lost touch on certain issues. One of those, and it came home to me this past week, is that we assume that everyone knows some fundamental rules about how we operate in HR regarding issues that come to our office. After all, we all know these rules, and the people who work in our same building and that we see every day know them, and our friends know them, so doesn't everyone? Well, no, and so I want to say this plainly and explicitly for those of you who may not know. 1. Who Can Come to HR? Anyone! You don't have to go through your supervisor, you don't have to get permission,

Ouch! I've Been Tagged

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If you read Mike Hyatt's blog you'll know that I've been tagged. It now falls to me to reveal 5 Things You Don't Know About Me and invite five others to do the same. Here goes.... 1. I was raised on a working cattle farm - It gave me an appreciation of nature, animals and hard work. My dad is a pharmacist who worked in town, so I grew up around farm hands and the "pin hookers" who bought and sold at weekly cattle auctions. I emerged from that experience as a workaholic (there's always something to do on a farm) with a really nasty mouth. Both of those have mellowed with age. Multiple hip surgeries forced me off both the farm and the football field. 2. My Hobbies are flower gardening and guitars - In a job where I deal with people almost constantly, my down time is generally solitary or with just immediate family. You can't tell that I like flowers by looking at our home right now; we moved last Christmas to Nashville and spent this past summer just

Compensation III and IV: Building and Moving Within a Salary Structure

In our first two posts on Compensation we discussed what resources we have and use to price jobs. We also discussed how we calculate base pay. Here we combine the third and fourth of our projected 10 posts on how priced jobs are built into a compensation structure, why a structure is needed, what it does, and how it's administered. What and Why? In any mid-sized or larger company you'll have several different job families. These are groupings of jobs more or less defined by similar competencies or purposes to their work. Within Nelson, we have Publishing, Marketing, Sales, HR, Facilities, Production, Distribution, Customer Service, Accounting/Credit/Collections, Tax, Information Systems, and Conferences. Every job that serves in one of these functional areas is part of that job family. Support positions such as Administrative Assistant are more generic core competencies and exist in all of these families. However, they share the same purpose as do the jobs they support, so th