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.

Skills Gap Solutions: "If You Build It, They Will Come..."

Executive Summary 

The Problem:

• Company is facing an issue with the Skills Gap
• Potential for 30+ % growth foreseen, handicapped by diminishing quality of incoming talent
• Company Leadership: Internal HR Department of One needs recruitment specialists to assist
• Resources strapped for internal training due to labor intensity.

The Approach:

• HRS: "Build infrastructure to further become an endorsed Employer of Choice; you’ll find yourself winning the war for limited talent and then able to select the best of the best with an elite internal recruitment process.”
• Recruitment in fact proves to not be the only issue. Through first few weeks, HRS finds a higher-than-average rate of candidates selected for hire whom ultimately don’t take the job
• HRS 360-degree research (including candidates) produces the following findings:
     o Misaligned goals and miscommunication between organizational leaders led to outdated job descriptions and noncompetitive internal training programs
     o HR manager had previously identified some opportunities for improvement, however was not given tools or authority to succeed
     o Internal marketing was missing opportunities to sell competitive advantage as a workplace
     o Current handbook handicapped both trainers and managers in consistent policy application

The Results:

• Through attacking above-mentioned areas of improvement in a 360-degree format, Company found themselves in a better position to win the war for talent
     o Growth in number of applicants
     o Growth in number of candidates who accepted an initial offer
     o Quickened time-to-learn on the floor
     o Reduced screening time and time-to-hire
• HRS’ endorsement and presence bought trust in the candidate community and sold Company as an Employer of Choice

Case Study

The Problem

Company Unlimited, a materials manufacturer with operations in Wisconsin and Arizona, is having an issue with the dreaded skills gap. Experiencing a lack of qualified applicants responding to their recruiting ads, they’re having trouble meeting their otherwise projectable growth. Unlimited’s leadership foresees the potential for more than 30% growth in the next 2 years alone, if only they could hire qualified individuals interested in a career in manufacturing and machine operation positions. Unlimited has not had proper success with any of the staffing services in the region, training resources are strapped, and they’re in need of quality talent. Unlimited needs both talent that can grow from entry-level operators and others which can plug more quickly into skilled trades and precision technical roles. Unlimited’s leadership decides to make the call to HRS, looking for answers.

"Give us six months, and we’ll design, build, prove and streamline a process for you. You’ll then have a powerful system which you can self-administer or deploy partners as you choose. We’ll give your team the keys to success, and we’ll maximize the bottom line!"

The following week, HRS shareholders meet with Unlimited’s leadership to discuss the issue at hand. The issue appears to be very straight-forward; machinist, tool & die, warehouse, and other trades positions remain unfilled, and they’ve tried every iteration of recruiting they can think of. Leadership believes they need recruiting-specific consultants to assist their HR Department of One in tackling the numbers. Furthermore, they need help filling several senior roles which are projected to open, including a General Manager. HRS begins the discovery process, detailing how our process will be different than solutions such as PEOs, Staffing Agencies, or other recruiters.

“HRS will be recruiting under your brand name,” explains the HRS shareholder, “as we’re not part of the recruitment industry and we leave that process specifically to those who focus at such. Our focus is to work with your internal team, build an executable system, and return the keys to you at project completion and/or at your discretion. Yes, we will be handling talent evaluation for you and presenting you with ‘top-of-the-pile’ candidates from recruitments and assessments we will help you design, but the real solution comes in helping you build a s trong talent optimization infrastructure which will aid in selling you as an Employer of Choice. Give us six months, and we’ll design, build, prove, streamline and endorse a process for you. We’ll give your team the keys to success, and we’ll maximize the bottom line!”

The discussion between HRS and Unlimited continues from here, and Unlimited agrees to move forward with HRS services as they see how the solution aligns perfectly with their vision of being an Employer of Choice.

The Approach

“I think we found our proof that we’re not dealing with a purely recruitment issue here,” states an HRS consultant to her coworker. HRS is a few weeks into operations for Unlimited, and while the percentage of qualified-to-unqualified candidates is certainly low, another issue begins to arise. Among the first group of eligible candidates identified through HRS’ rigorous selection process, 70% of candidates identified for potential hire and final evaluation ultimately do not take the job. While refinements have been made, and will continue to be made, through 360-degree feedback to determine what an optimal candidate looks like, Company Unlimited still faces a much higher than average decline rate at the final stages.

Further HRS assessment and root cause analysis identified the following causes leading to their talent issues:
• Misaligned goals and miscommunication between organizational leaders led to vague job descriptions and ineffective internal training programs
• HR manager had previously identified some opportunities for improvement, however was not given tools or authority to succeed
• Leadership was not selling the company correctly to incoming employees; e.g., unique benefit package was often discussed as “what we do and don’t offer” instead of selling strategy of benefits being designed through direct employee feedback
• Poorly constructed handbook handicapped both trainers and managers in consistent policy application

Inconsistency with internal policy led to difficulty in initially engaging incoming employees and directly affected acceptance and retention rates. Unlimited’s leadership believed that such policy issues could be addressed once the right talent was in place. They were not considering that it could have affected an incoming employee’s initial production capacity.

The Results

After presenting hard findings through data analysis, we began our work on the identified problem areas. Through our expanded reach, HRS was able to balance production and leadership needs to achieve a precision implementation which increased the candidate pipeline by 240% in only three months’ time. In the war for talent, Unlimited was now finding themselves in a position to select from a higher number of qualified candidates.

HRS was additionally able to screen and evaluate this improved candidate pool while completing our other projects on implementing the new tools and practices. Beyond this immediate influx of production talent, HRS onboarded a highly preferred General Manager candidate for future vision, as well as complementary engineering, HR, and Accounting talent. Unlimited’s leadership felt inspired and energized by the additional leadership brought on board, stating “We never would have thought a candidate like this would be available.”

HRS’ work also recognized further benefit by selling to incoming candidates that our mere presence positioned the company as a preferred employer. Through third party objectivity, it was found that candidates within this specific market had grown distrustful of other recruiters in the area as Unlimited’s largest competition had grown a reputation for “churning” employees and “never hiring them” following a probationary period. Through our practice and endorsement of direct hire for Unlimited, our workforce reputation, and our known presence by the candidates, candidates were openly trusting and appreciative of Unlimited. Positive perception of Unlimited as a preferred employer began to grow, further facilitating the talent pipeline into the future.

As the number of open positions reached a closing point, HRS began work in turning the keys for recruitment back over to internal talent. Said the internal HR manager, “Thank you. I’ve never loved my job this much before!” as a result of the systems we implemented. While HRS remained as a partner and a relationship available to Company Unlimited, we concluded our project and positioned ourselves for potential further needs.

Note: HRS does not take a stance against staffing agencies or other such recruiters, as we recognize they serve a different mission and we will work alongside and recommend them in specific situations. Situations in this case study above were found to be the result of Unlimited’s competition as opposed to the recruiting agencies themselves. These findings represent our approach as a distinctive talent solution from such providers. HRS prides ourselves on finding the right solution for the right employer, getting the right people doing the right things.

The Team At HRS - Monday, February 19, 2018


Super Bowl LII: What Leaders Can Learn from Super Bowl Coaches

Wow. What a game it was last night. Super Bowl LII had just about everything you could ask for from a football perspective; 21 different individual-game Super Bowl records were either set or tied. The offenses combined for an astronomical amount of yards (1,151 to be exact), Special Teams combined to set both the record for most combined field goals made and most kicks missed in a single Super Bowl, The Patriots punted a record-tying zero times during the whole game, and the defenses (contrary to the yardage and points racked up) made some big plays of their own. It was an amazing game, and it was incredibly fun to watch and follow.

So why am I writing about it as part of our company’s business blog? What relevance does a game like football have to business? Football is a game where you have a set salary cap to attract your talent, sign them to contracts, and compete against other organizations in a direct head-to-head competition in order to achieve results. Businesses, well, typically have the opposite of all those things, to put it plainly. There is, however, one aspect of the game of football (or any sport for that matter) that can actually apply to business and make for a relevant article:

The coaches.

Football head coaches are in charge of setting the overall strategy to plot their team’s success, and they then train their team on the execution of how to execute that strategy; they chart their players progress and performance, hold them accountable, and reward and/or discipline them based upon both on-the-job and off-the-job results.

This sure sounds like a business leader to me.

In a game where the attention frequently focuses on the execution of the individual players on the field (especially the quarterbacks), I decided to take a deeper look into the decisions each head coach (and their coordinators) made as they looked to achieve their ultimate goal. I sure have to say, this was a lot more fun than expected, and I think I found some great pieces of insight that we, as business leaders, can all take away from their decision making.

Before we dive in, let’s just take a moment to understand that the key to appreciating the following piece is all about understanding that this WAS a masterfully coached game. Obviously, it’s easy to say that about Belichick and his staff, and I’d think it should be easy to accept that Doug Pederson did equally as good of a job (if not better) since his team came out on top.

My goal here is to analyze some key plays and decisions that, I think, dictated the flow of the game and had a huge impact on the ending outcome.

1. Eagles convert a 3rd and 12, 1st Quarter, Opening Drive of the Game
This play was big for several reasons, especially when you take it in context with the fact that the Eagles opened the game with 3 straight passing plays for Nick Foles. In a game (or an entire postseason, if you will) when the entire watching world expected the Eagles to play ball control and protect their backup quarterback as the best way to win the game, Doug Pederson decided to come out and do the opposite. It sure looked like the Patriots were expecting them to run the ball, as well, deciding to play simple coverage and not bring any extra pressure during the first three passing plays of the drive, and the result was that the Eagles got out to the 49-yard line. After two stalled plays, however, the Eagles faced a 3rd and 12, and the Patriots decided this was the time to send pressure and hassle the backup. What happened? The OL picked up the blitz, Foles stood tall and he found Torrey Smith down the middle for a first down.

Never mind the end outcome of this drive (stalling in the red zone and settling for a field goal), this play, and this drive, were huge for the Eagles and Nick Foles. Early on, Nick Foles was able to get comfortable and into a rhythm, finding success and being able to respond no matter what challenges (defensive scheme) were facing him. I think it’s likely that, if the Eagles came out and ran the ball to start the game and found themselves in a similar situation without those early passing plays, there’s a much lower chance that Foles converts this big 3rd down.

Lesson: Trust your talent. Show confidence in them and put them in a position to succeed as opposed to avoiding the situations in which they may fail.

2. Foles passes left to Agholor on 1st down for a 7-yard gain, 1st Quarter
It’s the first play of the subsequent Eagles drive after the Patriots tie the game at 3-3 with a long drive of their own. Doug Pederson, sticking to his guns, decides to continue his passing game approach to get his team into the rhythm he wants to set. Admittedly, this first play wasn’t a show stopper, but what it represents, and what it opened the door to, is.

Foles hits Agholor on a shallow crossing route for a few yards, but Agholor then breaks a tackle and picks up an additional 2-3 yards, bringing up a 2nd and short. Since it’s 2nd and short, the Eagles have the ability to call a running play. The Patriots crash the box in an attempt to stuff them and force a 3rd down, but Blount runs right and gets the 1st down. The next play, Foles takes the snap and find Alshon Jeffrey, deep left, for a long touchdown.

So why did I choose the Agholor play instead of the Jeffrey touchdown? To look at that, let’s go in reverse. The Jeffrey touchdown may not have been an option had the Eagles not been able to convert on the previous play with the Blount run to the right. The Patriots, possibly still convinced the Eagles were eventually going to stick to the running game, made the decision to play the run on defense and try to take that away, leaving the deep throw available as the defenders played shallow. Now, let’s back it up further and ask what would have happened if Agholor hadn’t broken that tackle and picked up those extra yards. Would the Eagles have still called a run play on a 2nd and 5 or 6? More importantly, would the Patriots have crashed the box to try and stop the run if it were that situation instead of a 2nd and 3? My guess to both questions is, “probably not.”

Lesson: Sometimes it’s an above average effort by an individual member of your team that opens the door for something greater. Maybe you don’t realize it at first, but it’s important to always acknowledge that a single accomplishment, no matter how big or small, can open doors that you cannot assume would have otherwise been there. Pay attention to what your team is doing, and again, trust your talent. Recognition is key.

3. Coaching Decision: Malcolm Jenkins on James White
While not a play, it was certainly a big coaching decision that affected the flow of this game. Everyone, including the announcers, assumed that the Eagles would play their best Safety Cover Man on Rob Gronkowski. That would be conventional wisdom, right? Well, Doug Pederson and his staff saw an opportunity for something that wasn’t conventional wisdom and what they believed was even better. They stuck Malcolm Jenkins on James White, arguably the biggest difference maker in last year’s Super Bowl comeback, as one of their keys to their defensive scheme.

Lesson: A lot of time, we as business owners are so concerned about filling one particular need or hole in our business that we often stick to conventional wisdom and try to make things work in the most obvious way possible; sometimes this works, and sometimes the outcome fails because we’re trying to take the most “circle-like” square we have and fit it into a round hole. Know the strengths of your team and play to those strengths; don’t always try to make your team play to the strengths of your strategy or operations.

4. Coaching Decision: Malcolm Butler doesn’t play
Yes, I’m finally getting to something that the Patriots did; lest I make it about a question that a lot of people are scratching their heads over (don’t worry, Patriots fans – this isn’t a Doug Pederson love article. In fact, the next three points are about positives for your team).

A lot of business owners react differently when it comes to an issue with one of their top performers, and I personally find it safe to say that leaders are split down the middle between whether they will take the approach to treat a star player like everyone else or to give them the “special treatment” and let them get away with more because of the overall good it does for the team and the organization.

We may not yet know why Malcolm Butler was benched, but we can surmise that Belichick is on the side of treating everyone equally and believing that no one person is greater than the team (having previously directly stated that last part).

Lesson: While it may be possible that the game would have been different had Butler played, I do not for a second doubt Belichick’s decision to bench him. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to question Bill at this point in his illustrious career, but he presumably did the right thing here. If a star performer does something wrong and needs to be reprimanded, the scenario of you taking action is that star performer’s fault, not yours. The star performer is the one who let their team down by doing something wrong, not you.

5. Brady finds Hogan deep right for 43 yards on 2nd and 10, 2nd Quarter
To this point in the game, the Eagles base defense with their Wide-9 technique (defensive ends split out wider than usual) was largely working on the Patriots. Yes, they had already racked up a bunch of yards, but they were also only held to two field goals (and a missed third one). This play was huge, not just from a yardage total, but also because it was the Patriots direct answer to the Wide-9.

Brady had an extra second (or two) to look down the field because the Pats had both Gronk and the Running Back chip the ends on their way out into their routes (sic, slow them down with a momentary block). This wound up being huge because the Patriots were able to scheme, through chip blocks and play action, to take away the biggest threat which was facing them. For the rest of the game, it’s important to note that the Wide-9 didn’t stop working, it’s just that the Patriots found ways to work around it (foreshadowing – this remedy only worked when it was a legitimate threat to the Eagles). This also wound up being huge because James White ran for a touchdown on the very next play. Eagles 15, Patriots 12.

Lesson: Take what the defense gives you. Okay, that’s not actually business advice. The closest thing like that to business analysis would likely by a SWOT analysis. The best business minds know how to take in information in the moment, analyze the situation, and deploy a remedy. Jeff Bezos, as an example, states that you need to become comfortable with making decisions with only about 70% of the information available.

6. Following Halftime, it’s Gronk Time
The Patriots are down by 10 points and getting the ball to start the half. There’s no sugar coating what they did to cut the lead down; they fed Gronk. Look, I’ll keep this brief. Sometimes you just need to go with what works.

Lesson: Use your best asset(s). As a business, strategy and overcoming adversity is a huge part of the game, but you can’t forget what it is that you do best and what your competitive advantage is. In the biggest moments, “with the game in the balance,” it can be a great time to go with your strength.

7. Coaching Decision: Matt Patricia seen on sidelines in heated discussion with his players
This flashed on screen for a few seconds, but you could see Patriots Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia in a heated discussion with his players following another Eagles touchdown. Maybe he was instilling a sense of urgency, or maybe he was being perceived as “yelling.” Admittedly, I’m not sure. What I do know, however, is that the Patriots were looking for answers on defense, and it wasn’t necessarily their fault. Honestly, I was a huge fan of Nick Foles’ performance in last night’s game. He was phenomenal. He was beating the Patriots defense whether they played man or zone coverage, whether they brought pressure or even dropped extra men into coverage (like they did when he threw over the top of double coverage on the Corey Clement touchdown). He had an amazing game, but the Patriots needed answers if they were going to win.

Lesson: How do you respond to your team when adversity arises? Do you try and instill a sense of urgency, or even a sense of fear? Do you try to reassure and build confidence? It’s no big secret that how we respond in these situations is a lot of what defines us as leaders and how our team perceives us.

8. Patriots bring a Slot Corner Blitz on 1st down with the Eagles on the Patriots’ 24-yard line, 4th Quarter
I’m pretty sure I even blurted out an “Oh, interesting,” as this happened in real time and my family just stared at me blankly. I was so deep into my note taking as the game was coming to a close, and I’m pretty sure they all thought I was insane for not paying close attention to the moment. The thing is, though, that this made me pay so much closer attention to the game than I had ever thought and, believe it or not, I had fun doing it.

On to the play, this happened on the very last true offensive possession for the Eagles – where they ultimately scored the go-ahead touchdown and went up by 5. On this drive, something was brewing on the left side of the offensive line that you may or may not have noticed; James Harrison was consistently beating the Eagles left tackle. He was incredibly close to getting sacks multiple times on this drive, including the immediately preceding few plays leading up to this 1st and 10 on the Patriots 24-yard line.

The Eagles were driving, and the Patriots once again needed answers, but I scratched my head at this decision. After however many plays in a row of James Harrison almost getting home on only four men rushing, the Patriots decided to send a corner blitz to bring extra pressure. What happened? Foles hit Agholor in the flat from where the blitzing corner just came and picked up a first down. It’s hard to second-guess Belichick and Patricia, as some of the best defensive minds in football, but I still question it. You’re essentially in the red zone, and zones automatically get tighter down there (so it’s a little easier to play pass defense) and you could have stuck with that defense and tried with the four-man rush that was, largely, working.

Lesson: The Patriots overreacted to recent results on this play. I’ll admit, this one may be subjective, and I see a valid argument for those saying, “they needed to do something. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” I think there’s a valid takeaway for business leaders here, though, in that sometimes we can feel the pressure and overreact ourselves to recent developments. When you see an obstacle continuing to unfold and you need a solution, how many times do you change your strategy instead of staying the course on what is, perceivably, so close to working?

9. Eagles play Zone Defense on a 2nd and 2, 2:16 left in the game
And now we come to the biggest play of the game; the one that decided the outcome. Why did I describe this play as I did above? Because this decision was $%!^ing brilliant. That’s why.

For almost the entirety of the game, the Eagles were visually playing man coverage against the Pats. Even more importantly, the Eagles had shown man essentially every time that Brady sent the Running Back in motion (a common tactic that modern offenses uses to identify zone vs. man coverage). On this play, with 2:16 left in the game, the running back went in motion but no single player followed him. The Eagles were in zone.

Brady dropped back to pass and, likely, needed one extra second to digest the zone coverage that he hadn’t seen much of to that point. What did that one second mean? Remember how I said that the Eagles Wide-9 was largely working throughout the game?

Bingo. Sack-fumble.

The Wide-9 never stopped working; it was just that the Patriots were, again, using those chip blocks and play action to slow it down and give an extra second to Brady. On this play, however, when you need quick routes and the threat to run goes away so play action becomes null and void with the clock running down, the Wide-9 finally paid off, and it may all have been because they showed zone.

Lesson: Know your strengths, but adapt when necessary. Wait, isn’t this in direct contradiction to the last lesson presented? Yes, but that’s the point and also the biggest lesson to take here. As business leaders, inasmuch as we have to understand our strengths, strategize against challenges, lead our teams through adversity, and know when to not overreact, we also have to know when to react and to adapt. It’s an exceedingly difficult task, and one that most business leaders only learn through trial and error.

This is why I compiled this article; I wanted to get a glimpse of any such examples that I could take from such an easily digestible, and entertaining, form of media. I need some takeaways myself to see how some of the best minds in football responded to game flow and adversity, and I personally feel that I got some valuable insights out of these key plays. I hope that anyone reading this feels the same way.

Matthew Bare - Monday, February 05, 2018


Why HRS Exited Recruitment & Why We’ve (Somewhat) Returned

“Just When We Thought We Were Out... 
 ...They Pulled Us Back In!”            

HRS did not initially intend to assist employers with talent acquisition, but one of our forefront successes is absolutely talent optimization. When HRS opened its doors in 1983, employment agencies and temp services were coming on strong, but we didn’t initially enter the recruitment field.

Our core services have remained:

• Talent Optimization
• Employment Law Compliance
• HR Technology
• Professional “Think Tank”
• “One-Stop Shop” or A la Carte HR

Within our third year of operations, our clients nearly begged us to form a staffing division for long-term advancement-oriented and trainable talent. Recruiting was so cumbersome until HRS invented one of the first applicant tracking systems (ATS) in the 1980’s. Employment agencies were largely populated by sales professionals rather than HR professionals, literally “selling” people into jobs which were a poor fit and then pulling the hired candidates back out to “sell” them again. Temp services were claiming NOT to be in the “placement business” as they did not want their perma-temps hired away by clients. Our highly labor-intensive employer clients needed an expert resource to expedite the process and provide an indication of trainability and long-term goals before an expensive commitment on their end. We answered the call. Employers always deployed us to develop talent and HR practices, but recruitment was a client-demanded after-thought.

Once pulled into the game, our employer clients kept quickly direct-hiring our referred candidates, and our success became our downfall in the staffing industry. We kept succeeding ourselves right out of the revenue stream, because our referred/developed talent stuck and succeeded, and there was no profitable churn for HRS. We did NOT belong in the staffing industry, and the media dubbed us “The Anti-Temp Service” for far more reasons than our comprehensive service offerings. Capturing the opportunities of our rare successes, we continued to package a total HR business model, but others pretended to emulate us… and did so poorly… creating an uphill battle for credibility. While those less risk tolerant may have rolled their eyes at our educating a new demand category, we continued to grow by referral and reputation for results. Others initially took the path of lesser resistance, and some have since attempted to follow our path. 

Why We Exited the Recruitment Industry…
• Our clients are labor-intensive, committed to top-shelf HR initiatives and are dedicated to reducing turnover. Those who validly call upon staffing services often demand opposing outcomes. 
• In a downsizing economy where retention is challenged, our differentiation was minimized, creating some brand confusion.
• With co-employment relationships in staffing, we refused to promise our employer clients risk management through contract talent. In fact, we believed this false sense of security to be risk-elevating.
• While we arguably created the first Professional Employer Organization (PEO), an onslaught of poor-quality imposters swarmed in and threatened the program integrity. As PEOs are typically assigned to risk pools, or are at least risk-rated, benefits-buying leverage for PEOs became a myth debunked.
• HRS determined to focus upon core services with target employers. We want no confusion as to whom we are and what we do!
• Talent cannot succeed without the resources of proper training, leadership, compliance, technology, fiscal prudence, vision and talent management infrastructure.

The cessation of our contract staffing operations caused immediate backlash, but we do not regret our decision. While we have no plans to resume that prior offering, the best of our own acquired skills are currently addressing the skills gap and today’s employment challenges. We recently returned to the talent acquisition forefront with an entirely new approach, focusing on our core strengths.

Why and To What Extent We’ve Returned…
• Our employer clients were largely unable to find adequate alternate resources to assist with talent sourcing and selection; we were adamantly requested to return.
• The skills gap, growing economy and lowest unemployment rate in 17 years have strained employers’ own strengths.
• Talent optimization requires validated assessment and training at the beginning of the talent lifecycle and throughout its entirety. The right people need to be properly on board. The “soft skills” have become the “hard skills.”
• HRS recruitment design consulting and Veracity assessment division has actually grown in employer reach and case study.
• Throughout our history of precision job analysis and laser-focused talent development, HRS deeper-dive job knowledge is a rare find and essential to talent onboarding.
• Emerging “right-to-work” laws directly impact HR initiatives; including team needs, HR job descriptions, scope of authority, compliance changes and opportunities to leverage. Employers must newly work in NLRA compliance beyond bargaining agreement guidelines and affecting laws.
• Employers understand what worked in past for them will not work moving forward. Change and transformation are imminent! We facilitate the transition, so our clients can keep succeeding and/or improve their success as “employers of choice.”

Celebrating Our 35th Year!

As we dive into our 35th year of commitment to the community, HRS proudly boasts that we’ve never abandoned our core focus, yet we’ve consistently adapted our methodology and paved the way. Recognized as “The Pioneers of HR Management and Research” in Fortune magazine, we continue to grow at double-digit controlled growth each year with robust shareholder dedication. While HRS did entirely cease contract labor services and contingency recruitment in 2013, our talent optimization programs are stronger than ever! We proudly answer the call with HR operations as subject matter and efficiency experts. HRS offers custom turnkey setup as either long term third-party solution or expert project design. A true blend of specialist expertise and out-task offerings, whether our project lasts 3 months or 35+ years, it’s our measurable results that continue to feed our future of relevancy! 

Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, July 10, 2017


CEO Must-Knows About Employing People in 2016

For those who create jobs, a new year creates new opportunities and new threats. While we at HRS highly recommend each CEO to empower a fully functional HR initiative, we simultaneously advocate these 10 areas for highest executive support and visibility before giving up the reins. CEO to CEO… here is the drill-down!

Invest Only into Programs Supported by Data-Driven Metrics
While HR earned its seat in the boardroom by producing undeniable results on the Income Statements and Balance Sheets, avoid the assumption that all HR professionals grasp fiscal responsibility and know-how. Dubbed “The Pioneers of HR” in a 2015 Fortune Magazine spread, HRS knows exactly how thin the landscape was in prior decades, and we promise that more are boasting accolade than actually proven.  While it’s possible to find a statistic to support any thesis you choose, be certain the statistic is valid and supports a meaningful takeaway for optimum outcome. Statistics can be developed internally or externally at the start, but should be benchmarked internally upon program commencement. 

Ensure a C-Level Eye on Key Employment Law Changes
CEO’s must have a high level knowledge of these laws before properly delegating implementation and due diligence in 2016. Especially if a Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) is not in place, the items which cannot disappear from C-level are: handbook policies, ERISA Section 510, HIPAA, anti-harassment, trade secrets, ACA, FLSA, social media, independent contractors and joint-employer relationships, at a minimum. Top tier execs must ask the right questions and provide adequate support and empowerment to the right leaders of these critical initiatives. 

Bring Salary and Hourly Practices into Alignment
With Department of Labor (DOL) proposed overtime changes still embattled until late 2016, a major hike in minimum salary threshold may create unlawful “ivory tower” practices where they previously didn’t exist. Become more mindful of benefits, payroll handling and policy discrepancies between exempt and non-exempt team members. Be proactive.

Engage Without Coddling
Attracting and engaging the right talent cannot be accomplished without employer branding and a precise amount of ethical bribery, in view of forecasted 2016 shifts. That being said, some novices out there are “over-coddling” and making a pure mess of things. Let’s not forget Maslow’s Hierarchy, ERG motivation theories and that truly happy workers have no reason to work at any stage other than self-indulging self-actualization. Give your employees a reason and the resources to attain corporate goals. 

Keep HR and Accounting Completely Distinctive Functions at Lateral Vision
The keys to success in HR are absolutely neither a subset nor acquired along the accounting career path. These two critical functions each earn a boardroom seat, with critical communication between, and neither gets more leverage. While the HR effort cannot succeed without fiduciary vision and ability to assess proper fiduciary talent, the accounting effort can be tremendously successful with only limited communication from HR.  In fact, too much information in the hands of the accounting team yields EEOC and HIPAA penalty risks.

Personality Tests Belong in the 1970’s, with Mood Rings
Beaten down as unlawful 40 years ago, personality tests are somehow re-emerging for those who didn’t previously see the lightbulb. Throw in ADA protected mood disorders and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and personality tests tee up some real risk. Hiring without proper assessment poses even greater risk. Behavioral assessment delivers far more lawful, meaningful and reliable findings; keeping it job-related, predictive and risk free. Best options are still Simulation Scenarios and In-Baskets. 

Create a Politics-Free Zone
Wherever you sit, divisionary tactics and heated arguments are likely to be found. The workplace is ripe for passionate political arguments that threaten. Other countries already classify politics as protected. Arguing the Bill of Rights from every angle, the U.S. has begun protecting employees against harassment and discrimination due to political affiliation. While the political forum is likely to emerge downright uncivilized for some, an opportunity exists to actually capitalize on the problem by aligning your brand as a safe haven for those who work smart, work hard and respect others. DeBono’s Six Hats of Thinking, after all, requires perspective from all sides. 

Train, Train, Train! Talent May be Easier to Develop than Find
As a guest professor serving 6+ top-ranked institutions, I promise that even the best are concerned with proper education for today’s workplace. The employer who delivers appropriate development tools gains the competitive edge and exponential return on investment. Success is contingent upon corporate training in not only operations, but also workplace behaviors, leadership, organizational communications, problem solving and legal compliance. Avoid “canned curriculum” and deploy a topic expert to deliver on-point discussion and applied Q&A. Not only is it nearly impossible to “pick the right employee off a shelf,” but employees meeting life’s basic costs are willing to give up 15% of immediate pay for development opportunity. While cash can still be king and broken promises crush credibility, consider a well-balanced approach as investment into both employee and employer.

Take HIPAA and Anti-Harassment to New Levels 
2015’s Q4 reveals new privacy crackdowns, and government fines are being wielded about. Privacy lockdowns are a “bottom-up” approach. Meaning, if you’re a CEO… be sure to know very little about employee personal and medical lives, and be certain your leaders are trained to refuse all such information except on a “need to know” basis. Knowing the wrong things about your employees can backfire just as much as knowing too little. For lawful compliance, even an HR department may need 5-7 separate files per employee depending upon the structure, and many items should never leave HR’s gatekeeping. Department managers, accountants, IT and company-wide team members need updated HIPAA training and enforced compliance -- pronto.  Hand-in-hand with HIPAA, and with interplay between, Anti-Harassment due diligence needs another escalation. With newly protected classes, increased tension and steeper penalties, the courts are busy, and the courts are expensive! 3rd party experts can provide “affirmative defense” certifications not available through internal or video-based training. 

Choose Carefully Your Automation Levels and External Partners
A well-implemented HR automation system can exceed 300% ROI through vastly improved efficiencies and turnkey statistical decision tools. While this opportunity cannot be overlooked, some are going too far and reversing the benefit. Before we dehumanize human resources, 1) safeguard ability for audience adaptation and case-by-case judgment, 2) recognize that more keystrokes do not improve efficiency, and 3) lock down intellectual property where law allows. Inasmuch as HRS is recognized by the USPTO for world-deployed HRIS automation invention, even we know the boundaries. Don’t let your payroll and HRIS companies sell you the functions at which they fail. And finally, when choosing external partners, look for those who bring track record of success and extraordinary knowledge base, rather than just shiny new things that will become yesterday’s forgotten toys. 

As experts in Organizational Development, Employment Law and HR since 1983, HRS empowers business owners and C-suite leaders with fiscally savvy performance management solutions, custom to each unique employer. HRS is available to deliver extraordinary assistance with each action item recommended herein. Representing a wealth of industries, HRS clients range 25-100,000+ employees, start-up and emerging to Fortune-ranked. Headquartered in Brookfield WI, HRS offers locations in Washington DC and Scottsdale AZ plus national satellites. For more information, contact us

This article was produced for the IBAW magazine, January 2015 edition. Link to magazine

Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, January 04, 2016


The Annual Performance Review: Post Mortem?

Each day, more employers abolish their annual review system. Why? Because feedback delayed an entire year is arguably worthless, accomplishes negative value, creates fear of feedback and decimates corporate resources. For the annual review to succeed, feedback must be ongoing throughout the year, and the annual review cannot produce surprises. Any employer who over-attends annual feedback and under-attends daily feedback is in critical need of realignment. As showcase employers such as Adobe, GE, Microsoft, Accenture and Deloitte have recently rejected the annual review in favor or regular conversation, they understand that performance appraisal done right is the catapult to success! 

Jack Welch’s 1980’s described “rank and yank” methodology at GE has merit, if and only if, the 10% being guillotined after one year of poor performance are 1) provided the tools to succeed along the way, and 2) damage controlled short of a full year’s underperformance. Frequent feedback by education-empowered leaders is most certainly inherent to the success blueprint. Leaders must effectively lead daily, not just annually.
Does Your Company’s Annual Review Deserve a Kick to the Curb?
Are leaders often late in preparing and/or delivering the annual review?
Are employees shocked by ratings and feedback?
Has your company encountered legal argument or unemployment defense because of instrument content or omission?
Is the benchmark employee flat-lining between or after reviews?
Is compensation becoming more tied to timing than merit, serving more as a COLA than a performance accolade?

Annualized reviews have become default policy due to conformity with once widespread practice and a desire to delay cumbersome, often cookie cutter, legalese documentation. HR information systems, while offering efficiency to the tech savvy, are often exacerbating the practice through irrelevant templates, impossible to align. There’s a much, much better way. Consistent with young employees’ reliance upon push-button and command control feedback through technology, a revamp of the system absolutely improves engagement and productivity for today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. Let’s keep up with the changes!

What Should the Annual Review Look Like?
A “no surprise” recap of the year’s challenges, improvements, progress against prior goals and goals/resources for the future,
A meaningful, customized instrument to facilitate progress rather than to impede progress,
Benchmark plan of forward-moving feedback, rich with self-evaluation tools made quick, accurate and easy through metrics, 
Deployment of criteria which in no way provokes and in fact reduces legal argument,
Consistent, applicable, weighted metrics which align job description, goals and compensation, 
Where collective bargaining is applicable, alignment with said agreements.

Not an exhaustive list, these are the critical starting points. Opportunities exist to deploy several evaluation formats within a single employer, as long as lawful and fair consistency exists at a department and/or job function level. 

Is a Great Performance Appraisal System Enough?
Yes, as long as we clarify that a great appraisal “system” cannot exist without the following:
Getting the right people in the right company seats,
Selecting, developing and continuing lifelong learning for the right leaders,
Properly deploying magnets and motivators,
Adapting to unique employee learning styles,
Understanding and appropriately addressing the unique talent intensity and interrelatedness of each company role,
Dedicating laser focus to legal, fiscal and brand risk management. 

Legislation in Employment Law Necessitates Valuable Rewrite of the Review
The earlier weight on personal attributes now produces a 6+ figure risk for employers who miss the cues for rewrite. Given the many attributes stemming from culture, religion, genetic and medical protection, we can no longer consider personality, attitude, mood, and/or any characteristic which may attach to a protected class. While many employers are still missing the point, the more savvy, such as HRS clients, are finding not only risk management but also improved productivity outcome by swapping workplace behavior ratings for personal characteristic ratings. Actionable ratings without insult and risk better pave the way to success. 

When crafting the review, consider ratings which align with job description and meaningful criteria to the unique job. You’re one of the rare few if a universal template actually fits the purpose. Most templates can be the culprit to your leaders dreading and delaying the evaluation process. If a leader is already evaluating the criteria on a daily basis, dropping the rating into the appraisal is simple. If a leader doesn’t find the criteria naturally relevant or described in applicable terms, the blank stare and frustration will replace and likely reverse progress. 

Deploy “Appreciative Inquiry” by driving what’s going well to such an extent that it overpowers that which is going wrong. A recent HRS survey of 3000+ validates positive feedback 4 times as powerful as negative feedback. That being said, over-attending the positive without documenting need for corrective action can provoke a legal challenge for a well-intending employer. Failure to prove an employee was cognizant of substandard behavior and chose not to succeed will posture wrongful discharge claim, even beyond the obvious blemish to fairness. Balance is critical.

The Resolution
Originating in military protocol, the annual review emerged into mainstream workplaces circa 1950’s as a metric to rank, recognize and review compensation. Due to changes in leadership case study and employment law, the annual review is now under review itself. Employers continue to prototype 360 reviews and peer-to-peer bonuses. Both have their niche, but both can backfire dramatically if wielded haphazardly without precise control.  

It remains absolutely the strongest ROI to invest up front into a custom, ongoing performance management system. Relevant tailored tools and lifelong leader development safeguard time, energy and risk at every evaluation rollout. Managers should not dread or find cumbersome the evaluation process. Evaluation should be at the very core of leadership. Of more than 60 performance appraisal formats available through HRS, we still find ourselves further customizing the instruments for improved client outcomes. Without exception, the appropriate fit minimizes waste and improves outcomes for all.  It is far too often the inappropriate use of templates which has threatened the reputation and results of the review system. 

Furthermore, because leaders are entirely disposable if they don’t create better performance in those who depend upon them, it is the performance evaluation system upon which company success relies. We at HRS advocate, design and facilitate leadership development and performance management systems that position an employer for success. We deliver and we see the results!

This thought leadership article was initially produced for IBAW and subsequently licensed by request to BizStarts

Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, November 21, 2015


What I've Learned through Successful Nonprofit Leadership: A “Distinguished Service Award” Winner’s Perspective

I've been leading charitable concerns since age 10, when my dad charged me with organizing a successful MDA carnival held at our home. Once you've made a positive impact, provided you have a moral compass, you are fueled for life! I am privileged to know so many great charitable leaders and equally privileged to enjoy so many great contributors in my circle of friends, family and community. 

Through the tumultuous drama of juggling adult egos, I find daily comfort and pride in the knowledge of having helped millions and raised millions. In that vein, I suppose I self-served my own conscience. (Fade to Phoebe Buffay on “Friends.”) What I'll never how some can let self-interest override their commitment to greater good. I can't say I care 'why' someone facilitates good...just do good! 

As a volunteer leader, I've never taken a paycheck for service, but I've learned to set limits and be very selective in allocating my already overspent time and resources. I've supported hundreds, if not thousands, of causes... disease, legislative, economic, youth, community, education, ethics, professional, name it! I've earned a healthy collection of honors and awards along the way. I won't be stopping any time soon, nor will my friends and family. 

Lesson #1…
Along the way I’ve learned many valuable keys to success, which should be deployed for ongoing greater good at warp speed. That being said, I’ve also learned this country needs nonprofit reform now. It's stunning how many undeserving organizations are getting away with nonprofit tax exemption, while diverting attention and resources away from more critical deserving causes. If you feel compelled to address taxation in this country, don't lose sight of bogus nonprofits and/or tax exempt nonprofits defying their covenants. George Costanza's "Human Fund" is alive and well. What I've also learned is that the lazy and self-serving are effectively alienating our best contributors. We need to clean house in some areas and refocus the spotlight in others. 

Truly Serving a Great Cause… 
While I’ve been associated with many, many organizations, today marks 5 years since I announced retirement from Arthritis Foundation leadership. The success with a truly great cause, as earned through great effort, inspires reflection and celebration. For many reasons, I retired at the completion of Board term which coincided with regional reorganization, which I helped facilitate. I miss the AF, and I’m thankful to keep in touch with so many friends met through service! Over 11+ years time with amazing people lending powerful contribution, I was fortunate to have chaired 2 record breaking annual balls and 2 record breaking annual walks, sponsored 3 Fox televised awareness campaigns from my backyard, instigated an awareness campaign for juvenile arthritis, advocated successfully to U.S. Congress, and sponsored/served on leadership committees for 14 other successful AF events. Helping millions and raising millions, with loyal family and friends, we championed a great cause. That being said, I am humbled by the enormous impact we made, and I remain today so appreciative of the opportunity to have worked with great people. 

More Lessons Gained Through Success…
Every great cause comes with challenge. If it didn't, it wouldn't exist as a real cause. Through challenge comes lesson. Here are a few keys to success which I have learned are somehow not obvious to all:

• We must allow nonprofit employees pride for their mission without allowing them to mistake taking a paycheck from a charity as actually serving the charity. Paid employees need to take the effort at least as seriously as the donors. Above and beyond is where true service lies. 

• Volunteer leaders, whether involved or not in the selection and training of staff, need some defined management authority over employees. Carefully select, train and hold accountable the volunteer leaders. 

• Charitable events are everywhere, every day. It's a competition to gain support. Any misfires in implementation need attention as missed opportunity to serve the cause. 

• A true supporter of an ongoing mission is likely unwilling to "whistleblow" a bad act under charitable governance. A walkout, somewhat quiet, is more likely. Pay attention and investigate. As with any disengagement, find the information.

The Resolution…
Through exhaustion or frustration, try to stay engaged. Keep the keys to success in your hands, “shut up and hang on,” and get it done! Push through the challenges, because the positive impact is well worth the effort. Cling to every helpful cliché you can, including “anything worth doing is difficult to do.” If everyone really did their part for even just a little while, imagine what we could accomplish together. 

For me, my longest tenure has been devoted to these organizations who surpass the bar and actually deliver to essential cause, cause for which I am passionate. I look for co-leaders who rise to the task and well-serve their responsibilities. I send deep appreciation for those who continue to persevere challenges, because great causes deserve great perseverance. My many, many volunteer leader peers agree.

As a closing thought, I am compelled to wholeheartedly thank friends, family, community and professional peers for every greater good they have championed and/or will champion in the future. I am fortunate to have worked with some great Boards, Committees and Councils as leader, member and/or reporting consultant. We need more great people to step forward, and we need it today. Grab your family and friends as you step forward. "It takes a village."

- Jessica Ollenburg, Board Chair Angel Wings, Board Chair HRS Gives Back

Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, October 17, 2015


Unlimited PTO: Friend or Foe?

In a world where virtual and remote work are more prevalent, autonomous work systems are already necessary. Employers find advantage in creating accountability metrics which properly evaluate a job well done, and allow employees to self-evaluate in alignment. Where this is achieved, quality employees are empowered to determine their own ability to take PTO without jeopardizing performance outcomes. The obvious reality, however, is that a wealth of employees, by their own standards or by lack of structure, will not rise to this task. The additional realty is that many jobs, regardless of their incumbents’ initiative, are simply not built for this protocol. Unlimited PTO (Paid Time Off) is worth consideration on its merits and applicability. 

Where classified properly according to current FLSA standards, certain exempt employees are somewhat able to modify work schedules on their own volition. The keys to this include their positions’ interdependence upon real-time communication and collaboration with other roles. Being accessible at a specific moment matters for many functions. Certain hourly employees, by nature of job description, may be highly accountable to specific work schedules. Any employer attempting to structure benefits according to FLSA status must lawfully avoid any ivory tower policies. An organizational analysis will be necessary.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported less than 2% of employers deploying unlimited PTO systems. While this practice is certainly a heated discussion point and potentially on the rise, many employers are simply not candidates for this program. At HRS we’ve experimented with similar programs since the 1990’s, and many have worked quite well. In our version, we’ve used our own “comp time” as an add-on within the PTO benefit. In doing so, we’ve been able to attach additional PTO in consideration to specific job outcomes and in balance to extraordinary bottleneck needs. What makes us great candidates are our wealth of self-evaluating exempt roles, key metrics in place, remote work practices, and an organizational size and assessment process that allows us to hire only the best. 

Where Unlimited Paid Time Off Pays Off
Alleviation of PTO tracking and need for balance sheet carryovers for accrual basis employers. 
Employees can focus on work needs and business outcomes by choosing timing without concern for PTO accruals and losses.
A survey of 2000+ adults by found that 69% will gravitate toward a job offering unlimited PTO.
Top employees are less likely to jeopardize work results when PTO can be deferred until downtime or ability to seek better self-coverage.
The employer has created a singular culture of teamwork and assimilated work ethic where abuse is unlikely and team members are responsible to other team members.
“Inbox Zero” to quality standards is a requirement and is contingent upon continued PTO.
Relaxed minds are unequivocally more productive and creative than stressed minds, (except for the short-lived adrenaline response some of us enjoy.)
Unlimited PTO shows employees you trust them, a leadership tactic that works fabulously with those who will achieve.

Where Unlimited Paid Time Off Creates Unlimited Disadvantage
An HRS survey of 3000+ adults reveals work hours 150% less important on average than job advancement. Unlimited PTO abuse for coworker employees in a team function adversely impacts the advancement of all. (Listen to: Coworkers who don’t pull their own weight.) 
Hourly nonexempt employees in many operation queue systems are needed to be timely in place for full scheduled shifts. 
FMLA tracking, especially where paid leave substitution applies, will need even more complicated and consistent lawful application. 
Attendance enforcements in academia and key community initiatives become culturally and practically challenged when not enforced on-the-job.
While the average employer saves only 52 hours per year in PTO tracking, the uncaptured opportunities may far outweigh these benefits.
Employees who lack intrinsic career motivation will likely abuse the system. This extrinsic reward fails to motivate the intrinsically de-motivated, and chaos prevails.
The work-life balance demands of the over-coddled sector of workforce newbies are not realistic. While many of today’s twenty-somethings are “setting the world on fire,” others need more structure and less participation ribbons before it’s their turn to raise the next generation and save the world. 
Constructive resignation becomes a likely burden, barely actionable in the process. 

Employers such as Evernote, GE and the Virgin Group have made headlines with their unique approaches to structuring unlimited PTO; however, rarely it is available to learn the precise structure, demographics and outcomes of their own policies. Employers today are called upon to re-evaluate their own PTO approach, keeping in mind what is and is not applicable to their own infrastructures. Once policies are in place, bear in mind the unlawfulness of penalizing an employee for using a benefit. 

Americans already rarely use all of the PTO days to which they are allotted. Similar to how the minimum wage is meant to be a benchmark upon which to add an increment, for most, the PTO schedule is meant to be a benchmark upon which to subtract an increment. For some, unlimited PTO removes the metric needed for work schedule planning and judgment purposes. Unique employers will ultimately determine the fit.       

HRS has designed, consulted on and reviewed PTO policies for thousands of employers over our 30+ year history. PTO policies need to consider internal and external equities, legal compliance, job design, organizational structure, vision and the unique culture/demographics of a specific employer. As with most HR/OD policies, one size certainly does not fit all. Please contact us for expanded information and solutions on this topic!

Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, August 31, 2015


Savvy Employers in Action: Neroli Postures on Education and Employee Trust

Susan Haise, Owner of Neroli Salon & Spa and the Institute of Beauty and Wellness, leads with her heart and mind in symphony. While many business leaders find dangerous conflict of interest by mixing the two, Susan’s natural talents define a magnificent culture of trust, supported by a relentless commitment to education. Her passion and pursuit of excellence are compelling. 

The keys to success for any employer are to create an aligned brand that delivers upon expectations and supports both mission and operations. Neroli and IBW are each positioned on quality, experience and education. Susan delivers to her team members exactly what she wants delivered to her clients and students. She “pays it forward” with astute understanding that environment, culture and experience are equally important to quality service and top level education. 

Neroli’s mission… “To renew the spirits and awaken the minds of all whom we have the opportunity to touch.”  Neroli’s culture… “We believe personal and organizational balance is the key to sustainable success. We believe in treating ourselves, each other, and the planet with care and respect.”   

When the Affordable Care Act began peaking with questions, twists and heated controversy, Haise quickly called to action an open invite educational campaign for Neroli team members and IBW students. While most employers avoided dialog (except that mandated by the ACA itself), Haise deployed HRS to deliver an uncensored and unbiased third party expert forum, fielding team member questions on any ACA topic and promoting complete transparency into all sides of legislative and individual consumer impact. Both supporters and naysayers of the act attended. Grace in education and open minded inquiry were accomplished. Now two years since educational campaign commenced, Susan reports that every day navigation of the ACA has been easier for all.

Susan embodies the educational commitment of HRS, and we submit Neroli/IBW’s case study as a prolific example of education done right. True education depends upon discovery of opposing viewpoints with open minds. While we typically advocate against shining a light on a problem, in this case confusion and fear were the problem, and the employer shined a light on the solution: education and transparency. The program delivered exactly what team members needed to know and addressed questions they likely otherwise would not have known to ask…all while strategically supporting the organizational mission with custom curriculum. Ongoing resources were then available for updated information throughout the ACA’s journey to date. HRS further certified the educational campaign and ongoing commitment as employer “reasonable care” in compliance, facilitating additional written communications to the team. Haise comments…”We have successfully navigated the waters, and our team is comfortable today understanding their ACA rights and responsibilities specifically because of our educational campaign with HRS. They are aware and informed. They know information is accessible.” Where employers shut down information and behave "cloak and dagger," they lose employee trust. Once again, Haise optimized trust among team members. Trust is motivating, leading to top shelf employee engagement.

Employment law influences and often dictates workplace practice. As a precursor to the educational campaign, HRS facilitated the custom crafting of Neroli/IBW's employee handbook by consulting directly with Haise and her executive team to recommend policies which not only align with but also accentuate the brand. Follow up implementation training and on call consultancy were next steps. 

While case and statutory law shape our recommendations, we typically recommend the handbook language educates employees as to how policies are deployed to uphold law and to protect workplace fairness and consistency. Inasmuch as we see some competitor legalese actually planting seed for complaint and disgruntlement, we advocate language which yields positive outcome instead. An opportunity exists to leverage compliance as a workplace benefit. Susan Haise adopted recommendations which are both comprehensively lawful but also precisely supportive of education and culture. 

A leading businessperson who has not only mastered culture and brand but who keeps a keen eye, hour by hour, on the numbers which drive fiscal success, Susan is no stranger to the reality that financial acumen is the empowerment and sustainability of the ongoing mission. An award winning entrepreneur, Haise has created and sustained award winning businesses since 1993. Named among the “Best Places to Work” by the Milwaukee Business Journal for five consecutive years, Neroli Salon & Spa operates five popular locations, while the Institute of Beauty and Wellness remains the pre-eminent “go to” for top industry education. Both firms under Haise’s leadership have earned multiple industry innovation and business success awards and are said to have “changed the beauty industry.” And of course, as great leaders do, Haise shares the credit with her executive team.

As a trusted resource for employer case study and information, HRS reports and recommends the Neroli/IBW story as an example of “mission accomplished.” Certain this organization will not rest on its laurels, we look forward to the next chapter. HRS emphatically advocates a commitment to strategic education, adaptive to the learning styles of individuals and team demographics with custom curriculum to best support operational success and mission objectives. Handbook policies are equally important for expert custom crafting, while templates fall critically short of the goal.  Haise’s mission for Neroli/IBW capitalizes on unique competitive edge and visionary innovation. Adopting status quo practice along any criteria would derail the mission and impede the noteworthy success.

HRS serves holistic management information and operations solutions to business leaders and HR/OD professionals. Areas of focus include HR, Employment Law and Organizational Development. Headquartered in Brookfield, WI, HRS delivers international reach with a local commitment to an audience of approximately 5000 employers. The highly decorated firm celebrates a fourth decade of success.

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Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, July 23, 2015


5 Key Rules to Crafting Leader Learning

While most employers tend to finance formal classroom or seminar learning for leaders, substantial opportunity is missed when more targeted and cost-effective methods are overlooked. Embracing our 4th decade of dedicating ourselves to the understanding of cognitive function and the variety of learning methods, we offer the following 5 key rules to success. 

1. Address the 84% who prefer roundtable to classroom learning. 
Learning goals differ among individuals, as do learning styles. Audience adaptation is paramount. While kinesthetic learning outpaces auditory learning more than 2:1, classroom and/or seminar activities are less effective than hands-on and interactive learning. Top academic institutions certainly get this, and they heavily deploy group tasks, case studies and hands-on assignments as key training methodology. Classroom is the set-up to learning, but most will forget the “talking head approach” unless follow-up kinesthetic training is meaningfully deployed. 

Kinesthetic learning is preferred by most, and it consists of do-it-yourself or tactile activity. Interactive Q&A done well can address this learning style. Visual learning is the next preferred, consisting of videos, observation, pictures and graphics. Auditory learning is the least preferred learning style, consisting of lecture, listened instruction and/or audio-training. When learning style is unknown, kinesthetic or combination methods are best deployed as a default.

2. If the message isn’t delivered 3 times, don’t bother delivering it at all.
The average human mind must receive a message 3 times before long term memory is invoked. Long term memory is defined as only 20+ minutes’ duration. While we all know exceptional learners who can receive instruction once and simply get it, these learners have likely learned their own trilogy memorization techniques, such as visualization, note taking, rehearsal, role playing or others. 

Trilogy training curriculum must be deployed at least two-fold. Not only do we repeat any message 3+ times to our immediate leader learning participants, but we must also help them execute trilogy training with those they then train. All leader learning should not only consider the knowledge transfer to immediately trained leaders, but also a “train-the-trainer” approach. 

3. Preserve pride and safe harbor while training leaders.
One of the biggest mistakes is internal training of leaders where hierarchy is present in the room. Seasoned leaders, especially, shut down critical questions when either their supervisors or those whom they supervise are present. In doing so, learning assessment and learning itself both suffer dramatically. While building trust between supervisor peers requires careful protocol from the experts, a relaxed mind accelerates learning and builds supervisor teamwork in a support system beneficial well beyond the immediate training exercises. 

“Old school” leadership training started and ended with salesmanship training. While more than 16 effective leadership styles are profiled, a leader can only lead to the extent subordinates are willing to follow. Beyond salesmanship, therefore, substance is more important than ever. Supervisors who are transparently incorrect will lose team confidence fast. In many environments, new hires may have received more leadership training than those to whom they report. In many cases, either the talented new hire then resigns or is forced out by implying an ability to advance past the supervisor. Experts address these topics through “safe harbor” methodology.

4. When choosing a trainer, embrace that speaker and facilitator skills are reverse-correlated.
Unless a panel discussion, the act of speaking in front of hundreds or thousands most often requires an ability to disconnect from the audience and rehearse a scripted presentation. Some speakers are more of entertainers than subject masters, and while humor is engaging and promotes auditory and possibly visual learning, Q&A may suffer. These presenters most definitely have their effective place in the schemata of combination method training; however, be careful when choosing them for a rapport-building coaching role. Very few can effectively transition between the two. 

For roundtable methodology, choose a facilitator who is a subject master and assessor who can meaningfully answer unanticipated questions and tailor curriculum to learning needs. Ensure that meeting skills and Gestalt protocol are simultaneously trained as not only immediate training enhancements but also to ensure company-wide meeting effectiveness improves as well. 

5. Market leadership training as not only necessary but also an employee benefit.
The benefit component is easier to market when a third party trainer is brought in. However, every investment into the team is in fact a benefit to be boasted. Effective leadership training creates transformational leaders and improves career path and success rate for all trained and all reporting to the properly trained leaders. CEOs, newly promoted team leads, or anyone in between should find improved time management, job satisfaction and job success through effective leadership training. 

Beyond these 5 key rules, leaders need regular refreshers and self-forgiveness in re-grounding to the basics. While leadership training needs to help leaders advance, leadership training for many needs to remind leaders of the rote redundancy which the intelligent mind would prefer to move past. Adaptation is critical. Employment law, motivation, corrective action, personality styles, six-hat thinking, appreciative inquiry, situational leadership and so many more topics are integral to leadership training, yet missed by many “cookie cutter” trainers. Do not settle for less than the best!

A learning styles survey is available at

As experts in Organizational Development, Employment Law and HR, HRS empowers business owners and C-suite leaders with fiscally savvy performance management solutions, custom to each unique employer. Leadership training and assessment are delivered onsite for our employer clients. Headquartered in Brookfield WI, HRS offers locations in Washington DC and Scottsdale AZ plus national satellites. 

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Jessica Ollenburg - Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Do “Happy” Workers Have a Reason to Excel?

When happy workers become complacent, work suffers. Simultaneously, demotivated workers are a substantial threat to business viability. A blueprint of empowerment exists.

Not long ago, many C-Suite leaders displayed skepticism when advised that ‘happy workers are productive workers.” To a limited extent, this skepticism served them well.

Per definition, motivation is a reason for behavior. The most widely accepted longstanding theories, such as Maslow and ERG, force us to question if “happy” is in fact the absence of motivation. If “happy” equates to Maslow’s self-actualization stage, why would happy workers be motivated to excel? Furthermore, is “happy” an effective measurement and business criterion?

Decades of studies have validated the pragmatic human capital approach to talent management, yet certain extremists are still peddling a “puppies and sunshine” approach to business. While “happy” workers are not necessarily a meaningful target, and are certainly not a lawful target, let’s explore a more prudent target.

Is “Happy” a Meaningful Criteria?
No astute business leader will ignore today’s five to seven-figure risk of incorporating terms like “happy” and “attitude” into performance criteria. Mood disorders are specifically protected by the EEOC, especially via the Americans with Disabilities Act and its subsequent amendments. Therefore, evaluating happiness can be discriminatory per both statutory and case law. All performance appraisal toolsets that previously carried this language are no longer safe to deploy and require recrafting. With expert guidance, updated terminology equally protective of workplace outcomes is available.  

Highbrow thinkers often characterize “happy” in the same realm of “utopia,” where “happy” exists as a non-sustainable target rather than a constant state of being. That being true, optimum productivity exists in the individual who can achieve fleeting happiness in the workplace and finds that work excellence is the path to attainment. That worker, in the proper performance management system, then repeatedly pursues the fleeting sense of “happy” through positive work behaviors, well-aligned with the organization’s goals. This assumes the worker is at socio-economic level beyond basic safety and security needs. An employee whose food and shelter are threatened may throw “happy” out the window quickly for extra money or job security. 

Today’s expert business leader recognizes that motivation cannot happen without hope and incentive. Demotivation occurs when employees are not properly rewarded for positive performance. An employee who exceeds expectations may not repeat the excellence if behavioral reinforcement is absent. Rewards, however, must be commensurate with the performance. Both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards collaborate together in a well-aligned system, refraining from impinging upon the other’s efficacy. A bonus for only adequate performance, for example, strips intrinsic motivation and creates a derailing reward system. A bonus for no performance, as today’s federal government often promotes, most certainly strips motivation and threatens productivity. 

A Relaxed Mind is a Productive Mind.
More meaningful than the elusive “happy” is cognitive ability. Productivity and creative problem solving are increased when negative noise is averted. The noise of fear, anxiety and negative emotion shut down the capabilities of most, while a few might benefit from a brief adrenaline rush through sympathetic nervous system response before crashing. Where a team member believes he or she can succeed and shall receive betterment as a result, and where the negative noise is quiet, the team member is exponentially more likely to demonstrate positive work behavior. 

Quality of work life deliverables which facilitate problem solving are frequently deployed by companies who depend upon invention and creativity. Work campuses and work days designed to unlock mental energy flourish. Wellness is a powerful human asset which translates into positive corporate output. 

And the Answer Is…
The discussion of “happy” workers is not only an irritant to many business pragmatists but also lacks legal risk management and, quite frankly, lacks tangible meaning. The real discussion is about workplace productivity as defined by motivation, environment and leadership. Again, motivation is a reason, and complacency will not do. Failure to deliver proper incentive will also not do. We advocate and deliver lifelong learning for leaders, accompanied by proper crafting and delivery of performance management systems. New leaders do not instinctively know how to lead and require solid formal training, often in a kinesthetic learning environment. In any talent-intensive organization, getting the right people doing the right things is the heartbeat of success. Keeping talent management at C-level authority is critical. 

Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, May 14, 2015