Category Archives: HR


Endings and beginnings

“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.” 
― L. Frank BaumThe Marvelous Land of Oz  

Check out the new Michael VanDervort Blog

New blog, same dude.

Nike hat manufactured and purchased in the Net...
Nike hat manufactured and purchased in the Netherlands (Photo credit: mvndrvrt)


I started the Human Race Horses blog on July 14, 2007.   Since then I have published 1,530 posts of which a few were alright.  This post which is #1531 published on April 20, 2014 will be my last on this blog. Thanks for reading some of the stuff I’ve shared over the years.

“There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.” 
― Ellen Goodman

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be publishing stuff on my new eponymously titled, more brand friendly blog. Http:// I hope you’ll join me there.

Where did Human Race Horses come from anyway?

Sometimes the best way to end is at the beginning, so let’s close this thing down the way it started.  Here’s the story behind the name of the blog – How it became the Human Race Horses.

The story: When I was working with Texas Instruments, our Vice President of Human Resources when he told a story about how much he enjoyed calling from Dallas Texas to Versailles….no, not the palace in France, but Versailles, Kentucky, which is pronounced phonetically….Vur Sales. TI owned a facility there and there was a woman who worked in the HR department whose name has faded into my past, but whom Chuck the HR VP loved to hear answer the phone, because he said it always sounded to him like she was saying: “Hello, Human Race Horses, may I help you?” He was sorely disappointed that he never got to see those special race horses run around the track, although he did say that Versailles, like the rest of TI had excellent human workers, and he made do with visiting them.

In the nearly 18 years since I first heard that story, I don’t think the race run by humans at work has slowed down, and in fact, while Chuck the VP is no longer with TI, and the Texas Instruments business I worked for has been transformed fantastically, some things do remain constant. The pace of the race for human capital has increased at just as fast a pace as the levels of technology have within business, and we are at the beginning of another fantastic leap into the future. It may be HR 2.0 or HR 3.0 or just on-going process of change that drives business today, but many techniques and tools we utilize today to hire, train, develop, and retain talent are changing faster than the employees or the HR professionals that support them can assimilate.

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The Bane of Social Media

Social Media Conundrums

Social media is the bane of all brands.

@Publix crowd flow
@Publix crowd flow (Photo credit: mvndrvrt)

Things can go wrong so easily, often impacting your brand  without any warning.

You should definitely stay away from social media at all costs.

You should definitely stay away from social media at all costs

Okay, maybe I really didn’t mean all that. Actually, I did.   Just kidding.

You don’t need to stay away from social media, but you should know what people are saying about you.  Here’s a couple of recent examples where social stuff happened.


As reported by Huffington Post, #CancelColbert trended for more than 36 hours starting Thursday, March 27, after an offensively Orientalism-themed tweet from the show’s Twitter account. “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” read the tweet (sent and later deleted by a web editor for the show’s account).

The now-notorious “twit,” as Colbert called it in his Monday apology, was a line pulled from a segment about Dan Snyder and the Redskins, which targeted the use of racial slurs in his aggressively offensive “Washington Redskins for Original Americans” organization.

The other social event was an April Fool’s prank pulled off by a Miami blog that claimed Publix Super Markets was going to open stand-alone sub shops to compete with Subway.  This rumor spread like wildfire in Florida, leading to huge traffic for the305 blog, and a lot of extra work for the Publix social media team that day.

In the words of Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great  responsibility”.   When it comes to social media, most people forget that.


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The Internet of Peeps

 IoP = Internet of People

Your car may be the future cockpit of the Internet of Things (IoT), and your house will be largely managed by apps in a few years, but the big change coming down the road is the Internet of People. (IoP).  Actually, it’s just about here now.

I just used an app called Map My Walk to….map my morning walk around the lake.

The Internet for Peeps is here

Check it:


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Employer agrees to rescind social media policy

On April 7, 2014, Valero Services, Inc. agreed to rescind its nationwide social media policy and to post and mail a NLRB remedial notice to its employees throughout the country in response to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Valero Services provides employee leasing services to refineries and plants located throughout the United States, including a refinery located in Port Arthur, Texas.

The United Steelworkers of America filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB Region 16, alleging that Valero Services social media policy interfered with employees’ rights to discuss their terms and conditions of employment on social media. Region 16 found merit to the allegations and issued complaint. During the hearing, Associate Chief Administrative Law Judge William N. Cates approved a settlement agreement resolving the dispute. Under the terms of the settlement, Valero Services agreed to notify employees that it will rescind its unlawful social media policy and to post NLRB notices at its 52 facilities nationwide, as well as to mail notices to employees, advising them that they will not be prohibited from using social media to discuss their terms and conditions of employment.

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NLRB News: Live-streaming will be available for NLRB April 10-11 public hearing

The National Labor Relations Board public hearing on the proposed amendments governing representation-case procedures, will be webcast in its entirety, viewable on the agency’s website at Pre-registered attendees must bring a photo ID and go through a security checkpoint to enter the building. Doors will open at 8 a.m.

Working members of the media who wish to attend should contact the Office of Public Affairs at 202-273-1991.

More information on the proposed amendments can be found here.

You pick’em: Who’s the best candidate for the next CEO at MOzilla?

An early Mozilla mascot
An early Mozilla mascot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I just posted something new over on my new blog (site is still under construction) that asks people to pick the next CEO of Mozilla should be. Click through and share your pick in the comments. Who is the perfect choice to be the next CEO at MOzilla?


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The High Cost of a Bad Hire at Mozilla

Questionable HR comes with a high cost

Should the personal beliefs of a CEO don one issue determine if they are qualified to run a company or not.  Based on the recent series of events at Mozilla, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Brendan Eich speaking on "browser wars: d...

 HR problems took down the entire management structure at Mozilla in the last 30 days.

I missed a lot of the first furor over the Brendan Eich situation at Mozilla.

According to CNET:


Eich had built a strong following as co-founder of Mozilla, a savvy fighter for the Web, inventor of JavaScript, and leader of the Firefox and Firefox OS projects. His promotion to Mozilla chief executive officer from chief technology officer last week was a rare techie triumph over the usual business-school demographic.

Much of that credit evaporated as he struggled to reconcile his 2008 contribution of $1,000 to Proposition 8, a California measure against gay marriage, with Mozilla’s explicit culture of inclusiveness. That inclusiveness is central to the world-spanning organization’s breadth, and Eich told CNET in an interview that it protected his own views, too.

But his argument didn’t persuade critics, and Mozilla management — accustomed to taking the moral high ground — had to defend itself from boycotts and outrage.

Eich tried to lay these concerns to rest, addressing them in a blog post on his personal site in which he sets forth his views and commitment on Inclusiveness at Mozilla.

 ….I ask for your ongoing help to make Mozilla a place of equality and welcome for all. Here are my commitments, and here’s what you can expect:

  • Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building.
  • Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn’t make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.
  • My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.
  • My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. More on this last item below.

Despite these efforts, the Mozilla CEO ultimately decided to resign due to the on-going controversy concerning his contribution to a group supporting California’s anti-gay Proposition 8.  This followed the resignations of three Mozilla board members who had previously stepped down over Eich’s appointment.  That’s a significant amount of fallout for any organization, but especially significant for a business like Mozilla, a non-profit competing against huge competitors like Microsoft and Google.

HR problems brought down the Board and the CEO.  Organizational values, succession planning, background checks, talent selection, fit to hire and even something as basic as a background check all played a part in this drama.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the three departing directors resigned over the Eich hiring , believing that the company needed to hire someone with different qualifications, specifically someone more experienced in mobile. It’s likely that Mozilla’s approach in selecting the next CEO will look significantly different.


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A tipping point for Barista’s

Starbucks’ app to allow barista tips via your phone

It may surprise nobody when I say I’m a big fan of Starbuck’s.  I drink a lot of their coffee. I use a lot of their wi-fi. I look for their places when I am in a new city because I know it will be a pleasant oasis.  I also use their app to pay for those many cups of java, since it gets me a free drink every now and then.

They just updated the app with a new look and feel, and a new bit of employee (or “partner” in Starbuck’s vernacular) oriented functionality.  The new Starbuck’s app allows customers to add a tip for your barista  on the tab.

I thought this was a great idea for a couple of reasons. As a customer, I quite often don’t have cash in my pocket to drop in the tip jar, and so my barista gets screwed.  The tip function on the app fixes that issue for me. Right on!

As an HR and labor geek, I have read in the past that some Starbuck’s partners were disgruntled over the fact that  as Starbuck’s adopts newer methods of payment, their tips had dropped, effectively cutting their wages.  When I heard about the tipping functionality, my first thought was , “what a great move by the company to address an employee relations issue, and a wage concern!”  Right on, right?

Maybe not.  It turns out that the new tip function may not be a positive development for Starbuck’s partners after all.  According to an interesting piece in CNN Money, just because customers can tip via the app, that doesn’t necessarily mean workers will make more.

Starbucks baristas, who earn an average hourly wage of $8.80, make only about $1,300 in tips per year, according to Glassdoor. The hope is that the growing popularity of mobile payments and the introduction of digital tipping will increase tipping.  Electronic payments are easy to execute; inevitably, it feels less burdensome than parting with hard cash.  But these factors alone won’t automatically change customer behavior, not to mention that this option is only available in 64% of Starbucks stores in the U.S.

Given that Starbucks stores average 618 customers per day, according to a study by Trefis, and customer service across the chain is generally good, the yearly tip number seems inadequate. By my own estimates, a minimum gratuity of 50 cents (which is the least you can tip through the mobile app and also a reasonable amount by experience) applied to the yearly average of $1,300 per barista, implies that 2,600 customers tipped.  But even if you assume that baristas (being part-timers) only work 3 days a week, they would still encounter more than 100,000 customers a year. That means only 3% of customers bothered to tip at all, and that is a low number by any standard.  It’s worth noting that some customers probably tip higher than 50 cents, which would suggest that a fewer share of customers tip.

I saw a comment on Glassdoor  where a Starbuck’s partner speculated that collecting the money electronically, rather than via cash may actually delay their receiving money, effectively reducing his standard of living.

It seems as though this was a well intended idea, but not one that is being universally accepted by the workers.


The Spiritual Workout

Training for the Conscious Mind. And Business.

I love this idea.

Tibet: An elderly Tibetan women holding a pray...
Tibet: An elderly Tibetan women holding a prayer wheel on the Lhasa’s pilgrimage circuit of Barkhor. The Barkhor, a quadrangle of streets that surrounds the Jokhang Temple, is both the spiritual heart of the holy city and the main commercial district for Tibetans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not for everybody. Some won’t think it proper for the workplace.  Some may find some of the views, ideas or practices contrary to their own beliefs.

I love it.  The ideas set forth mesh well with my own personal mission for work:

          Be – Do – Care

From their website:

At its core, Spiritual Workout is a practice.

It’s as simple as it is dynamic, as practical as it is non-religious, as compelling as it is unique, and as thought-provoking as it is uplifting.

It’s all about using these ancient and universally spiritual concepts…

Be Compassionate • Beliefs Matter • Be Present • Choices Abound • Everything Is Energy • Have an Attitude of Gratitude • Intentions Matter • Judgments Separate Us • Listen to Inspiration • Mind and Body Are Connected • Take Responsibility • The Law of Attraction Is Always On • We Are All Connected • We Are Here for a Reason • We Belong to the Planet, Not the Planet to Us

…as a means to grow, as a means to solve, heal, and move through – once and for all – the issues and challenges and problems of everyday life and living that have a tendency to drag us down.

When we practice (and practice and practice) filtering our issues through these concepts, everything changes.

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One thing no one else will mention regarding the Northwestern Football “Union” #NLRB


The game isn’t over until someone sings (PC #HR type modification)

ESPN pods
ESPN pods (Photo credit: A*A*R*O*N)

Fellow #HRpuckhead John Jorgensen shared one of his wry witticisms on Facebook yesterday on the heels of the NLRB ruling that student athletes at Northwestern University were employees, and entitled to a vote to determine if they should be represented by a union for purposes of collective bargaining.

“I just love listening to sportscasters discuss labor law as if they know what they are talking about.”

John’s observation aside, there was some decent reporting and analysis out there, including this as reported by ESPN:

In a potentially game-changing moment for college athletics, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players’ time commitment to their sport and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field as reasons for granting them union rights.

Ohr wrote in his ruling that the players “fall squarely within the [National Labor Relations] Act’s broad definition of ’employee’ when one considers the common law definition of ’employee.'”

Ohr ruled that the players can hold a vote on whether they want to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association, which brought the case to the NLRB along with former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter and the United Steelworkers union.

This release from Indiana University was also pretty good. They discuss the following issues:

A potential game changer for college athletics model
If upheld, decision could raise Title IX questions

Here’s a quick summary of the salient points

  • Football players weren’t viewed as being primarily student due to the fact they receive compensation and their coaches exercise a high degree of control over schedules.
  • The ruling only applies to students at private schools. Employees of state funded universities aren’t covered under the National Labor Relations Act.
  • Questions remain open if the facts applied to the analysis applied to football players would apply to all other student athletes under Title IX, as explained by Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, the Willard and Margaret Carr Professor of Labor and Employment Law at the IU Maurer School of Law.

If this decision is upheld and college football players at private universities begin to organize, Dau-Schmidt added, there is a good question of how this system would work consistently with the Title IX requirement of equal athletic opportunities for women.

“Where there is a positive cash flow in college athletics, it’s usually associated with men’s football and basketball, not other sports. At the bigger schools, men’s football and basketball revenue supports the other athletic programs. Would Title IX mean that the football players have to negotiate benefits for all athletes and not just themselves? That would make for a very curious system of collective bargaining.

What no one has mentioned so far is this.  So far, all the players have done is win a ruling that they are entitled to vote to decide whether or not they want to be represented by a union.  Setting aside all other likely challenges, the NLRB still has to hold the election, and a majority of players will have to vote in favor of the union in order for them to win the right to bargain for a collective bargaining agreement.  And then they have to negotiate and agree to a collective bargaining agreement.

Initial collective bargaining agreements are notoriously difficult to obtain.  Many times, workers vote for a union and then never obtain a collective bargaining agreement.  In this situation, many of the current student athletes will have graduated and moved on into the real world by the time any contract is reached.  I know of one current situation where a Teamsters local has been bargaining for more than two years to get a first contract in a distribution warehouse. Just imagine how complex the negotiations for student athletes will be compared to that.

This story has a long way to go before we see how much of a game changer it actually will be.

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