Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.

Employment Law Compliance: 6 Steps to Risk Management

1.Stay Informed via Reputable Experts

There is no acceptable plea of ignorance.  Laws are constantly changing and it is the employer’s responsibility to stay on top of it.  Government sites are improving, but state and federal governments often do not accept responsibility for creating clear communications via websites.  The courts look to reasonable care and actual workplace outcomes; however, complaints can be costly. Secure a source of compliance updates reasonably considered compliance “experts.”

2. Choose the Right Expert Source

Subrogate liability: find an expert willing to “take the fall” and back you. Compliance experts need not be legal counsel as long as they remain committed to advanced legal studies and ongoing compliance research.  HRS has proven it possible to attain 100% success in avoiding legal argument when compliance is deployed at the proactive stage. Reasonable care and due diligence are key. If you determine to use legal counsel as your “experts” and they have pulled you into the fire only to bill you going in and coming out, find new legal counsel or find an alternative remedy.  Insurance brokerages, payroll partners, TPAs and other HR related vendors offer valuable templates and perks for their customers.  Most, however, do not profess themselves as “experts” and non-compliant information potentially coming from them is on your plate, not theirs.  Several of these firms are proven to circulate bad information because it’s just not their problem. If you grab a tax advice flyer at the grocery store, you shall be challenged in holding the store accountable for bad information.  Several HR industry vendors hire HRS and other accredited experts to provide deeper quality risk management for clients. 

3. Reject Cookie Cutter Advice

Compliance is more about judgment than templates.  Non-profits can be a great source of templates and education; however, by the nature of being non-profits, they are ineligible to advocate for any individual client and can only serve the “membership as a whole.” Although we’ve caught one or two professing themselves in the “management consulting” field, please know this is categorically impossible. Take their information as one component of your research and adapt it to your company’s unique variables.  Call upon experts who can bring widespread case studies where you prefer assistance. There are some valuable non-profits, they can be highly beneficial; however, they cannot be a “one stop shop” for your compliance needs.  

4. Document Policies and Incidents

Do not let deniability work against you.   The courts look for evidence and reasonable care in forms of currently compliant employee handbooks, related documentation and proof of receipt.  For top risk management, an employer needs to prove the employee knew what was expected, received no confusing/contradictory messages, was capable of meeting expectations, knew the consequences of failure and chose to fail.  Consistency of enforcement without discrimination is critical.  Incident reports, valid job descriptions and clear compliant performance appraisals are each contributory toolsets.   Legal postings must be up to date and accessible to employees.  (Flat annual fee poster services can be a great partner here.) Maintenance and access to employee files must be controlled on a “need to know” basis according to HIPAA, EEOC, DOL, GINA and countless other emerging and ever-changing standards.  Consider a voluntary compliance review for risk management and to build “affirmative defense” through reasonable care.  Non-profits are ineligible by status to protect individual members/customers, so please do not deploy a non-profit organization in this capacity.

5. Train, Train, Train

Enforce a culture of lifelong learning and properly train employees not only in operations procedures but also in legal compliance to include anti-harassment, risk management, liability aversion, documentation and diversity.  While the employer is not ultimately expected to control each and every workplace action, the employer is held accountable to “reasonable care.”  Proper training averts risks, and the act of training builds “affirmative defense.”  Training by 3rd party experts brings additional reasonable care and promotes exceptional questions and learning. Remember most people are not classroom learners and bear learning threshold of 2.5 hours typicalmaximum.  Consider kinesthetic learning bullets. (Hint and shameless plug: contact HRS!)

6. Stay Current and Prepare for Change

The employer who has been non-compliant and has “never had a problem” is probably due.  Granted those employers are probably not taking the time to read this, invulnerability is a myth. Everyone is vulnerable.  Don’t waive it off. The government is fundraising.  Many people would rather fundraise than work.  Some lawyers are fundraising.  Insurance companies, like any businesses, will protect their interests.  It is your responsibility to protect your own interests as an employer.  Stay up to date with regular compliance reviews for practices and policies. The right 3rd party expert partnership is excellent “reasonable care.” Secure updates and review for compliance regularly. 

Please contact HRS for more information regarding answer desk, compliance review, handbook services, kinesthetic learning bullets to include anti-harassment, referrals to HR partners who rely upon actual experts and other risk management reasonable care programs.

Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, December 16, 2010


Employers & Employees Agree to be Rightfully Cautious of Holiday Expenditures

Employees continue to be skeptical of lavish employer holiday parties, and employers find opportunity in containing holiday costs.  With the economic damage of the past several years, cutting back and cautious spending is greatly appreciated by all.  Employees who have suffered economically do not wish to see their rewards sacrificed for a holiday blowout.

75% of employees tell us they’d rather see bonus or investment into their advancement/security.  80% of employers tell us they are holding to the same cost-wise practices with no more than modest increase over the past few years’ practices.  Some are even cutting back further after learning past years’ efforts were not as appreciated as hoped.

The days of the “boss” calling employees onto the carpet to “kiss the ring” are over, and employers of choice recognize that employees want holiday celebrations that actually provide reward and appreciation.  Mandatory participation can be a deterrent from perceived value.  Allowing employees to plan their own rewards is the most appreciated choice.  To facilitate good sense outcomes, guidelines and budgets need to be set for employee committees.  The employer needs final control to ensure risk management and organizational goal attainment.  Structured properly, employers earn great ROI and everyone prospers.

Lavish expenditures are often resented by employees who suffered pay cut or layoff.  A sensible demonstration of company pride, forward movement, optimism and team appreciation is, however, a wise investment.  Safety and liquor liabilities remain primary concerns.  Depending upon team demographics, popular substitutes to parties include bonus, gift certificate or “your choice” menu items. The latter two offer repeat value.  For many, cash disappears as it hits the pocket, creating only single impact of reward.  Certificates can have more lasting and/or multiple impacts of reward.  The reward comes not only in the receipt but also in the use.  If the use is a lasting experience, the employee enjoys a more lasting reward. 

One year ago this month we commented our findings as the expert source to The Business Journal.  The topic was so well received and the findings so valuable, that the article was quickly globally syndicated with a cover bullet.  The popularity of this topic has not wavered, so we have accordingly provided this annual update.

Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, December 06, 2010


Don’t Be Fooled by Salary Negotiation Strategies Generated by the Unemployed: 6 Rules to Success

Countless unemployed individuals with plenty of time to write are emerging again with salary negotiation strategies.  While it is true that strategies should change with market conditions, in many cases, negotiation should disappear completely. While many form their viewpoint based upon experiences with one or a few employers which eventually “outplaced” them, our analysis is based upon statistical knowledge working with thousands of preferred employers plus extraordinary research concerning hundreds of thousands over three decades and adapted to present conditions.

The following is a proven 6-rule blueprint to getting the most from “employers of choice.”  Sure, there are plenty of bad bosses and exploitative companies out there who do not follow appropriate protocol. However, if you are a candidate worthy of a top employer, ignore what happens at substandard employers and subscribe to what works at top companies.

Rule #1:  Top employers offer compensation based upon compensable factors, internal/external equities and merit-based performance proven within the organization.  For top employers, the base compensation component is non-negotiable at organizational entry, except possibly at C-level. 

Rule #2: Top employers do not pay you for what you did for someone else, but rather what you will do for them.  Success in one environment is not necessarily transferable to another.  Top employers know this.  Top employers also know that overall organizational development is optimized by practices which favor merit advancement from within.

Rule #3: Top employers request salary histories up front not to set your pay accordingly but rather to evaluate equities and expectations before continuing the very costly pre-employment screening process. Failure to provide history when requested risks indication of unwillingness/inability to follow direction and/or indication of something to hide.

Rule #4: Salary negotiation is effective in a very limited sector. It can be effective only when handled correctly and in cases where the job description requires heavy amounts of negotiation implementation. Time, place and audience are paramount.  Don’t be the first to bring up money, and don’t wait too long after money is mentioned to reveal that your requirements are higher.  Attach compensation requests to your delivery of quantifiable results to the new employer.  “I respect that the company has valued this position based upon specific metrics and expected outcomes.  Based upon my history of success, extraordinary knowledge and my determination to succeed, I expect to deliver outcomes beyond those benchmarks.  Is there opportunity for me to share in those financial successes? Can we set my quotas higher?”

Rule #5: Attempting negotiation risks the entire deal. It expresses discontent with the company’s existing practices and with the immediate job.  Just as a counteroffer constitutes an offer rejection, negotiation of any types constitutes rejection of the “as is” opportunity. There is usually another candidate right behind you who is appreciative of the opportunity to earn rewards without staunch demands.

Rule #6: If the relationship begins with negotiation, expect that you have set the tone for continued negotiation.  Rather than being awarded what you have earned, expect that you shall need to always negotiate for it.   The best way to avoid constant negotiation with your company as an “opponent” rather than a “teammate” is to negotiate all at once a gain-sharing program with pre-determined financial rewards for the outcomes and results you facilitate.

When an offer is presented, please know that taking time to consider may risk the opportunity.  Some companies will volunteer a proposed timeframe for your decision. Many will not. It is a myth that immediate acceptance makes you look “desperate.”  Actually, failure to immediately accept makes you look “hesitant” and possibly “disinterested,” either of which can immediately sandbag the relationship. If you believe it is best to take time to consider, state your unwavering interest up front.  Consider a safe explanation of the rationale behind your decision delay.  If the screening process was thorough and involved multiple steps, you should have entered the offer stage ready to accept if offered.  Your questions should already be answered and your interest should not falter.

Company cost control, lifelong learning, succession planning and sustainability are key organizational goals.  Age discrimination can be a factor, and advancement from within is typically a preference.  Employers are reluctant to pay you for what you did for someone else, because too many over time have “rested on laurels.” Employers typically have more leverage than employees in this situation.  Know your power. Evaluate the dynamics of your specific situation and reject “cookie cutter” advice. 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, November 29, 2010


Social Media Etiquette & Tips

For most, social media is no more complex than any social or communications event.  Many find it easier.  All rules of kindness, diplomacy, message, audience and delivery apply.  Used properly, social media can teach, make you laugh, improve social skills, reconnect with long lost friends, find a job, grow a business, explore new cultures, build relationships, enhance wellness, save time and save money.  It is not only a “real life” but can also enrich your life and enhance productivity. As with everything in this world, not everyone “gets it.”  It is a complete myth that you don’t have time for social media.  Used well, social media creates more time in your busy day.  Used improperly, the same facets to life can be adversely impacted. 

We recently addressed this topic at Loyola University, and it has become popular at our own newly emerging facebook page. The following guidelines are offered to ensure getting the best outcomes from the social media experience.  These are relevant to both users and to employer training in proper etiquette. 

5 Rules to Getting the Best Out of Social Media…

Rule #1 – Be discrete and filter your comments.  Remember it is the world wide web, and privacy controls are not 100% effective.
Rule #2 – Learn and use the privacy controls.  They help substantially.  Understand privacy limitations and the licensing you authorize by using a certain site.  It’s very easy to protect your privacy but only if you invest the 5-10 minutes necessary to research and apply knowledge.
Rule #3 – Research the topics, guidelines, options and expectations to a certain site before you participate.  These are available at each site and differ from one site to the next.  Knowing helps you select the right forum and keeps your experience on track.
Rule #4 – Understand that each social media site or application is a business in itself, creating jobs with need for compensation and need for sustainability, job security and hopefully job growth.  It is easy to anticipate what will happen next if you understand the objectives.   
Rule #5 - Apply the “golden rule” at all times.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Kindness and courtesy are expected.  Respect others’ privacy.  Stick to the site’s guidelines and respect how others’ use the site if within guidelines.  Avoid or be careful with controversial subjects including but not limited to politics, religion and sexual innuendo.

Do Not Insult or Attack

When you befriend or connect with someone, you imply a social contract of mutual respect and courtesy.  Negative energy is now out of bounds.  Insulting and attacking your friends in social media not only results in the insult/attack itself, but it catches them with guard down and in a highly public forum.  Re-read your comments to ensure they are not misinterpreted.  Trust shall be difficult if not impossible to recover.  Delete, recant or apologize if something gets by that you regret or did not intend.  Understand that de-friending can be an insult.  Should you de-friend someone due to corporate policy, tell them why to avoid insult.

Control Privacy for Yourself and Others

Remind yourself constantly that it is the Internet, as we all forget from time to time in the comfort of it all.  If you don’t want everyone to know, don’t post it.  Without full use of privacy controls, social media posts are likely to land at or around the #1 ranked page for you or others on the Internet.  Search engines can then link to employer, family, schools, charitable causes, other people and organizations.  Guide yourself accordingly. Privacy controls are extremely but not entirely effective.  Every individual has a right to privacy… controlling the perspective of his or her employer, family, neighbor, banker, pastor and any other stakeholder who can form a bias or purport action based upon social media. 
You are legally responsible for any damages incurred by others due to your actions… on line, in person and through any form of media.  Without specific permission, any information, name reference or pictures/videos of others are both illegal and unethical.  This concept is by no means limited to social media… but social media can have immediate widespread distribution.  While a site will protect itself through disclaimer, you are still responsible and can be sued for damages when tagging or posting photos, videos or content.  Create notifiers or prohibit altogether others’ ability to post/tag photos of you. 
Don’t be intimidated by these potential problems, but don’t take unnecessary risk either.   We don’t stop crossing the street because there is traffic, but we learn to look both ways beforehand and we learn to not push others into a vehicle’s path.

Observe Topic Boundaries and Avoid Frequent Complaint

While you cannot create change without stirring the pot at least a little, constant complaining and negativity will hurt your relationships and ability to succeed with audience and credibility.  Additionally, respect how others use the social media site.  Embrace differences.  Keep politics, religion, negativity and all controversy off of sites not specifically targeting to those topics.  Keep business on business sites, personal on personal sites; stick to specific topics and/or causes in their respective forums.   Avoid crossing boundaries.  Universal charitable causes are typically welcome in any general forum … just don’t wear out their welcome. 

Follow the Money for Answers

Nothing in this world is completely “free,” and this is no exception.  Each of these sites is costly to develop and operate.  Advertisers, membership fees and specific application/gaming fees are popular revenue sources.  Ownership of content, development, features control and level of advertising is dictated, of course, by the sponsors of these platforms.  Arguments are emerging regarding free vs. paid membership.  You may wish to entirely avoid sites pretending to be entirely free, as you are likely to expose yourself to spammers, malware and/or sale of your personal info.  We’d rather know who is getting paid while safeguarding our systems and privacy. 

Choosing a Social Media Forum

The primary consideration to site choice is the intended use.  The first choice is “business” or “personal.”  It is easiest and safest to draw a line between the two, although great advantage can be realized by those who learn to successfully mix the two.  It is essential to know and adhere to topic boundaries at each site.  Blindsiding others with topics they don’t want will create failure.  With appropriate judgment deployed, random and creative banter can be the most interesting, desirable and memorable content you deliver.  A little consideration goes a long way. 
We use each of the following for different reasons, audience and with different approach/expectations.  The writers herein have no affiliation with any social media site or vendor.  While this white paper is complimentary, our business interest is ongoing education and consultation with companies.  One of many hot topics right now surrounds social media.  Our firm encourages employers to address social media, creating policies and encouraging practices which protect everyone’s interest, company-wide.  

Originally targeted to college students, then high school students, facebook is intended to reconnect or maintain connections otherwise difficult to manage in a busy world.  No longer strictly by invitation, features have been changed, removed and added over time.  Not originally part of the fabric, businesses are now present, primarily as advertisers to consumers.  This site is used for personal relationship building, socialization, reconnecting, reciprocity, a sense of community and meeting new people through gaming, common interest and mutual friends.    Age range is unlimited and multi-generational.  Social sites such as facebook can provide a forum for busy productive people to enjoy positive energy, wellness and socialization without abandoning a productive life.  As with everything, abuse is of course alive and well.

Used entirely with a professional business focus, LinkedIn also began building by invitation only.  LinkedIn is designed for business promotion, professional networking, job search, discussion forum and to use business “connections” as a toolset.  Specific connections are visible or invisible to others as a matter of individual strategy and privacy setting.  Currently both paid and unpaid memberships exist.  The extent to which you post on LinkedIn is directly proportionate and related to your professional position.  Additionally offering opportunity to showcase company websites, blogs, publications and twitter accounts, LinkedIn currently holds more than 60 million registered users in more than 200 countries.

Used for both personal and business purposes, Twitter ignores relationship building and succeeds or fails based entirely on the quality and keywords of information.  “Tweets” are text-based posts of up to 140 characters delivered to “followers.”  Account holders can “lock” their timeline for privacy to only followers with some but not entire privacy.  Without such lock, a “tweet” can immediately find itself the #1 ranked item by search engine for the author.  Re-tweet exposure can be substantial.  Twitter offers both facebook and LinkedIn interfaces.
Blogs (Weblogs), Discussion Boards, Forums and More
Endless and constantly emerging/disappearing, the Internet is full of opportunity to comment, blog, post, vote, upload and express yourself.  Each individual site is likely to offer description of topic, questions controlled by the site or existing discussion threads to follow.  Choose accordingly and stick to the format for the site.  Each will likely offer legal disclaimer and instructions.  Read them and comply. 

What You Should Post/Not Post

Ask 10 people and you shall receive 10 different answers.  This is a draw for most social media users and an advantage to the concept. The differences between the posts of one and another users is a matter of among others… personality and timing.  Witty banter that insults no one is always welcome.  Do not expect to interest everyone with a post and do not expect to be interested with every post you see.  Attempt to avoid repetition.  What would you say at a party?  Who is your audience?  Same considerations apply.   Be yourself at your best whenever you can.  Sites will typically provide discussion forums, content, games and/or applications that are good points of exchange.   Most social media is not about the conversation but rather a more brief exchange of ideas.   Chime in only as you wish.  Sound judgment will help you.  If people are interested, they will typically let you know.  If not, find something else to say or a new room/time to say it.

Boundaries:  Business vs. Personal

Actively mixing business and personal relationships is always a risk and warrants consideration and boundaries.  Social media is no exception.  The ability to successfully mix the two, however,  can be your greatest advantage. What if your boss, client or investor befriends you on a social site?  This problem is largely solved by rule #1.  If you are concerned about its visibility, do not post it on the world wide web.  While it is extremely beneficial to use privacy controls and selection rules, again these are not entirely effective.

Preparing for and Handling Abuse or Disagreement

The rules for social media are the same as for any communication, in person, written, electronic, or telephone.  One great thing about social media is that you can more easily avoid, delay or rehearse your response.  Use these opportunities to ensure your message is exactly how you want it before it is out there.  When you build quality relationships through social media, you have also likely improved or practiced certain aspects to in-person social skills as well. Be nice, don’t attack or insult.  On the Internet as in all phases of life, communicate with the assumption there are no bad people, just bad acts.  Social media should not be anti-social.  It will work best for you if you stick with positive energy.  Be careful approaching controversy.  It is controversial because people disagree passionately.  You will undoubtedly insult and aggravate at least some of your friends… so be prepared for the fallout.  People disagree on how to “keep it light” and as always, “teasing” and thoughtless communications are inconsequential to some, the “end of the world” for others, and somewhere in between for everyone else.  Controversial communication creates conflict including disagreement on severity, how to interpret and how to handle.  Be nice and remove the point of conflict. 

Social Gaming Etiquette

Gamers provide a great deal of revenue to social sites, and their contributions to subsidizing everyone’s use should be respected.  At current time, facebook gaming posts are extremely easy to hide if you do not wish to see them.  A simple hover and click on the hide button (currently immediately to the right of the post) will hide every post to an entire application.  Therefore, etiquette between gamers is more essential for discussion. 

Gamers - please consider that your gaming friends have little or no opportunity to hide your individual posts without hiding you or the game altogether.  Peppering the feed with low value posts impedes another’s ability to find the posts actually necessary to gameplay.  Additionally, monopolizing the feed with items of little or no value/interest to others creates the same social impact as monopolizing a conversation.  Often, less is more… and quality here typically outweighs quantity.   

Game developers – remove the temptation to destroy gaming experience by removing the options to do so.  Consider controls on frequency and volume of such posts per user. We know you need to promote your game, but you probably wish to keep gamers playing, too, right?

Social Applications, Groups, Polls and Gifts

These items can be great “ice breakers” and turnkey socialization tools.  With these items you can reach out to someone without other consideration as to what to say.  What users rarely consider is the extent to which profile information is accessed and shared with undisclosed recipients.  Consideration should also be given to system performance when these applications are allowed, as they may be running in the background while not visibly in use.   It is typically quite easy to de-authorize these applications when no longer desired.   It is important to read the disclaimers before using these applications, and it is important to courteously understand why someone may not accept your gift or invitation.  This decline is not an indictment of friendship gesture but rather a de-selection of the system performance impact invited by the application.   Choose applications carefully, enjoy those you choose, respect others’ rights to choose for themselves, and remember… nothing is free.
Please visit or contact HRS for employer tips in creating social media policies to include anti-harassment and intellectual property risk management.  



Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, November 22, 2010


Being a Leader is a Trained Skillset, an Innate Talent and Definitely a Practice

Contrary to what temp services and unemployed consultants are currently blogging about, it is essential to understand that while being a leader requires consistent practice and execution, effective leadership is also both innate and learned… nature and nurture.

Make no mistake. Effective leaders need a deep understanding of the discipline, tasks and environment in which they lead.  Those who believe a management degree or diploma somehow qualifies them to lead in an unfamiliar environment are sadly mistaken, likely BS’d by their college recruiter.  Simultaneously, great implementers are not necessarily great leaders.  The most common mistake in business is empowering the wrong leadership, either promoting implementers without leadership skills or hiring great sales artists with no leadership substance. 

Good advice is hard to come by.  Bad advice is abundant.  With advancement the #1 workplace motivator, promotions from within not only best engage the whole team but allow leaders to have deep understanding of that which they lead.  Nonetheless, self-starters and independent achievers typically do not “get” the average worker and do not know without formal leadership training how to effectively motivate and modify behavior in others.  If others do not become better performers directly due to those who lead, the leaders “lift right out” as ineffective.

Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, October 02, 2010


Your Consulting Firm May Be the Very Last Job on Your Resume

Some believe filling resume gaps by labeling or creating a “consulting” firm is a positive resume builder.  More often than not, this adversely impacts one’s ability to be re-employed.  To set oneself apart as a freelance “consultant” or company owner can be synonymous with setting oneself apart as averse to taking direction from another… a statement likely to create de-selection from employment opportunities.  Top employers will also investigate the legitimate success in engagements during this “consultancy” time period on one’s resume.     

When choosing to be a consultant, know beforehand it is not all glamour and glitz.  A corporate career as an internal key member dedicated to one corporate environment at a time is NOT preparation for consultancy.  Successful consultancy requires the proven ability to simultaneously serve multiple unique organizations through analysis and adaptation... and deep knowledge of multi-employer case studies.  Serving one or a few selectively chosen organizations is not necessarily preparation for consultancy.  Conversely, consultancy is not necessarily preparation to become an internal expert. Deep knowledge of that organization is the only preparation for that role.

Consultancy requires reporting to many “bosses.”  It is a myth that one can succeed in consultancy without subordination.  While it is true that many employers are drawn to candidates who have demonstrated the responsibility and ambition of starting a business, employers of choice will carefully screen this situation and select/de-select candidates accordingly. 

If not prepared to forever risk livelihood, think twice before abandoning the safe route of remaining steadily and stably employed, creating documented successes as an employee. Embrace consultancy for what it truly is and understand that a great consultant is never “in between jobs.”

Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Great Consultants are Never "In Between Jobs" and HR is Never Part-time: When & How to Deploy Insource & Outsource Toolsets

With a wealth of auxiliary talent options available to company business plans, employers too often miss the mark in deploying the optimal schemata.  In any organization, flexible utilization of experts can create cost savings while simultaneously adding new problem solving opportunities.  Statistically, the most common related employer mistakes are either stagnation or selecting the wrong remedy.  The four primary categories for flexible talent utilization are each unique.  These are consultants, outsource firms, part-time managers and non-profit memberships, and in their uniqueness, these are not to be deployed interchangeably.  The following analysis is a blueprint to determining where to plug and play each option.  Let us start with definitions.


Consultant:  “an expert who charges a fee for providing advice or services in a particular field.”  Expertise relies upon extraordinary knowledge relating to a magnitude of employers and third party objectivity.  A consultant advocates specifically for and tailors programs on behalf of the retaining employer.


Outsource:  “to buy labor or parts from a source outside a company or business rather than using the company's staff or plant.”


Part-Time:  “working less weekly hours than the company’s typical hourly requirement for full-time.”


Non-Profit Association:  “tax exempt organization serving the membership as a whole without individualized attention… prohibited from advocating on behalf of or representing private interests” or, in other words, an intended “greater good” concern which is the exact opposite of consulting.  Non-profits are expected to substitute general population betterment in consideration for taxes not paid.  Non-profits by nature make great networking and collaborative organizations but cannot legally participate in the act of private interest consulting.  


Clearly, these definitions describe uniquely distinctive situations, at times mutually exclusive, yet many still erroneously use these ideas interchangeably.  The following is a breakdown of where to deploy each option and discussion of expected value provided.  The examples herein focus upon the field of HR Management and Organizational Development.


Non-Profit Associations can be a great source of access for publicly available information, to consolidate and discuss without concern for private interest and individualized attention.  Customization is limited but open door networking is high.  With the exclusion of private interest, members must take on their own responsibility to screen and select only applicable offerings and talent provided by such greater good organizations.  Especially in HR/OD, what is appropriate to one employer can be entirely irrelevant and inappropriate to the next employer.  Classroom learning, written publications and networking access are expected to be among top offerings, and these can be offered at great prices given the tax exemptions and other fiscal advantages awarded to these entities.  Individualized workshops, private employer advocacy, targeted strategic planning and custom programs are largely if not entirely prohibited.  Liability is more difficult to subrogate to a non-profit; therefore, reliance upon non-profits as "experts" can be challenging. Where customization and private interest is desired, the following 3 options are better suited.


Part-time Managers can be an outstanding remedy to those disciplines which are not required full-time by an employer.  Depending upon organizational structure, examples may include Training, Compensation/Benefits and Talent Acquisition.  Smaller employers without the headcount to support 40 hours weekly work in these disciplines can divert these activities reasonably to a smaller time increment per week.  Certain activities are more spontaneous in emergence and can be scheduled with less ease, making part-time management less appropriate.  These include legal compliance, performance management, employee relations and safety.  While a certain percentage of these disciplines can be compartmentalized to a part-time schedule, the organization needs at least a backup “go to” during all operational times.  Where part-time managers are utilized, there is typically opportunity to choose consultancy or outsource instead.  A challenge with finding a part-time manager is finding someone willing and able to consistently work only part-time and during the employer’s required hours.  Turnover can be high, jeopardizing the learning curve and cost efficiencies.  Semi-retirees can be a great option, provided they are still ambitious to learn proactively and do not demand to be paid for what they did well for a prior employer.


Outsource can be a great option where better efficiencies and/or outcomes are gained by using another dedicated entity’s site and resources.  Depending upon the company’s existing resources, possible examples include Employee Assessment, Training, Benefits Administration, Payroll and Talent Acquisition.   The most common outsource mistake is where labor intensive organizations rely inappropriately upon PEOs (professional employer organizations), temporary help services or RPOs (recruitment process outsource) for talent acquisition.  Used well, quality outsource companies in these fields can control costs and streamline efficiencies.  Used poorly, these methods can create barrier to attracting, selecting, engaging and retaining the right talent. Appropriate outsource of candidate assessment not only streamlines efficiency and allows expert input, but also very importantly allows third party unbiased objectivity, which is especially essential when incumbent talent is being evaluated.


Consultants and non-profits cannot be used interchangeably and by nature are mutually exclusive.  Consultants are entirely devoted to private interest concerns.  Top consultants understand that each employer is unique – in culture, brand, labor intensity, business plan and comprehensive operations.  “One size fits all” solutions do not exist in consulting.  A great consultant knows the difference and how to apply the other 3 options and will work collaboratively on that team, also offering his/her own resource team.  A great consultant works with and works for the employer, drawing upon multi-employer case studies without betraying any company’s intellectual property.  When selecting a consultant, it is critical to understand that consultancy is NOT the natural evolution of the seasoned professional who created success during internal corporate life… or was formerly entrusted by a successful corporate entity.  Successful consultancy requires the proven ability to simultaneously serve multiple unique organizations through never-ending research, analysis, adaptation and deep knowledge of multi-employer case studies.  As what works for one company need not work well for another, success for one or a few corporate entities is not necessarily transferrable predictive success for your organization.  Great consultants are never “in between jobs.” They are constantly in demand, loyally retained, adaptable, and they stay busy in any economy.  They do not rest on laurels and they hone their salesmanship… needing to constantly promote change and inertia.





Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, September 14, 2010


September and January are Best Times to Attract Working Talent

Year after year we statistically validate that applicant pools shrink during summer and holiday seasons. Working candidates find these times the least attractive for job change. As a direct result, the best times to gain recruitment attention are September, January and Springtime (with the exclusion of Spring break).
The factors that will affect this phenomenon related to any individual employer include geographical seasonality, workplace demographics, employee retention and labor market pressures.
Working candidates under normal circumstances do not wish to give up paid time off accruals during typical vacation and holiday times. Back to school, summer plans and holiday pressures can also overburden the personal tasks in a working family, deferring job change to a time where appropriate time and attention can be devoted.
Although even in recessionary times certain market sectors continue to experience talent shortage, extreme recessions outplace otherwise employable candidates. When these fine people are seeking work during these less popular times, we can expect the existence of an above average work desire. Keeping in mind that desire for work does not necessarily translate into better work habits, the desire is still considered a positive attribute.
Under typical conditions, please expect longer talent acquisition lead times during summer and holiday seasons. Given that each employer is subject to unique talent needs, offerings and market conditions, please consider all applicable variables when planning. HRS is enthusiastically available to provide further insight, custom design and/or implementation assistance.

Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, September 02, 2010


Choosing Employee Assessments … Hand Scoring Still Safeguards Findings and ROI!

With a wealth of employee assessments emerging, the right assessment can seem as elusive as the proverbial “needle in a haystack,” yet absolutely worth the diligent hunt. Best practices deployment in this specific arena increases human capital ROI by tenfold plus. The bottom line results of assessments gone right is not contested, and we stand firm that every candidate hired, trained or promoted without this proper intelligence is a profit opportunity missed. And coming from staunch advocates of progressive technology… computers are no replacement for hand scoring. A five criteria process, the following roadmap guarantees ROI and avoids common pitfalls. 

1. Tailoring instrument selection to specific job requirements.

Ensure the assessment criteria are documented in the job description itself. Consider both the immediate position and requirements along the progressive career path. Separate the two, and consider realistic expectations for advancement. Creating a business model where every team member is worthy of quick advancement can be risky and inappropriate unless your business can keep each of them advancing swiftly. Most organizations are pyramid shaped where not everyone can move up… accordingly, too many advancement worthy candidates creates damaging turnover. Additionally to ensure legal compliance, give greater weight to characteristics validated BFOQ’s (bona fide occupational qualifications) to the immediate job, without disparity. To safeguard meaningful interpretation and to prevent legal challenge, strictly avoid personality profiles and psychological profiles. Steer clear of interest-based surveys, as results are tainted by the human flaw of erroneous self-perception. We recommend job-related in-baskets and business simulations which specifically showcase and predict results-oriented business behaviors.  

2. Controlling environmental variables for meaningful consistency and reliability.

Deliver assessment in an environment which corresponds to assessment norms as well as the actual job environment. For example, online delivery is best when measuring computer-based job performance. Online delivery falls short of measuring in person performance. Online and written instruments presuppose communication skills using those media. Multiple choice vs. essay, written vs. verbal, time limits, noise factors, environmental conditions, fatigue, comfort, and stress levels are all further examples of variables which affect assessment performance. Allow the assessment organization to create and/or control the assessment environment and its variables. A distinguished partner will have this automatically safeguarded, but please inquire. 

3. Ensuring validity.

Gain confidence in the business results and overall organizational development success of your assessment team and assessment developer. Validating scores against existing organizational top performers is not enough. One of the most common pitfalls, this says absolutely nothing in validation of the elimination rate. Many instruments are currently circulating at which your top performers will always perform well. Be certain those you eliminate have been eliminated for good reason. Creative thinking and unconventional ideas are the cornerstone to progress and competitive edge. Do not keep these attributes excluded from your organization.  

4. Hand scoring and personal feedback are still preferred.

Again addressing the need to engage progress, invention and creative problem solving… computer and/or empirical scoring just does not cut it. Exploring rationale and allowing interpretation are critical to meaningful methodology. Simply stated, there is nothing less common than sense. Valuable creative thinking is often specifically excluded from organizational entry unless expert multi-rater hand scoring is involved. Hand scoring and personal feedback each explore rationale and trainability, while exiting the candidate with a blueprint for advancement and improvement. Personal feedback is best delivered by an external assessor expert.   

5. Using organization-wide assessments in consideration of unique independent job descriptions.

Selection by assimilation is rarely the goal. A glut of like-minded people does not typically foster progress or invention. Embrace differences and deploy them to the correct opportunities. There are a few assessments, the SR2 for example, which can be gainfully implemented organization-wide; however, we recommend weighting mechanisms and scoring norms to consider job relatedness. Validation to both external and internal norms is to be ensured.

In the quest for cost containment and convenience typically achieved through progressive technology, one can be quick to overlook the occasional “old school” best practices. The cost of employee time and the likely payoff of increased productivity with waste avoidance need be factored into assessment ROI. Look to the substantive results and know-how, not glitzy sales, of assessment experts. Pursue experts offering a healthy catalog of instruments tailored to unique job descriptions and criteria, and you shall find experts committed to valuable guidance in pinpointed assessment selection. The sustainable success of any talent-based organization relies upon correct, comprehensive and consistent deployment of employee assessment as decision tools.

Jessica Ollenburg - Friday, April 30, 2010


How to Choose a Low Cost, Highly Effective Training Method: Forget Seminars!

Auditory or speech-based learning is validated as both the least effective and least preferred training method, yet we overuse.  Adults cannot absorb more than 2.5 hours new information at a time, yet we pay for full-day seminars.  Keep seminars as networking events and perks for team members who need an outing… but do not expect substantial knowledge transfer.  When learning is critical, remember that 92% of individuals required a three-fold approach to learning… and the most effective three are visual demonstration, participative discussion, and hands on learning.  As it takes 3 instances of learning to create long term knowledge – and long term is only 20 minutes or more – ”trilogy” training is essential. Employers of choice recognize success relies upon the right people doing the right things.  This rests heavily upon training effectiveness and cost efficiencies.  The old days of the “talking head” at the podium are phased out.

In a recent survey of more than 3000, 60% of respondents tell us “Kinesthetic” (hands on) is their preferred learning style and auditory learning is by far the least preferred, coming in at only 8%.  Visual training is more than twice as effective as auditory. Learning professionals suggests a blend of participative workshop and video training. 

Video training is best used in the procedural “how to” instructions which can be represented visually. As trainers find burnout, distraction and inconsistency in the act of training, a standardized video allows us to ensure every trainee receives the complete message and the same information. Think about how many times you left for work wondering if you locked the door, turned off an appliance, or could not specifically remember performing some other routine auto-pilot task.  Invariably, trainers miss opportunities to deliver consistent messages from one training group to the next.  Without knowledge that each employee received the same completeness and quality of training, we have no reliable basis of evaluation or comparison.  Video training is the demonstration that sets up kinesthetic learning.  We see how to do it, and then we try it ourselves.  The margin of error in video training is negligible because the message is consistent. Video does not have a bad day.  Video does not argue with a spouse or significant other.  Video doesn’t miss its morning coffee.  Video’s transportation does not fail, and video does not get the flu.  Video is reliable, convenient and completely consistent.  Done well, the return on investment is quick and strong.

Participative Workshops are necessary in all training regimens, at a minimum, as the checkpoint and validation of learning with long term sustainability.  As a component to trilogy training, these kinesthetic participative workshops are to be inserted where problem solving, judgment and deep topic understanding are essential to goal attainment.  While it is far more common to find a speaker with podium skills and a well-rehearsed presentation, audience adaptation and the ability to provide meaningful answers to spontaneous questions is more effective to this exercise.  Top universities inject kinesthetic learning into the classroom and assignment activities.  Participative discussion is where transformation happens and learning is validated.  This is also where we increase employee engagement, morale and motivation. 

Workshops delivered by internal personnel can be inserted as a component, but due to fear of reprisal and perception of company bias, third party professional trainers can accomplish training and secure employee buy-in otherwise impossible for the internal key team.  By experiencing it go right as validated by outside experts, trainees also feel more relaxed… and a relaxed mind enjoys a much greater potential for learning than a panicked mind.  

Memory is largely a component of attention and interest.  Seminar learning depends entirely upon a highly memorable performer using highly visual speaking tactics as “grabbers.”  Humor is participative, so that works… to a point.  The best podium performers, however, are not cost effective for everyday organizational learning, and most are rarely effective in transferring memorable content other than jokes and antics.  Pure entertainment only goes so far in expediting and safeguarding learning. Entertainment can be a tactic but should not overpower the presentation.  An outside trainer expert with audience adaptation, learning assessment and train the trainer technique is the company’s best cost-efficient and reliable methodology. Surveys repeatedly reveal that lack of confidence in a supervisor or trainer is a primary reason for resignation.  Training flaws create unnecessary turnover and loss of training investment.  Company time is company money.

For additional details on learning survey outcomes and examples of training videos, please visit





Jessica Ollenburg - Wednesday, March 31, 2010