Showing posts from 2012

Why I Chose Life Care Services (and turned my life upside down)

After the Harper Collins purchase of Thomas Nelson took place I needed a job. There is no doubt about that. But what job and where?  I was happy that, as I've said before, the market reacted positively to my resume.  The question, though, was where?  Which opportunity would lead me to where I wanted to go with the back half of my career?  Another issue was about the environment in which I wanted to work.  I spent 12 years working with some really bright and visionary people reshaping the work culture at TNM.  What we created was something special; values-driven but financially successful.  God-honoring on a good day; do-no-harm on the worst of days.  After shaping that, and then getting to work in it, what do you do for an encore? Also, how do you go back to pure capitalism after doing something that engages your heart. My first overtures to other Christian organizations did not lead to any meaningful response.  Not sure why that was, but it was.  Simultaneously I was reaching

Lost My Fear of Retirement

This week Vonnie and I have been segregating and packing things for the apartment in Indianapolis.  I now know where a lot of what I've made has gone over the years: I believe that we must have about three of everything.  It has felt a lot like what a divorce must be like in trying to decide which pizza cutter stays here and which one goes to Indiana.  Who get the toaster and the blender?  Those mugs aren't going anywhere because they were mine before we married, etc... At this point I can't help but reflect on what I've learned from three months between jobs.  Among the most enlightening is that I have lost my fear of retirement. For years I haven't placed much stock in retirement. I can't ever, and I mean ever , see myself rocking on the back porch and doing nothing.  Neither of us have ever seen ourselves sitting in our respective recliners staring at each other for the last several years of our lives.  Because of that I've never put much stock into

Coming out of Transition: The Details

I received confirmation today that I can announce details of my next job.  Beginning Monday November 26th I will start working for Life Care Services, a division of LCS out of Des Moines, IA.  I will assume the position of Regional Director of Human Resources working out of their regional office in Indianapolis. Life Care Services is in the Senior Living industry and owns and/or operates Continuous Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in the Midwest and west coast.  I will be responsible for 30 - 35 of these communities, each with its own HR Manager, and also helping to bring new communities on board as we grow.  I will relocate to Indianapolis during the Thanksgiving weekend. This position involves a lot of travel which is similar to jobs I've done in the past.  My cell number and personal email will remain the same so those of you who have that information can continue to contact me like you always have.  Once I have a company email address I will put that out on Twitter and m

Coming Out of Transition

While I can't release details yet, I will be coming out of transition November 26th working as a Regional Director of Human Resources for a company in Indianapolis.  I signed a contingent offer letter last week and am awaiting the criminal background check and reference checks to be completed and the contingency to be removed from the offer. I want to thank each and every one of you for your calls and notes of encouragement, your prayers, and your friendship.  I assume that everyone who offered to be a reference for me will follow through with a positive reference, and I know my own clean background, so this should be over for me soon.  Vonnie and I will take a much-delayed 30th anniversary cruise in early November and then come back preparing for what comes next. This job lead came from a friend whose career I had helped a few years ago.  Almost every good lead I had came from someone I had helped at some point.  This was instructive for me and I pass it along to you; if you w

Life Insurance While In Transition

One of the most responsible things the family's breadwinner can do is to protect his or her family through life insurance.  Its easy while you work for a company who offers life insurance; it usually is 100% company-paid and automatic when you come on the payroll.  It is also easy when you leave one job and start another as the successor insurance usually becomes effective before the old insurance expires.  But what about when you are in transition, and especially if you are trying to preserve cash?  Here's what I've learned. When you leave your job for whatever reason you have the opportunity to "port" your life insurance, that is to pay age-rated premiums and convert your group coverage to a personal policy.  You usually have 30 days to do that and your HR or Benefits department can provide you with the paperwork, or you can call the life insurance carrier yourself.  If you die during the 30 day "conversion period" after your termination date then yo

How People Find Jobs Today

Note: This series is written for others who are in career transition, either from the same company I left or elsewhere. Having been fortunate to have transitional benefits, and a great network of HR pros,  these posts are written for the benefit of those who don't have as much time or the good advice available to me.   __________ Although this information is well-known in HR circles and intuitive to some, for others it may be news. This is especially true if, like me, you haven't been on the job market in years if ever.  I have worked since I was 14 (farm kid) and have been recruited to every job I've ever gotten.  Being on the offensive, actively looking for a job, is a totally new experience at age 52. If you are similarly uninitiated here are some statistics about how people are finding jobs in this economy. Job Boards - Only 10 - 15% of job seekers land a job off an Internet job board.  This is disproportionate to the percentage of time people spend looking fo

Notes from Transition: Permission to Take Time Off

Note: This series is written for others who are in career transition, either from the same company I left or elsewhere. Having been fortunate to have transitional benefits, and a great network of HR pros,  these posts are written for the benefit of those who don't have as much time or the good advice available to me.   __________ Usually people in transition fall into two categories; those who aren't active enough in their search and those who do nothing else.  I fall into the latter category.  People who don't search enough are usually overwhelmed with the enormity of the task, easily distracted, or feel hopeless.  Rather than look they find other things to do.  For those of us who are focused on the search, the state of being that is transition is unacceptable and must be worked diligently until resolved.  At times that resolve and focus can become so intense that we don't do anything else and that is not a healthy state. Just as you can't work at any job day

The Video Interview

One of the advantages of modern technology is the ability for remote, face-to-face conversations.  In HR I haven't done a telephone screen in over a year, opting instead for Skype interviews.  Now as a candidate I am being interviewed through this technology and the shoe is on the other foot.  There is a technique to looking your best during a video interview, and here are a few tips for those of you may be in or considering a career transition. The first things I notice as an interviewer are lighting and background .  So often there is something distracting in the background such as a window with open drapes or blinds blinding the camera to where I can't see the interviewee.  Another common mistake is something distracting and unprofessional in the background like dirty laundry in the floor or general clutter.  It makes no sense to put on a jacket and tie and then have an unprofessional presentation behind you.  You can also focus the camera in to where you are just showing


I told Vonnie about a week into transition that the kind words said and sent to us were almost worth the anxiety of these changes.  I wasn't entirely kidding. Of course nobody, or at least very few people, want to go into career transition. You would always prefer to make your own exit on your own terms, but that doesn't always happen for you.  When you do find out that your time has come there are waves of emotions that come with that news, from euphoria to terror and almost everything in between.  When the mood turns dark or the night gets scary the kindnesses and encouragements carry you through. I say this for two reasons. First I want to give a sincere and heartfelt "thank you" to all of you who dropped by the office, sent a card or note, and for so many of you who sent emails.  The "you won't be out there longs" and "you'll do fines" and "you are great at what you dos" are the things that help when you need it most. Se

My Transition: First Installment

A little over two weeks ago I received the news that I wouldn't go forward with the new Harper Collins Christian Publishing Division. As of Wednesday the 19th I'm off the payroll and will receive my lump sum severance on the 9/28 pay date. Although I now have a full-time job, finding another job, that process inevitably leaves me with time on my hands.  The question that immediately comes to mind is how best to spend it. I spent most of yesterday helping Soles4Souls which is in the midst of a significant leadership transition.  I also spent time reading and preparing for a video interview next Tuesday.  This weekend I'm helping my dad with a recording project.  I very much believe that all things work for good, and that significant change points in your life happen for a reason.  The difference between a negative experience and a blessing is often what you do with the hand you're played. Part of what I want to do is chronicle my transition.  Being a Human Resources

Down the Road I Go: A Personal Reflection on Leaving

Friends and Colleagues, Today is my last day in the office; I will depart Thomas Nelson a little later in the month but will office from home for the rest of my tenure.  My departments need to focus on their respective new leadership and figure out how they will work together: that won't happen with me still in the office and available.  If you are in the office today feel free to come by if you like; I'll be finishing up a few odds and ends and should have time for farewells. As for leaving Thomas Nelson after almost 12 years I am excited, and a little sad, but mostly excited.  To paraphrase Reagan, I didn't leave Thomas Nelson, Thomas Nelson left me as it becomes a Harper Collins brand name.  My role was to develop and uphold the Nelson culture although I was not alone in that duty. My departure at this moment in the integration with Zondervan beckons in the new Harper Collins Christian division and culture.  I came in a change agent and am leaving the same way I came

More Reason NOT to Have a Social Media Policy

I've written about this before in various posts, and as time goes by I am more convinced than ever.  Your company or organization should not have a Social Media policy.  Now this isn't a popular idea.  Two or three seminar companies a week send me an invitation to a seminar on how to write such a policy.  Law firms have now gotten into the act with seminars and labor law letters giving you guidance on how to make your policy better.  If you are in HR your exec team and/or your General Counsel may be asking you what you are doing about your Social Media policy, begging the question as to if one should exist in the first place. So now that a few months have passed and more and more organizations have gotten on the policy bandwagon, the NLRB just made almost all of almost everybody's policy illegal. A recent report covered in the SHRM newsletter undercut even the most seemingly reasonable provisions because they had to the potential  to violate employees' right of fr

Core Value #5: Collaboration

The Thomas Nelson I joined over a decade ago was famous for silos.  One of the buzz phrases around the office was that "steel sharpens steel" and the implication was a cultural value of intense internal competition.  We've worked very hard to reshape the organization into one of the most collaborative organizations I've ever experienced.  This is not just a Core Value; this is one of our success stories. Again, from The Nelson Way orientation manual: We seek to maximize mutually beneficial partnerships, both internal and external.  This means: We share ideas and information with those inside the company. We share ideas and information with our external partners. We seek to understand the needs and objectives of other divisions. We foster an environment that encourages open but candid dialog and vigorous but respectful debate. We resolve conflicts in a healthy and timely way. We encourage collaboration, publicly acknowledge it, and reward it in practical wa

Core Value #4: Focus and Discipline

The world is full of distractions.  Information comes to us faster and from more sources than ever before.  Social Media allows us to establish community with countless niches to satisfy almost any personal or professional interest.  The pull of gravity in a business day seems to be more toward the distractions and sometimes conflicts rather than on what really drives organizational performance.  As a guide in dealing with the realities of the business life we have articulated the following (again from The Thomas Nelson Way orientation manual). We are focused and disciplined in our business activities. This means: We organize and focus our people and resources for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. We routinely evaluate our fiscal performance. We seek the counsel of others, both inside and outside of our company, on important issues and decisions. We respect each others' time. We adhere to company policy. We practice good stewardship of our resources. We deliver wh

Core Value #3: World Class Talent

In our continued look at the Core Values of Thomas Nelson, Inc. today we examine one that fundamentally impacts our life in the HR department.  Again, from The Nelson Way orientation manual: We do what is necessary to attract, develop, and retain world-class talent.   This means: We recruit the very best people we can find. We develop our people's strengths and provide continuing opportunities for personal and professional growth. We clearly communicate and reinforce roles, responsibilities, and job expectations. We communicate to our employees how we as a Company are doing. We communicate to our employees how they as employees are doing. We monitor employee satisfaction, acknowledge issues we discover, and respond as appropriate. We recognize, reward, and publicly honor outstanding performance. We pay our people fairly and competitively. Biblical support for this value can found in Mark 3:13-15 and Acts 17:6. These stated behaviors and this value drive our HR and reco

Core Value #2: Serving Others

Again, from The Nelson Way orientation manual: "We Serve Others with Humility .  This means: We are alert to the needs of others and look for opportunities to help with with their assignments and responsibilities. We take the initiative to serve without waiting to be asked. We give to others of our time and other resources without expecting anything in return. We respond quickly to email and phone messages, replying within 24 hours to every message. We serve others, even when it is not convenient. We consistently do more than is required of us. Biblical support for this value can be found in John 13: 14-17 and Matthew 20: 27, 28." Does this happen every time, with every person, every day.  Of course not.  That is the essence of humanity that we seek to be more and do better than we usually achieve.  What sets a values-driven workplace apart, however, is our goal and desire to live these values in our daily lives, including our working lives.  If we don't do

Core Value # 1: Honoring God

So how does someone "honor God" at work?  How in a for-profit corporation do you successfully conduct business?  What does that look like to the workforce? When the Executive Leadership Team developed and defined our core values several years ago we took special pains to also define how this manifests itself in the workplace both for the company and those who work there.  Here's where we landed (taken from "The Thomas Nelson Way" orientation manual): "We honor God in Everything We Do."  This means: We seek God's direction in all that we do. We give God the glory for our successes. We take responsibility for our weakness and failures. We honor our commitments, even when ti is difficult, expensive, or inconvenient. We tell the truth even when it is uncomfortable. We treat our employees, authors, vendors, customers and competitors with respect. We offer God our best, most creative work and leave the results to Him. We thank God in all thi

Overview of Our Core Values

Thomas Nelson, Inc. operates under five core values. These values are the ideals that we esteem as a company and are considered the foundation of our corporate ideology. We believe our core values are what make us unique as a company—they define our working principles and guide our actions. Over the next few days I'll re-post this information in more detail to inform potential candidates and to remind our team of who we are and for what we stand as an organization. Our Mission is to "Inspire the World". Our Core Values are: Honoring God Serving Others World Class Talent Focus and Discipline Collaboration If you want to see all this information now and in greater detail you can find it under the Mission and Values section of our corporate home page or at . 

Do the Benefits Math (Please!)

I've wanted to write this brief post for years but it has not been the right time until now.  Every year when benefits go up you hear, "My paycheck isn't keeping up with my benefits" because pay goes up at, say, 3% and insurance goes up maybe 5%.  This year our insurance isn't going up at all so I can stick a pin in this fallacy without seeming like I am being defensive. Okay so let's do the math.  The lowest allowable pay for any position is $7.25/hr. With 2,080 working hours in a year, assuming no overtime, anyone reading this post and working full time is making at least $15,080/yr. Assuming a 3% increase (which appears to be close to the market for this year) that person will receive an increase of $452.  Now let's move on to Benefits.  Medical insurance is going to cost the average family about $4,500/yr in premiums. Let's assume a 5% increase, which again is pretty typical, and you come up with an increase of $225.  So while the annual wage

The Future of Rx Benefits May Not Include Walgreens

This is not a current problem for our plan; but a preview of what may be coming in the months ahead. A few years ago Walgreens set out on what seemed to be their mission; that you could stand in the parking lot of any one of their stores and see the sign for the next closest one.  There is now a Walgreens in just about every neighborhood and sometimes it seems there's one on every corner.  That this was their mission; to take market share from other competitors, was in the normal course of business.  In the past few months, however, they have begun flexing their buying power and fighting pharmacy benefit networks.  Their goals are anything but laudable. Their position is that without them any pharmacy network would be incomplete and so they should receive a higher reimbursement for the prescriptions they dispense. Their latest row has been with Express Scripts.  Their proposal to Express Scripts, according to my sources, would have made them the single highest-cost provider i

The Benefits of the Blue Cross S Network in Nashville

As I mentioned on my last post, we are renewing all lines of coverage for the same premiums as we're paying this year; no changes in coverage or cost for the company or our people.  In breaking down the numbers it is obvious that there were three factors contributed to this successful outcome; broad movement to high deductible plans, the discounts of the S network, and good fortune in that we had few high-dollar claims. Breaking these numbers down further, however, the S network discounts stand out as the real game-changer in our plan. Just to review, we offer three health plans: a High Deductible Plan with the broader P network (HDP-P), and High Deductible Plan with the S network (HDP-S), and a PPO with the S network (PPO-S).  For the underwriting period April - November, 2011 here's how these plans performed.  The HDP-P claims were 116% of premium, meaning that we paid 16% more in claims than we paid in premiums. Were this our only plan our premium increase for next yea

Good News On Insurance Renewal

Last week we met with our broker and learned that we are able to renew all lines of benefits coverage with no increase in cost.  As such we will also opt not to make any changes in insurance coverage.  This doesn't come as a complete surprise.  We've been tracking our insurance plans' performance all year and we're running about 83% claims-to-premium.  That suggests a good renewal, but our last year with United Healthcare we had 84% and still received a 33% increase proposal.  This year's good news comes mostly due to two things: very few high-dollar claims and a significant migration from the PPO plan to the High Deductible Plan.  The beauty of these results is that the overall cost of co-pays and coinsurance paid by our people is not significantly higher than last year.  This indicates smarter medical buying on the part of people in high deductible plans. It appears that, in aggregate, both workforce and employer saved money or at least held their costs static

You Say "Stress" Like It's a Bad Thing...

Nobody likes stress.  All the typical language around that word is negative: "Don't stress me" "You're stressing me out" "I'm stressed to the max" Even the liturgy of my Church has changed to include the phrase, "...and protect us from all stress...".  Stress is an inevitable part of life so taking the negative energy and turning it into something positive becomes an essential life skill, as well as a career skill.  Several of the Fortune 500 were founded during depressions or recessions.  People do things during stressful times out of necessity that they normally would not have done.  They get degrees and professional certifications, seek promotions, open businesses, change jobs, kick bad habits, get out of bad relationships, etc... because they got "stressed out" of their complacency. Think of stress like you would a big snowfall.  You can either look out your window in dread, or grab your sled and go play outsid

HR Toolkit: Fair vs. Equal

If there is a touchier subject in the workplace than "fairness" I've never seen it.  I'm not talking about "our" workplace necessarily: I'm talking about "any" workplace.  For positive morale the workplace needs to have an overall sense of fairness; that the rules are known and people are held consistently accountable to them in terms of outcomes and consequences.  The problem with managing an overall sense of fairness is that often people equate fair with equal , and they are not the same thing.  Every person is different and every situation is different if only in nuance.  Sometimes the most common offenders in mistaking equal for fair are HR people.  After all, the laws governing employment practices require that we treat every similarly situated individual in a similar way.  While the law doesn't say that, it does in practice. If you treat two similarly situated individuals differently, and those individuals happen to differ by race,

A Mile Marker on Gender

I'm old enough and from enough of a rural area to have grown up around some (thankfully) old ideas about how people should live. Having been born in 1960 my earliest memories of television were news coverage about the Vietnam war and the equal rights struggles of the mid to late 60's.  I heard my family and friends detestation of race and gender equality protests and legislation.  One of the difficult realities I confronted as a young man was that these people that I love so much were (and in some cases still are) wrong about so many things. This last week I saw first-hand how far we've come regarding gender.  I had to have a series of tests and procedures at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, mostly related to a bad fall I took back in September and some lingering injury.  Every one of my doctors, nurse practitioners, and ultrasound techs were women, and the oldest was probably in her late 30's.  I received excellent, state-of-the-art care from bright young women