Future Friday: Letting employees select the new boss

by Michael Haberman on January 20, 2017 · 1 comment

Are you willing to let employees select company leaders?

What if you had a way to get company leaders based on their ability to interact with peers rather than their resume? Would you be interested? A company named Tiny Pulse, led by David Niu, thinks they have developed a way to select leaders that is more effective than traditional methods. They crowdsource them.

Collaborative ability and relationships

Niu, who wrote a Forbes article titled Crowdsource Your Next Boss?, says that research shows that companies do a poor job of selecting managers 82% of the time. The wrong person gets selected and promoted 4 out of every 5 times. That is pretty dismal numbers and may account for a lot of employee dissatisfaction. This may account for such high millennial turnover.

Niu thought there had to be a better way. His company is in the business of small surveys that measure engagement and culture. They have a tool called Cheers for Peers where employees can recognize the co-workers for a job well done. They connected with a Microsoft team to then analyze 6 months’ worth of these “cheers” to measure “‘influence’ based on the number of connections an individual had and the number of connections his or her connections had.” Their hypothesis was “that workers with a greater number of connections — or more influence —  would be more likely to be identified as potential leaders.” They also predicted that employees who received more “cheers” would have greater network influence.

Data supported the hypotheses

They published the results of their study in the Harvard Business Review in an article titled Measuring Your Employees’ Invisible Forms of Influence. Their research showed that employees that received the greatest number of “cheers” had the highest level of network influence and the greatest number of aggregate internal interactions. They found that there was a marked difference between high performing employees and low performing employees. The high performers spend four hours a week more in internal collaboration rather than external collaboration. Additionally they had larger internal networks, average of 27 verses 20, than did low performers.

Their conclusion from this was:

Who’s getting the job done? We bet it’s those people who take action, initiate collaboration and communicate well with their colleagues. It’s these kinds of people who are receiving cheers and who could be future leaders at your organization.


In workplaces that are increasingly populated by millennials, who have a stated desire for working in a collaborative environment, this type of leadership selection might work well. Leaders are selected on how well they interact with employees and enlist them in their work. Millennials also like to have their voice heard and this type of system would support that.

Potential problems?

The major concern I have about such a system of selection is that as soon as everybody knows that the “cheers” system is being used to select future leaders it could degrade into a popularity contest. You will have all the extroverted employees vying for cheers and the introverted employees being pushed into the background.

Despite that, I think this data driven attempt to identify leadership talent has promise. As Niu say “For companies to succeed, they must innovate in how they identify, train, and retain high-performing employees through new data-driven approaches. The traits of high performers are multidimensional, nuanced — and sometimes hidden.” We all know how critical managers are to the success of organizations, why shouldn’t we be using new tools to help in this selection process.

Would you use crowdsourcing to hire your next manager?

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Three great reads for Thursday to educate and inform

by Michael Haberman on January 19, 2017 · 0 comments

Three great reads to inform and educate.

I am presenting to you today three great blog posts from the reading that I have done. I hope you found them as educational and as informative as I did.

Number 1

This post comes from Matt Monge of The Mojo Company. I met Matt at an HR conference where we were both presenters. I found him fascinating. His mind and mine work differently. He takes notes by drawing what the speakers are saying. Basically he creates mind maps, a very useful tool for remembering. Given this level of creativity I thought you would find his tips on brainstorming interesting. So give 7 Secrets to Better Brainstorming a read and see if you don’t learning something.

Number 2

One of my favorite blogging lawyers, Jon Hyman, has a major concern about cybersecurity. In The 10 essential cyber security training issues for your employees he provides us with tips for making sure your workplace is secure in this nasty cyber world we face. I recommend you follow his advice.

Number 3

Many of you may have read the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth. I found it to be a very interesting book. Well my friend Todd Schnick  of Intrepid NOW presents a series podcast called Leading With GRIT: Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth based on the work of, and co-hosted by Laurie Sudbrink, who has written a book called Leading with GRIT. Sudbrink is president and founder of Unlimited Coaching Solutions, where GRIT stands for Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth. I realize this is not a 500 word blog post you can quickly read, but this series of podcasts may be some of the best training you will have all year.

I hope this three items will improve your education and leadership.


Court ruling may change how we look at age discrimination

by Michael Haberman on January 18, 2017 · 0 comments

There may be a different way to view age discrimination.

In my experience people who are not in HR are often surprised to find out that the age limit in age discrimination is 40 years of age. The reaction is often “That is not that old!” When asked what age they thought was old and should be afforded some protection the answer is generally 55 or 60. There have been situations where cases made distinctions between how under-50 employees were treated versus over-50 employees. This most recent case made a distinction between an over 40 but under 50 group and an over 50 group.

The case

The case of Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, LLC, according to the attorneys of McGuire Woods LLP, involved “disparate impact” claims by subgroups of older workers  when younger (but still over the age of 40) workers had not been negatively impacted. According to the case the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) allows for claims of disparate impact. The attorneys write that “The district court ruled that this ‘subgroup’ theory is valid under the ADEA, and conditionally certified a collective action of employees who were at least 50 years old at the time their employment was terminated in the RIF.”

Back and forth

The case got transferred to another judge who said the first judge’s decision was incorrect and he disallowed the subgroup of over-50 workers. The attorneys for the subgroup appealed the ruling and the Third Circuit reversed the judge and allowed the case to proceed. The result of this case is that the court is saying the ADEA is not designed to protect a class of people, all those over the age of 40, but is designed to protect individual employees over the age of 40.

The impact

According to McGuire Woods LLP:

“This ruling, if correct, has significant impact for employers evaluating the potential disparate impact of reductions in force and other job actions, as well as policies, testing and job qualifications that may have a disparate impact. Rather than merely statistically comparing employees over 40 to employees under 40, an employer now potentially must also compare various subgroups within the over-40 group.”

That means doing your statistical test for age discrimination, the four-fifths test, you now have to be cognizant of the sub-groups in you group of selected individuals. You have to look at whether your selection process only selected workers over the age of 50, or 60 or even 70. You may no longer be protected just by making sure you have sufficient representation in the 40 to 50 age group.

The lawyers are not sure how narrow this subgroup may be but they are waiting to see what other circuits do with this decision and whether this may end up as a Supreme Court case. Time will tell.


When crafting guidance or new regulation some consideration needs to be given to the size of the targeted company.

In a great post on her blog, attorney Robin Shea talked about the new EEOC guidance on sexual harassment that was just released. You can find it here, and you should read it! You have until February 9th to let the EEOC know what you think about it. You need to read Robin’s blog post on some comments she has about the new guidance. As I read the guidance, especially on the training section, my impression was that this was guidance written for larger companies and it makes it more difficult for small companies to comply.

Training guidance

The EEOC states in this guidance document:

“Leadership, accountability, and strong harassment policies and complaint systems are essential components of a successful harassment prevention strategy, but only if employees are aware of them. Regular, interactive, comprehensive training of all employees will ensure that the workforce understands organizational rules, policies, procedures, and expectations, as well as the consequences of misconduct.”

I totally agree with this statement, however, the provision of “regular, interactive, comprehensive training of all employees” can be burdensome for smaller companies that don’t have the resources that larger companies have, especially given some of the other requirements. These include that harassment training should be:

  • Championed by senior leaders;
  • Repeated and reinforced regularly;
  • Provided to employees at every level and location of the organization;
  • Provided in all languages commonly used by employees;
  • Tailored to the specific workplace and workforce;
  • Conducted by qualified, live, interactive trainers, or, if live training is not feasible, designed to include active engagement by participants; and
  • Routinely evaluated by participants and revised as necessary.

The requirement “Conducted by qualified, live, interactive trainers, or, if live training is not feasible, designed to include active engagement by participants” may be expensive to achieve for a small company.

The requirements of an investigator

In addition to training that may be difficult for small companies to achieve, just the requirement to be considered a competent investigator may be difficult for small companies. This guidance says that employees responsible for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints or otherwise implementing the harassment complaint system must be:

  • Well-trained, objective, and neutral;
  • Have the authority, independence, and resources required to receive, investigate, and resolve complaints appropriately;
  • Take all questions, concerns, and complaints seriously, and respond promptly and appropriately;
  • Create and maintain an environment in which employees feel comfortable reporting harassment to management;
  • Understand and maintain the confidentiality associated with the complaint process; and
  • Appropriately document every complaint, from initial intake to investigation to resolution, use guidelines to weigh the credibility of all relevant parties, and prepare a written report documenting the investigation, findings, recommendations, and disciplinary action imposed (if any), and corrective and preventative action taken (if any).

Given that many small companies do not have a single individual designated as HR, having someone capable of performing such an investigation may require hiring outside resources that may put a burden on company resources.


Small companies get caught on the outside of many regulation promulgated by the U.S. government. Dealing with regulations that crafted with just larger businesses in mind ignores the fact that more than half of the working population is employed by small business.

There needs to be some consideration of size and resources.


Work Anniversary Gifts Your Employees Will Appreciate

by Michael Haberman January 16, 2017

Tweet Today’s post is brought to you by my friends from SocialMonsters.org If you’re thinking of giving your employees a company-branded keychain for their anniversary, you might want to think again. Forty-seven percent of employees appreciate their employers more when they receive a good gift, according to Gyft, so it’s worth investing the time to […]

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Future Friday: What is the value in being an HR futurist?

by Michael Haberman January 13, 2017

Tweet I read an article in Fast Company online, written by serial entrepreneur Faisal Hoque, where he outlines the Four Questions to Turn Everyone in Your Company into a Futurist.  Having myself written Seven Steps to becoming a practical HR Futurist, I naturally read Hoque’s article. He says that by getting people to think of […]

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Four Very Instructive Reads in HR Compliance

by Michael Haberman January 12, 2017

Tweet Legal compliance for many HR people is a major headache. Each situation has some different twist to it that makes you question whether you are making the correct decision. Here are four situations that provide examples of just my point. Reverse discrimination This first post shows that reverse discrimination is recognized by the courts […]

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Reduced workweek experiment fails

by Michael Haberman January 11, 2017

Tweet Around the world there has been a call to reduce the number of hours that people work. This was for a variety of reasons such as more family time, more recreation, better balance between work and non-work, and just a better quality of life. France tried it and mandated a 35 hour workweek. But […]

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Icy weather, the “zone of employment” and workers’ compensation

by Michael Haberman January 10, 2017

Tweet It is winter time in the Northern Hemisphere. As a result snow and ice has fallen making areas treacherous for travel, especially for walking. Here in the Southeast we had a couple of inches of snow and ice fall the last couple of days. Although the sun is now out there are still some […]

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Can you make a determination on a new hire with no salary history?

by Michael Haberman January 9, 2017

Tweet As a recruiter for several companies in my past HR positions one of the things I always asked for was a salary history. Many of my colleagues did the same thing. Now however, some states and city governments are making it illegal for companies to access this information. Will you be able to make […]

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