Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Developing and Managing Human Capital - Notes from the May 23, 2017 AppsJack Business Services Meetup in Kirkland, WA

"Human Capital" was the topic to be discussed.  It was a sunny late-May afternoon and I headed down to Big Fish Grill to have the discussion with about 10 others who had gathered.  Unlike the normal gathering, we were given a smaller table, which in the end wound up being a little better: cozier and easier to hear people.  We never broke into smaller groups and had a good dialog with a big group.

At first it was just me, leadership coach Alan Andersen and coach Susan Stringer.  I had never met Susan before and was immediately impressed by her grace, experience and knowledge.  She has a great present and is a very fun conversationalist.  Eventually, more arrived and we kicked off the discussion about "Developing and Managing Human Capital", the first support process in APQC's process classification framework.  The first thing that was made clear is we all agreed that the CAPITAL word in human capital is evil, wrong, etc.  Richard Webb suggested that thinking of people as money is no worst than thinking of them as slaves.  There was agreement on this point.

In search of a starting point, I rattled off the APQC's subtopics:

  • Develop and manage HR planning, policies and strategies
  • Recruit, source and select employees
  • Develop and counsel employees
  • Reward and retain employees
  • Redeploy and retire employees
  • Manage employee information
I told people that I was personally most interested in the "Manage Employee Information" area, where I had the most experience.  It's subtopics are as follows: Manage reporting processes (who reports to whom), Manage employee inquiry process (how management gets info from employees), Manage and maintain employee data, Manage human resource information systems (HRIS), Develop and manage employee metrics, Develop and manage time and attendance systems (we agreed this was an optional step for some places), Manage employee communication.

No one seemed to bite on the above high-level concepts so I started rattling off the discussion topics that we'd covered over the last year: good books we'd read about HR and people-management, alternatives to the resume and is the resume dead, how to get a great job, how to get maximum wages sustainably, what are the current trends and issues, problems in HR management, what does the modern worker like, what do they expect and need, what is the future of employment, what will technology do to HR and management with tools like LinkedIn and CrystalKnows?  Before I could get too far down the list, people locked on the resume topic and we were off on our first big topic.

The resume, truth, recruiting and qualification

Susan gave us some great and interesting facts about millennials in the workforce: that 50% of the workforce will be millennials by 2020 and 75% of the workforce by 2025.  Incredible statistics.  Susan is doing a presentation soon on millennials in the workforce that I will plan to attend.  She is a student of the topic.  I raised issues about complexity dealing with individuals vs. working with people in populations.  Working with 'classes' and things in groups is far easier than but as humans we seem very reluctant to exclusively deal with things in groups and need to give the attention that people and organizations need at an individual level.  

Richard said that the age of authenticity is what's next and was seeking a term for millennials.  I suggested that they were Generation M to keep it simple then we laughed about sequence issues.
We talked about predictive analytics and the power of organizations like Facebook and LinkedIn to predict events from data such as divorce with very high confidence.  Data is a very powerful thing.  
I suggested that the resume is just one signal in the collection (stack) of things necessary to understand and work with a person professionally.  Other signals include online profiles like LinkedIn, social media presence, reference checks and the interview.  We didn't believe that the resume would be going away and generrally believed that i was a gateway and door-opener to other aspects of the person.

Susan impressed us with some of her experiences doing hiring at the executive level and gave examples of people she had vetted by requesting 12 references from them: 3 supervisors, 3 peers, 3 suppliers and 3 others.  This sounded very rigorous to me but I could appreciate just how important getting this information really is for some high-risk, high-reward opportunities.

Susan shared that she asks these questions to the candidate, "How would your former managers describe you?" and to the former managers, "How would you describe your former employee?"  They are very open questions and she would listen for incongruity between the stories.  She said she had been referred to by some in the past as "the female version of Columbo", the TV show detective.  What an amazing skill to go this deeply into someone's background not make sure they are who they say they are.


We got off on a discussion about the quality of leaders and the leadership and it was stated that only A players can hire A players.  Richard told us stories about the days (joint-venture between Microsoft, Walmart, and some India companies) and how complex and different those cultures were and how they used a 'bus' to communicate effectively.  Another aspect of that collaboration that worked well was to pass information through a key resource they called the seamstress (it was a man) who would bridge the gap and coordinate between the three different teams.  


We talked a little about books here and there and Andrew Sengul regaled us with stories from Aaron Hurst and The Purpose Economy.  The book says that people can be broken up into three categories: those motivated by money, prestige/fame or a deep personal commitment.  The book suggests to only hire the people with deep personal commitment.  Andrew cited quite a few examples of how it is hard to manage and create organizations of these kinds of individuals.

Alan and Susan both highly recommended the book Leadership and Self-Deception.  Alan believes that everyone is a leader (at least sometimes) and they have to start by leading themselves.  


Richard is obsessed with the idea that things and people are corrupt.  He believes and here was agreement in the group that one thing we are trying to do with all of these systems and controls in businesses is to weed out corruption, corrupt people and takers.  Richard says that there is a worthy goal to "instrument corruption" (develop systems that can measure and detect corruption at all levels).  Andrew jumped in and offered that experts at corruption really are good at it: that low-grade corruption is easy to detect and that some people really are grade A snakes.  

Steve Kubacki showed up a bit late (but I had already referenced a couple of his ideas) and we talked more about his idea of random firings to weed out corruption and sick cultures.  
Steve says that more of this needs to happen at the top of the organization than the bottom.  Susan said that, "A good leader assesses the talent and weeds out the tenured people."  So her theory is that this can be done by good people but I agree with Steve in some ways that this needs to be done by policy and not just by people (heroes).  We went into a discussion about CEO and he Board and how those two things should work together for control and regulation of the organization.  

Richard wanted to know how to test for integrity.  Everyone agreed that business and corporations really was a battle or war and that more people need to understand that situation.  We went into a discussion about the role of the HR department (few liked it) and Susan gave us examples of HR departments that provided coaching through the "HR Business Partner" who coached the manager of the group.  I have personally witnessed limitations of this model, especially when the management is not ready for coaching.  

"Balancing the bottom line and people" is a big topic that Susan thinks is a key challenge for organizations.  

We went off on a long rabbit trail tangent about sociopaths and predators (evil people) who are ladder climbers.  We tried to separate between those who are sick, ambitious and charismatic.  There is a desire by people to detect and weed these people out.

We talked about the authoritarian personality and how many people are okay with it (even seek it out) and like to live inside of authoritarian structures because they are given something from daddy.  

Conclusions and Next Steps

We had a great turnout.  It was me, leadership coach Alan Andersen, executive coach Susan Stringer, technology architect Richard Webb, professional services pro Lee Carter, delivery operations pro Dena Carter, operations manager Dominic Wong, business owner Thomas Mercer, business leader Thomas Mercer, software product developer Andrew Sengul and creative psychologist Steve Kubacki.

Please join us soon for Episode 8 of the AppsJack Capable Communities Podcast on the HR/Human Capital topic which will feature consulting business owner Aftab Farooqi, coach Rachel Alexandria, psychologist Steven Kubacki, executive and consultant Joe OKonek and professional services sales director Lee Carter.  We will record on Saturday 6/10 and the conversations will be dripped to the major podcast outlets each Sunday morning during June and early July. 

Our next topic for the meetup and podcast will be managing information technology, a topic near and dear to my heart and another key enabler to business.