Tag Archives: Recreation

Why beer can’t be a perk at work

Free beer benefit becomes cause of action 


Beer (Photo credit: RaeAllen)

Some dudes just can’t get enough, and sometimes you just cant make some people happy no matter what. Not even by giving them “free” beer at work apparently.

It’s no wonder so many HR people appear to be crazy. 

According to the website LAW360, a class action suit was file by California brewery workers against  Anheuser-Busch LLC on Friday, accusing AB of wage theft.  The charge says that the brwer failed to pay them for properly for overtime, alleging that payment in free beer and other perks were unfairly excluded in pay-rate calculations, lowering the overtime payment.

You can see the complaint here.

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On the road again

Business Travel Panama
Image by thinkpanama via Flickr


Call me crazy if you want, (looking at you, Stelzner) but I miss business travel.    In fact, I have been humming this tune to myself recently.

On the road again –
Just can’t wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making music with my friends

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again

Goin’ places that I’ve never been.
Seein’ things that I may never see again

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again –

Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends.
Insisting that the world keep turning our way

I’m headed to Chicago to attend the 2011 Illinois HR Conference and Exposition, where a bunch of my friends are the keynote speakers, including Ryan Estis, Joe Gerstandt/Jason Lauritsen and China Gorman.   Another bunch of good friends are doing other things, including  several concurrent sessions.   I’ll be presenting as well.

I may not exactly making music, but there will almost certainly be shenanigans with my HR friends.  I can’t wait!


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A love letter to Summer Camp

Summer Camp Personalities
Image by Transguyjay via Flickr

 I wanna be at People Report Summer Camp!

Dear powers that be,

I’m really mad that you didn’t let me make it to People Report Summer Camp this year.  It’s my favorite conference event of the year, and all my friends are there, and I am not.  And that sucks!   

All the other kidz got to have funnnn last night at the talent night, and I have practiced and practiced my William Shatner tribute song, and I didn’t get to do it.  Well, except in front of the bathroom mirror last night)   That sucks too! 

William Shatner speaking at the 2005 STICCON (...
Image via Wikipedia


Oooooo, powers that be, i am so pissed mad at you right now!  You better just watch out when I get back there next year!

Serious summer camp talk

 Ok, maybe I can’t really do a blog post that looks like a letter home written by a homesick kid stuck at a boring summer camp.  I can do a blog post written by a homesick middle-aged dude who really, really wanted to be at People Report Summer Camp this week.   I couldn’t make it for personal reasons, but I am sticking close to the #PRSCamp twitter feed and living large vicariously through you all.  Keep having a good time!

I was supposed to take part on a couple of panels.  I know Joni and her crew have found excellent replacements, so Godspeed and good luck to whoever you are, for covering my butt on last-minute notice. Greatly appreciated!

I thought I would quickly share some of the things I might have mentioned on those panels, for those of you who may care.

Social media panel:

  • You should be using social media now.   It is no longer a matter of  if you should be doing so.  You must be doing so in business today.
  • Do not worry about developing restrictive controlling policies.   Worry much more about providing guidelines for your employees to follow that encourage them to be advocates, but guide them in doing so properly.
  • When you are ready, open up internal access to these platforms.  Stop blocking.

Labor issues and concerns:

  • Government agencies are active in enforcement against employers.   One of their first investigative information requests will be for your handbook.   They are looking at things like non-solicitation policies, and restrictive language.   Get your handbook reviewed and sanitized for compliance now, especially for NLRA violations.
  • Labor union and labor organizations are increasingly active, and engaging in dialogue with consumers on a massive number of  issues.  Pay attention to this development, and try to make sure you have someone in your corporate offices doing research on this stuff.
  • Union organizing activity seems to be getting ready to increase.  The numbers don’t reflect it, but web chatter seems to say something different.
  • Your primary focus should still be in running the best organization possible, including the way you treat your employees. 

Hvae a happy summer camp!  I will be there in spirit.  And to all my friends, big warm sloppy hugs….with a nod to William Tincup.  See some of you in Vegas and some other in Orlando soon! 

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Finding the wildlife at a Summer Camp for Social Media and HR Rock Stars

Arriving at summer camp
Image by Peter Blanchard via Flickr

The HR Conference Rock Star Lifestyle

Two conferences down last week, more to come in the days and weeks ahead.   The HR conference tour-  It’s a whirlwhind rockstar life if you can afford to pay for it!  (or you have sponsors and friends who are willing to assist you). 

I am lucky to have both, which means I don’t have to lay out my own cold hard cash for most of the events I attend.   There are a few exceptions – shows where I am more than willing to pay my own way, like HREvolution held last week in Atlanta.   I paid my own way to that event because it is a fantastic learning and networking opportunity for HR professionals.  

There is another event very similar in nature to HR Evolution coming up in June.  This one is a little more formal, and has a bias towards discussing business and HR related issues in the service sectors like restaurants, and some others.  You shouldn’t let this get in the way of attending.   

The People Report Summer Camp Workforce Symposium

  I am talking about the People Report Summer Camp Workforce Symposium, put on by Joni Doolin and her ace staff at People Report.   I am not exaggerating when I say this was the best conference I attended in all of 2010, including SHRM National.   It is fun, fast-paced, informal, (how many conferences encourage you to wear shorts?) and they stretch your brain.   I highly recommend it for any HR practitioner.    I will be attending as well as presenting this year.

Here is a link to some of my Summer Camp memories for 2010.   Below, you can check out what you can expect to see at Summer Camp in 2011.

The People Report Workforce Symposium is designed for service sector HR leaders and operators, who recognize that the workforce challenges that we face today are tougher than ever. This truly unique conference is about what you need to know and to be doing NOW, to position yourself and your brand for success in a post-recession “new normal” workplace and marketplace. The best of People Report and Black Box Intelligence research, a phenomenal line-up of speakers and experts, social media, smart workforce technology, supercharged networking, and a whole lot of fun – you don’t want to miss our second annual Summer Camp.
This year we double the fun and the learning, and have added Digital Brand Camp, a partnership with DigitalCoCo  to create a truly unique opportunity for HR & Marketers.  It’s time to tear down the silos, and figure out how to work together to build great cultures, brands and companies.  Social media has blurred the boundaries between employer and consumer brands forever, and it has never been more important for us to find ways to build our talent communities and our base of raving customers into one seamless spectacular brand.  Digital Brand Camp offers hot off the web research, social media analytics, digital brand education, experiences and solutions, along with access to the hospitality leaders and trailblazers.
Average speaker Klout Score: 47 
2010 Attendees Who Promised to Return this Year: 98%
Did we mention the Talent Competition & the Summer Camp Band?
Bring your team and your HR and Marketing partners to Dallas, June 7 – 10th, for these content, insight and fun packed events.  $199.00 for Summer Camp, $100.00 Digital Brand Camp,$299.00 for both.  Special Conference Hotel Rate $125.00 
Register Now and We’ll See You There! 

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What’s wrong with working like a dog anyway?

A dog with a rawhide chew toy.
Image via Wikipedia

Great HR means letting go

My buddy Frank Roche wrote a piece on the Know HR blog the other day called  Sometimes Great HR means letting go and unleashing creativity.

He couldn’t be more right if he tried!

The article is about how the employees at IFRACTAL spontaneously decided to create a tagging wall in the office.   Cheap and fun, inspiring and brilliant!  Who wouldn’t want to work at a place like that?

Great HR means unleashing creativity

When I was the HR Director at Velocity Media, we ran what we termed a “Dog friendly work environment”.    We allowed dogs in the office,  which had about 20 employees.  Some days, there were as many as 6 dogs.  Chew toys littered the place.  Bowls for pet food and water were sometimes a tripping hazard.   People rarely left food on their desk, because it probably wouldn’t be there when you got back.

When we ran employment ads,  we mentioned that there would be dogs in the work place.   It was not unusual for an applicant to sit through an interview with a dog in their lap, or a couple curled around their ankles.   The dogs became part of the screening process.  They were also part of the office culture,  often starting impromptu games of fetch, or begging for “employee walk breaks”.

No one was harmed in this experiment.   Our employees enjoyed it a lot.

I personally miss working in that free wheeling small business work environment a lot.

What does your company do to “let the dogs out”,  or let go and really unleash your HR creativity?     I’d love to hear other brilliant ideas in the comments, and so would Merry and Cairo!

From Posterous Photos
From Posterous Photos

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Yes son, that IS your father’s drug test!

Drug Testing (The Office)
Image via Wikipedia

We need you to pee in this cup, please

Drug testing employees is not something I think about very often.   It  is  not something I like to think about that much either.  My history with the topic goes back to the dark ages of the 1980’s, a time when you could do drug testing without being ruled by NIDA standards, legislative initiatives,  and where you really didn’t worry overly much about things like “chain of custody“.   Hell,you didn’t have to.

Here is how loose things were back  in those days.

I was doing seasonal recruiting for a window company located in Charlotte, MI. We needed to hire nearly 200 summer employees.   We scheduled 15 minute sessions, which included an interview, and ended with me collecting a urine sample to send to the lab for those people I thought I might hire.  No contingent, pre-employment offers, or background checks, folks.  This was the wild wild west of HR — essentially churn and burn  recruiting of live bodies to fill slots.   If they walked, talked, weren’t drunk, and could say the owner’s name, they were hired, as long as they didn’t #FAIL the drug test.

The drug testing process went like this.   I kept a bunch of blank white sticky labels on my desk, a big stack of polystyrene cups, and a cardboard box full of small glass bottles, and a stack of release forms.   I also kept a large roll of paper towels.  After my very cursory interview questions, and if they made the cut, I would present the employee with their kit of materials, and send them in to produce the required goods.   My instructions went something like this:

  1. I need a urine specimen for a drug test that you have to take before I can hire you.
  2. Bathrooms are over there, or down the hall around the corner.
  3. Here is a cup to catch the specimen.
  4. Here is a bottle.  Please pour your specimen in the bottle, and then seal it shut, TIGHTLY.  This is very important!
  5. Mark the label with your name, and social security number.
  6. Use the towel to wipe the bottle dry, put the label on the  bottle, and bring it back to me.
  7. And for God’s sake, don’t forget to wash your hands!

Most were able to accomplish these tasks to a reasonable level of satisfaction.  I would take the bottle, send them on their way, and add the specimen to the collection of piss-filled glass bottles that sat under my desk all day during these hiring cycles.    At the end of the day I would grab the box full of piss bottle, take it with me out to my car as I left the building, and drop it by our testing lab on my way home.  I never quite got used to the melodious tinkle of urine bottles jangling on the floor of my car as I made the daily 20 mile trek to the lab, which was on my way home.

At the end of the drive, I would shove the bottles into a sort of drop box at the lab,which was closed, and head for home, happy to be relieved of my pissy specimen bottles for yet another day.    Looking back, this seems so unsophisticated and dubious, it is almost unbelievable, but stupid and cheap was how we rolled in the 1980’s.  And I rolled with piss bottle in my car.

I even took some on holiday once.   It was a 4th of July weekend, and I was leaving early to rush home and get my family so we could drive from Lansing Michigan to Toledo Ohio for a family weekend at the grandparent’s house.   So I fly home, we load our stuff in the trunk of the car, and away we go.   We make the three hour trip, arriving after dark, and do the “oh, it’s  so good to see you” greetings.  Then I send my two sons out to the car to carry in suitcases, and stuff from the trunk.  After a couple of trips, my then 8 year old son Eric comes tripping in the house carrying a box, jangling with an oddly melodious and unpleasantly familiar tinkle.

“What do you want me to do with these bottles, Dad?”   His mother saying, “I hope that’s not what I think  it is?”

In my haste to get the family collected on the road, I had failed to make my nightly lab stop, and 27 bottles of urine had come along to Ohio on our family weekend.   OMFG!

I am happy to report they all survived the family BBQ and pool party with no mishaps, and were delivered to their proper home at the lab the following week.

More thoughts on recent developments in the world of drugs and employment tomorrow, including unions and pot, i-Dosers, and so-called “legal marijuana”.

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Hoe gaat het? #TRUAmsterdam

The Singel in Amsterdam, the Netherlands viewe...
Image via Wikipedia

When you can’t get to Amsterdam, send ’em a video, yo!

I had a paying project come up for this week that prevented me from attending the first #TRUAmsterdam event.  Having to say that hurts, dudes.  Amsterdam is my favorite city in the whole world, and it is difficult to miss an event like #TRU when it is held in a such a great spot.

But I couldn’t make, so here is my next best thing:  A video greeting, and an invitation to attendees at #TRU that blog to be a featured guest on HRH.

Bill Boorman is my Euro-based agent for  this feature, so contact him in Amsterdam, or when he is back home in London, or contact me directly if you want to know more!

Have fun!

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My People Report Summer Camp Adventure – Part 2

Perfect mix of conference and unconference

I attended a unique conference last week.  It was called People Report Summer Camp, and it was aimed primarily at human resources practitioners in the restaurant industry.  The conference was put on by Joni Doolin and the wonderful staff at People Report.

If you are not familiar with People Report,  the company is a consortium of companies connected to the restaurant industry that includes hundreds of brands and represents millions of employees.  According to their website, People Report is a savvy and trusted research partner, People Report has evolved throughout a period of increasingly competitive business cycles to provide the information, insight and best practices that members need to grow and thrive.

I don’t work in the restaurant industry.  I haven’t since I was a short order cook in college.  I didn’t realize until it was pointed out at Summer Camp that the restaurant industry is the second largest employment sector in the United States.    That was just one of many things that I learned at Summer Camp.  Here are some of the things I did manage to learn:

People Report throws a great party!  Check this out for their idea of fun!  We also did a baseball games, and spent a fair amount of time networking in the bars.

When Joni invited me to speak,  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I am thrilled that my expectations were vastly exceeded by this event.   People Report knows how to throw a party, but even more importantly, they know how to throw a great conference.  They offered a dazzling array of speakers.     Here are some of my favorites and a brief review of their thoughts.

Thanks for inviting me, Joni.  This was a great event!

Speakers I liked

Chester Elton – best-selling business author, The Carrot Principle  is great presenter, offers stirring thoughts, and is all about the motivation.  I have seen him a hundred times, and he still made me stand up and cheer.
Cali Ressler – creator of R.O.W.E. + author, Why Work Sucks + How to Fix it offer insights on ROWE.  I enjoyed the presentation.  She had a great slide deck.  I love the ROWE concept. It is how I wish I could work.   I didn’t enjoy the role plays simulating employee discussion as part of the presentation.
Joni Doolin – CEO & Founder, People Report was reputedly awesome.  Unfortunately, I had to skip out for an airplane flight before she rapped up the conference.
Amanda Hite – CEO Talent Revolution, expert in social media recruitment and branding was on just before Joni.  See above, dammit!
Craig Fisher – Founding Partner, A-List Solutions was an awesome conference partner, and gave his usual astute presentation.
Ian Vaughn – COO, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers  talked baseball, and played “Sweet Home Alabama” with his band.  Who wouldn’t love a COO/ speaker who literally rocks the house?
Jenny DeVaughn – Chief Enthusiast Officer, Bernard Hodes; owner Social Precision (Linkedin expert) I was her conference driver.  She provides lunch as part of the benefit package.
Shyam Patel – COO People Report/Black Box Intelligence gave a terrific demonstration on the capabilities of the new People Report 2.0 tools.  He also defined the differences between geeks, nerds, and dorks.  I loved it, and I don’t like working with statistics and analytics that much.
Paul Barron – publisher, producer, blogger, social media forecaster is from Florida, and gave a wonderful presentation on Tribes.  Smart dude. I want to know him better.
Kat Cole – VP Hooters of America, MBA student is an unexpected delight, sharing her life story of overcoming the odds to achieve unprecedented success and accomplishment.   My favorite line: “No Boundaries, no limits”.  She was awesome.

One Tribe at People Report Conference from Paul Barron on Vimeo.

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Networking: It’s a small world after all

Disney - Small World Taj Mahal
Image by Express Monorail via Flickr

Relationships matter, even those you don’t know about

You never know who you know that knows someone you might know!

While I know it to be true,  I m still always surprised at what a small world we actually live in, especially with the advent of social media.

Last Friday, my wife Kyle called and left me a voice mail while I was in a meeting.  It went something like, “I have good news to share, and a funny story to tell you, but since you weren’t there now, I will tell you when you get home.”  For those of you who don’t know Kyle, this is typical of her – in that she would make me wait in anticipation to hear both good news AND a funny story.

I am going to throw my wife a free plug here.  It probably wouldn’t do me much good to charge her for ad space or promotional fees.   Anyway, my very capable partner Kyle Sipple is a home-based freelance web worker, specializing in helping companies update their web presence. She is especially good with micro-sites, and managing out-sourced contractors working on web projects.  You can see her LinkedIn profile here.

The good news is that she had been on an interview and Friday, and it looks like she picked up a project assignment from that 1.5 hour interview.  The funny story, about an hour into the interview, the  interviewer for Kyle’s prospective project assignment suddenly asks her, out of the blue, “Hey, are you married to Michael VanDervort?”   After sputtering a bit, Kyle admitted that she was, and asked the guy how he knew that.   It turns out that he had been looking at her LinkedIn page, and upon seeing my name there, realized that Kyle and I were husband and wife.  I can’t disclose the name of the fan of  Human Race Horses who did this, since to do so would reveal information on their project, but if you read this, you know who you are!

She found this very amusing, but she isn’t crazy about the idea that possibly she is getting this assignment because of this blog.  Don’t worry honey, I know for a fact it is your business acumen and professional skills that get you all of your work!

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