Thursday, January 31, 2013

Innovation nation: how to inspire innovators in the office
Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

"“Innovate or die” has long been the rule for business – touted by Bill Gates among other tech leaders. So what lessons can you learn from some of the top innovating companies?
Google’s famous 20% rule allows workers to spend a day a week working on a project that’s close to their heart, rather than something directed from above. It’s a policy that’s seen the development of some of Google’s most popular features including Gmail and Google Calendar.

“Google proved that you could systematize innovation to create an environment where are asking why things are the way they are, and wondering if they can be done in a different way — where you look outside your own field for an idea,” Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said.

So how can this apply to smaller companies, which may not have the . Even offering a day a month, or group innovation projects is a start. Also key is the acceptance of a certain amount of waste. Every great idea goes through a period of challenge and failure, and for every great idea you may have to discard a dozen bad ones.

But where do these ideas come from? For 3M it’s about looking for problems that people haven’t even acknowledged yet. Their line of Post-It linked pens came from observing students switching between highlighting notes and marking pages. The gift wrap dispenser, which straps to the users hand and dispenses individual strips of tape, was a brainwave from watching wrappers pre-prepare strips of tape. It’s about encouraging staff to consider common problems their clients face, and to look for solutions rather than accepting that that’s how it’s always been done, and always will be done.

3M also offers a career ladder for scientists that mimics that of managers, ensuring that innovation and results are rewarded and recognized.

Apple has long been held as one of the leading tech innovation – but its successes stem from culture, not from spending.

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about the money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it,” Apple founder Steve Jobs said.

A major point of difference is the idea of encouraging wrong answers. Instead of focusing on finding the right answer and moving on, Apple employees are encouraged to keep looking at problems from different angles looking for opportunities to improve old products or develop new ones.

Finally, Apple rewards great innovation with great rewards – often in bonuses and other forms of compensation. So what’s a money-short company to do when it wants to recognize great work? Give what you can, and what employees want. Whether it’s extra vacation days for specific achievements, or gradually improving titles talk to staff about how they’d like to be recognized and work to make that happen."

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How to Create a Mental-Health-Friendly Workplace
Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

"“Mental illness does not discriminate,” says Bob Carolla, director of media relations at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “It can strike anyone at any time.”

President John Quincy Adams and author Iris Chang (“The Rape of Nanking” and “The Chinese in America”) battled depression. Media giant Ted Turner and broadcaster Jane Pauley have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

There are about 57.7 million adults experience a mental health disorder in a given year and one in 17 lives with a serious mental illness, according to NAMI. And the cost of untreated mental illness in lost productivity, accidents, and high absenteeism and turnover to corporate America is steep—at least $105 billion in lost productivity annually, reports  U.S.A. Today on research by Harvard University Medical School.
  • More than 200 million workdays are lost each year because of mental disorders (Center for Prevention and Health Services’ An Employer’s Guide to Behavior Health Services). Those with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays, plus experience 11.5 days of reduced productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Employees who have depression—the most common mental disorder in the workplace, affecting up to 6 million men and 12 million women in the United States annually—cost companies $44 billion per year in lost productivity (The Journal of the American Medical Association).
  • Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from depression, or about 10 percent of the population, according to National Institute for Mental Health.
  • Absence, disability and lost productivity related to mental disorders cost employers more than four times the cost of employee medical treatment (Partnership for Workplace Mental Health’s A Mentally Healthy Workforce—It’s Good for Business)
  • More than 90 percent of employees agree that their mental health and personal problems spill over into their professional lives and have a direct impact on their job performance. But 75 percent of employees who seek care for mental-health problems see substantial improvement in work performance after treatment (Mental Health America).
Moreover, “‘Parity’ with other illnesses generally cost businesses less than $1.35 per employee per month,” notes Carolla, who has lived with bipolar disorder for the past 20 years.

Which Racial Groups Are Most Affected?

While mental-health disorders impact everyone, some racial groups face more stigmatism than whites, explains Carolla. This can serve as a barrier to seeking treatment. Other underrepresented groups experience greater trauma and/or lack of access to quality care.
  • The number of diagnosed cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for both veterans and active-duty servicemembers jumped 757 percent from 2003 to 2009, increasing from 1,632 to 14,000 (The Pentagon).
  • American Indian/Alaska Natives have a higher rate of traumatic exposure, with a 22 percent rate of PTSD, versus 8 percent for the general U.S. population (U.S. Surgeon General)
  • One-third of all Americans with a mental-health problem get care, and the percentage of Blacks receiving care because of lower incomes and other factors is one-half that of whites. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, one study found nearly 60 percent of older Black adults were not receiving needed services. “African Americans are also less likely to receive accurate diagnoses,” adds Carolla.
  • Suicide among Black male tweens increased dramatically from 1980 to 1995. The rate of suicide among all children ages 10 to 14 increased 120 percent during that period, but the suicide rate for Black males in that same age group increased 233 percent (U.S. Surgeon General)
  • In a survey of students at more than 150 high schools nationwide, Latino youth were significantly more likely (10.7 percent) than white students (6.3 percent) to report a suicide attempt. Latinas were more than twice as likely (14.9 percent) as Latino males (7.2 percent) to have reported a suicide attempt (USSG)
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, and LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (The Trevor Project)
  • According to a report by GLSEN, “Ongoing physical and verbal abuse isolate [LGBT] students from their peers, often leading to depression, low self-esteem and sometimes even suicide. One study showed that LGBT youth who experience harassment are 400 percent more likely than LGBT youth who do not to make serious suicide attempts.”
To educate the public about LGBT youth suicide prevention, GLSEN released a video featuring Sirdeaner Walker. Her 11-year-old son, who was being relentlessly bullied at school, committed suicide last year. Listen to her speak at the fifth annual GLSEN Respect Awards:

How Can Employers Help?

1. Communicate mental healthcare options: Employee-assistance programs (EAPs) can provide assessment and short-term counseling and make referrals for individuals at risk of mental disorders or facing trauma, such as divorce or the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, too few employees take advantage of this benefit, so it’s important to “promote it and remind people of the support that’s available,” advises Carolla.

At Eli Lilly and Co., the company’s EAP is promoted on the corporate intranet and can “be used 24/7 even if someone feels stressed or has job burnout,” says Charlie McAtee, a communications consultant at Lilly. “Our employees or dependents can get up to three short-term counseling sessions at no cost.”

Employers that provide EAPs for mental health report reduced medical, disability and workers’-compensation claims as well as savings through improved performance, says Carolla. The return on investment in an EAP runs about $3 in savings for every $1 invested, reports Managed Health Network research.

2. Provide support: Daily stress can take a toll on an individual’s health, but support groups may help. “There’s been research that shows some people, not all, have better outcomes when facing depression when they have a support network of people they can lean on,” says McAtee. In March, Lilly re-launched Support Partners Program, an online resource (available in English and Spanish) for people with depression and those who care for them to help: recognize the signs/symptoms, find a doctor, create a support-partner relationship and keep track of progress.

Corporate-sponsored resource groups also offer both support and help to educate all employees about mental health. At Bank of America, employees started a military-support affinity group; at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a special-needs caregivers networking circle is available.  

3. Build awareness: The stigma associated with “emotional instability” prevents many people from seeking support or treatment. ButERG leaders can start a dialogue by collaborating with mental-health organizations such as NAMI and holding awareness events that dispel myths and allow speakers to share inspirational stories. “Use opportunities like Mental Health Awareness Month in May and Mental Illness Awareness week in October to encourage workers to take care of themselves and each other,” says Carolla.

4. Train managers: In addition to making sure supervisors know about mental-healthcare options, mental-health compliance issues must be integrated into diversity-training programs. Otherwise, companies risk liability. In Lizotte v. Dacotah Bank, et al. (D. N.D., 2010), an assistant vice president was medically cleared to return to work after recovering from a mental disorder. But upon his return, he was let go and subsequently sued. The court found for the plaintiff, ruling that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employees from being discharged “due to accumulated myths, fears and stereotypes.”

5. Make accommodations: These can include flexible or adjustable work hours, a paced workload, modified job responsibility and “frequent guidance and feedback about job performance,” suggests Carolla. IBM has created a remarkable flexible work environment that helps all employees and is especially beneficial to parents, people with eldercare issues and people with disabilities.

6. Recognize mental-health ambassadors: Volunteers who share their personal stories must be encouraged and commended. Eli Lilly started a Welcome Back Awards program in 1998 to recognize the achievements of people nationwide who are fighting against depression and the associated stigma. Each year, a panel of experts selects honorees in several categories who are then each awarded from $10,000 to $15,000 to share with a nonprofit of their choice.

“They’re the unsung heroes,” says McAtee. “It’s a small way to say ‘thank you’ to the people on the front lines making a difference.”

Corporate Awareness Building: A Case Study

Angela Oakes learned she had major depression 15 years ago and has since been diagnosed with borderline personality, bipolar and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, likely resulting from the sexual trauma she suffered at age 6. After a divorce and losing custody of her two sons, Oakes battled several downwardly spiraling years before making a slow and remarkable recovery

Today, not only does the 42-year-old woman stick to a structured routine of exercise, sleep and a healthy diet, but Oakes has found her calling in the mental-health movement: serving as an ambassador and sharing her inspirational story with organizations throughout Charlotte, N.C.

In honor of National Mental Health Awareness month in May, Oakes, an administrative assistant at Wells Fargo & Co., collaborated with the bank’s diversity leaders to orchestrate two companywide mental-health presentations, including a film on suicide prevention.

After Oakes’ recent presentation, she opened the floor to questions and “people were still talking 30 minutes later,” she says. “It’s really hard to explain that darkness to somebody … but you can’t be afraid to reach out and talk about it.”

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When Your Values Clash With Your Company's
by Charalambos Vlachoutsicos
Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

"Authenticity is rightly praised as a virtue. Like all virtues, however, it can get you into trouble, especially if your authentic expression of your values sets you on a collision path with the culture of your workplace. 

In an ideal world, of course, you wouldn't be working in a job that clashed with your values, but leaving a job out of principle is a rare luxury that you can seldom afford. Instead, you have to find a way to bridge the gaps you find between your values and the culture you work in.

This may well involve a certain amount of what one could politely call creativity and it may even feel manipulative. But the truth is that effective management invariably involves a certain amount of manipulation. You do not always get your way by being direct. As the Italian writer Daniele Varè once put it: "Diplomacy is the art of letting other people have your way."

To illustrate, let me once more share a story from my own experience. As a student, I always worked during summer breaks. One company I worked in while studying for an MBA at Harvard was an electric appliance wholesaler managed by its founder, Mr. Vito Porto, autocratically and whimsically. Whenever an employee dared to have even a slightly different opinion to Mr. Porto's, his standard reply was: "I have spoken" and that was the end of the matter.

The one and only criterion he applied when rewarding salesmen was sales volume. Consequently, making a sale at any cost was deeply embedded in the company's culture, with the inevitable result that a certain amount of mis-selling had become standard practice. Mr Porto was even quite explicit about it — he would constantly repeat this mantra: "Sales Now No Matter How." 

As a supposedly "smart MBA kid" I was appointed by Mr. Porto as the sales supervisor of the highly competitive and tough Bronx district. Now, you must understand that the sales culture at Mr. Porto's company did not sit easily with me as fairness has always been the cornerstone of my value system. So although I was selling aggressively, I was always emphasizing "honest" sales and not sales obtained under false pretenses. Telling a customer that our vacuum cleaner was the "fastest in the market" when it was not was a lie that I actively discouraged, even if it cost us a sale or two. 

Inevitably, the salesmen ignored my urging and continued expanding on the completely fictional advantages of our products. Eventually, I decided to force the issue and called a meeting at which explicitly forbade them from lying to our customers on the grounds that the lies would inevitably backfire and do more harm than good. You could have cut the tension with a knife. People were deeply conflicted about the issue. On the one hand they wanted their commissions and they knew what Mr. Porto wanted. On the other hand, they were afraid that their fairytales would catch up with them. And in many cases, they shared my ethical reservations. 

I had to lance the boil. I knew that ignoring my values was not a solution I could live with. Furthermore, it would certainly backfire. At some point, I seriously considered leaving the company. This, however, felt like giving in and did not sit well with me either.

Finally, after a great deal of thought and preparation I decided to raise the issue with Mr. Porto himself. I asked for a meeting to discuss what I described as a "serious problem". At the meeting I told him a baldfaced lie. One of our biggest customers, I said, had called me to protest that he had been lied to by one of our salesmen about the features of one of our products. In light of this, I continued, my advice to Mr. Porto was that he needed to revisit his motto. "Sales Now No Matter How" should be "slightly amended", as I put it, by simply adding the word "honest" at the beginning: "Honest Sales Now No Matter How." 

I told him that I was afraid that the company, by losing its greatest asset, the trust of its customers, risked a collapse in sales unless strict orders were given to salesmen not to lie to customers. I sensed that I had managed to scare him. He looked at me straight in the eye and replied: "OK, I will do this. And thank you. You are just here for the summer and yet you cared enough for my company to warn me."

What have I learned about my values from this story? The big takeaway was that some of my values are more important to me than others. In order to ensure that my colleagues and I were fair to our customers — a focal value for me I was prepared to violate a less important value for me, namely my respect for the truth, and consciously deceive my boss. It was a major insight for me at the time and it showed me that balancing the tensions between adhering to one's values and being effective may well demand uncomfortable compromises.

Bottom line: It's easy enough to be an authentic person. Being an authentic manager is a different challenge entirely, because a manager, unlike the individual, needs to be effective and therefore flexible."

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‘News Lady’: the Carole Simpson Story 
by Grace Austin

Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

"Still as feisty at 71 years old as she was during her ABC News heyday, Carole Simpson is truly a pioneer in the field of broadcast journalism. Current journalists like Robin Roberts have acknowledged Simpson as their forbearer and role model, an outspoken African American female in a business that was long a boys’ club.

“I suffered a lot of racial slurs and sexual discrimination, like being fondled and terrible things said to me. I worked in a hostile work environment and I had to ‘grin and bear it,’” says Simpson. “And then I found my voice; I was tired of it. I wondered when I would just be Carole, Carole Simpson, not a female or a black person, and it never happened. Because of that, I took it upon myself to be a leader against that, and I worked hard to get women and African Americans into leadership positions.”

From the beginning, Simpson has not been afraid to be different. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Simpson was singled out for her good grades, attending a predominately white high school where she excelled in academics and extracurricular activities. It was there that she joined her high school paper and realized she wanted to be a reporter.

When Simpson graduated, there were few careers and fields for an educated black woman. Simpson was encouraged by her high school guidance counselor to become an English teacher instead, citing the lack of female black reporters. Even her parents expected she would become a teacher.

“My parents wanted to be a school teacher, because they thought that would be safe,” says Simpson. “They thought that wasn’t a job for a ‘negro’ girl; that was a white man’s job. I just wanted to do something different.”

Simpson’s determination carried to her studies; she excelled at the University of Michigan, where she honed her craft at the school paper. She was the only African American to graduate in her class.

Simpson was the only graduate that couldn’t find a job—something she blames on discrimination. She later took a job at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a frightening experience for a young black woman in the tumultuous South of the early ’60s. At Tuskegee Simpson experienced her first sexual harassment, personal experiences with the segregated South, and issues with “colorism,” or prejudice because of skin tone.

While initially interested in print journalism, a chance class at the University of Iowa changed her mind, turning her on to radio.

Simpson began her career at WCFL in her hometown of Chicago, later moving to television at Chicago’s WMAQ. At WCFL and WMAQ Simpson encountered notable racism and sexism, experiencing sabotage from co-workers intent on her failure. In the worst cases, they would steal her tapes or tell her the wrong address for an interview. Others targeted her for having a young child while working full-time, accusing her of being a bad mother.
Despite these obstacles, Simpson made a name for herself. She does acknowledge, though, that much of her success was due to changing times and the need for the token woman or African American. Much of it, too, was due to her talent, hard work, and perseverance.

“The handicaps that I had, of being black and female, were suddenly advantages [in the ’60s]. People were anxious to hire me, because the civil rights movement was happening, and they needed black reporters. I came along at the right time, at the right place, and ended up getting hired as a news reporter,” says Simpson.

During her time in Chicago, Simpson interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reported on the Richard Speck trial, and the riotous 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention.

Simpson gradually made a name for herself in her hometown, leading to a job with the national network. Simpson joined NBC News in 1974, becoming the first African American woman to anchor a major network newscast. She later joined ABC News, serving as the anchor of the Sunday edition of World News Tonight from 1988 to 2003.

While at NBC and ABC Simpson still faced discrimination, although more subtly. It was often revealed in not receiving the “beats” she wanted. Instead of the hard-hitting political news she wanted to cover, Simpson was given, as many women were (and still are) undemanding positions that were rarely newsworthy. Her anger at the insolence and pattern of discrimination from her superiors led her to band together with fellow female employees (and later, African American employees).

They compiled data and eventually presented it to the corporate executives that were mostly unaware of such treatment. In some ways, her anti-discrimination campaign and subsequent demands, like a pay equity study from a third party and joint committee meetings, were precursors to the corporate diversity so familiar today.

Speaking up also had its consequences—it gave Simpson a reputation. Amongst her black colleagues, she was discriminated often for her light complexion, while with management and executives she was viewed as “a troublemaker, a loose cannon,” and even worse, “uppity.”

“I got to the point where I was like, ‘No!’ I was a thorn in the side of ABC News up until I left. I was always complaining about something,” recalls Simpson. “I knew the games they were playing, and I would call them on it. They would try to ignore me, but I would always say, ‘I’m qualified to do this.’ I would have to be treated like the rest of the anchors.”

Simpson’s career high, as she likes to say, was moderating the second presidential debate of then-incumbent George Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992. She was the first woman and minority moderator. This, like many of her successes, was due to an outcry for a woman or minority moderator, a position that had long gone to the older, white anchors like Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings, certainly not to the weekend anchor of the evening news, and certainly not to a black woman.

“It was the highlight of my career. I think every journalist feels that [way], to do a presidential debate. To know that I was going to be the first woman and first minority to have this opportunity, I felt an incredible weight to represent women and the black community,” says Simpson. “That debate was seen by 90 million people all around the world.”
But seemingly in the early 2000s, Simpson was ousted from her longtime employer, ABC. The changes to ABC News that began in the mid-’90s, her reputation within the company, and her advancing age slowly pushed her out of the position she had held for decades.
She reacts bitterly to the firing in her memoir, News Lady: “I was no longer good enough to “go live.” Since when? A person who has spent her life in front of cameras, microphones, and live audiences, is all of sudden no longer capable?”

Despite this seemingly insurmountable setback, Simpson has gone on to a second career in the field of higher education. She continues to give back to the community and causes she feels most importantly about, especially education and women’s rights. She now works as a journalism professor and Leader in Residence at Emerson College in Boston. Her tireless work with Africa, first inspired by a trip to South Africa during Apartheid, includes donating thousands of dollars to establish the Carole Simpson Leadership Institute. The Institute, founded to help female journalists around the world, has trained more than 100 women since its inception.

“Things change—I got the anchor job, we got a women vice president, they hired two female correspondents; we got a bureau chief out of it. They really began to change things. But had I not been the one to speak up… there were no other women that wanted to speak up. No one wanted to do the talking, but I was not afraid,” says Simpson. “Although I left, I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing now—teaching the journalists of tomorrow and trying to give them the passion I feel towards journalism.” "

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Grade-Appropriate Classroom Curriculum Promotes Clothing Recycling 
by Grace Austin
Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

"The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) is developing grade-appropriate educational materials in conjunction with the Education Center to promote the concept of clothing as a recyclable product. The initiative will be promoted through the outlets of The Education Center to more than 750,000 educators, 15 million students, and 20 million parents. It will run through March.

“We are extremely excited to partner with The Education Center,” says SMART President Lou Buty. “Their team has a proven track record of developing creative and highly effective materials which teachers enjoy bringing into the classroom. We look forward to developing an impactful message which not only promotes but also encourages people to recycle clothing and textiles.”

SMART is a nonprofit trade association, founded in 1932, that uses converted recycled and secondary materials from used clothing, commercial laundries, non-woven, off-spec material, new mill ends, and paper from around the world. The Education Center was founded in 1973 by Marge and Jake Michel who, like many other educators, were frustrated by the lack of practical, ready-to-use materials for the classroom. They began creating several products, which expanded into The Mailbox magazine and many teacher-geared resources.

The materials will educate students and families about textile recycling and will also involve schools and communities in the effort. The goal is to introduce the concept of clothing and textile recycling to students through key classroom components that help the educator teach core subjects and skills. The program will also include a send-home component students can use to share with their parents what they have learned. The component educates them about textile recycling, while also demonstrating how their families can play a part in the mission.

“By using these materials, the students will learn that clothing is a recyclable product, just like aluminum cans, paper, and plastic products,” says Jackie King, executive director of SMART. “People don’t realize that 95 percent of all clothing and textiles can be recycled or processed by our member companies.”

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Would You Hire Employees Based on Their Handwriting? 
by Mark Henricks
Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

"Donald Trump’s charge that Jack Lew is “very, very secretive” is based on his reading of the unusual, loopy signature of the White House nominee to head the Treasury Department. Trump says he often relies on handwriting analysis to gain insight to people’s personal characteristics. So is graphology something business owners should look into for hiring and other applications?

Most scientific investigations of handwriting analysis as a tool for reading character suggest it has limited value. However, the practice is widespread in Western Europe and, while less common in the U.S., still has adherents.

One User’s Experience

Carol Cline-Ong, co-founder and CEO of Las Vegas commercial property brokerage and management company MDL Group, has used handwriting analysis since 2000 to screen candidates for upper-level jobs at the 28-person firm. “It’s amazing what we get out of it,” Cline-Ong says.

MDL finds out whether candidates are good fits culturally, whether they have potential for substance abuse and even whether they are being misleading about their suitability for the job, Cline-Ong says. If problems arise later with an employee, when she reviews the handwriting analysis report, the warnings were always there, she says.

Candidates asked to provide a sample for analysis are usually skeptical, but uniformly come away impressed with the insights it provides. “It’s worth the money,” Cline-Ong says.

The Graphologist’s View

Mark Hopper, founder and president of Phoenix-based Handwriting Research Corp., has provided handwriting analysis to business clients since 1983. “Our client base is pretty diverse—banks, hotels, high-tech businesses, everyone from businesses that have one person to clients with thousands of employees,” Hopper says.

Hopper says most clients come from personal referrals, and he’s usually hired by a firm’s CEO rather than by a human resources executive. The reason, he says, is that HR professionals are trained to be skeptical of handwriting’s value as a predictor of job performance, while CEOs are more open-minded and are only interested in whether it works.

Hopper claims it does. Clients who once had fewer than half of new hires become successful employees may find more than 90 percent succeed after he screens them using handwriting analysis. “The reason we’re still in business is that the analysis is usually pretty good,” he says.

How Graphology Works

The principle Hopper works on is that the loops and swirls of handwriting constitute behavior, and behavior indicates personality. In one common application, he’ll examine samples from a firm’s top performers, looking for certain personality traits.

Then he’ll seek to identify job applicants whose writing indicates similar traits. For instance, a firm might find that its most successful salespeople have handwriting that shows they’re outgoing, competitive and persistent.

A quick screening to identify promising salespeople among a crop of applicants costs $15 per sample. After trimming applicants to a handful, Hopper might do a more rigorous analysis, for $225 apiece. That might generate 15 to 20 pages of commentary about a prospect’s likely future performance. 

Graphology clients usually start out skeptical but curious, Hopper says, after having gotten a personal referral from a previous client. Business owners typically submit a sample of their own handwriting for him to look at, then progress to a trial involving existing employees. By the time he’s accurately analyzed several personalities for free, he says they’ve become believers and are ready to pay for the service.

The Skeptical Side

Among skeptics, count Steven Hunt, author of Hiring Success: The Art and Science of Staffing Assessment and Employee Selection, a book co-published by the Society of Human Resource Management.

“The history of staffing contains many examples of assessments that seem like they might work, but that actually have little relationship to employee performance,” he writes. “For example, an entire graphology industry has been built based on the belief that people’s future job behavior can be predicted by analyzing the style of their handwriting, even though empirical research has found no relationship between handwriting and job performance (except for jobs like calligrapher, for which writing is a core part of the job itself ).”

Since the book was published in 2007, investigators have continued to examine handwriting as a tool for evaluating personal characteristics, predicting job performance and other uses. A 2009 article in the peer-reviewed Psychological Review by researchers from the University of Padua in Italy reported on two studies. In both, graphologists analyzed handwriting samples from students who also filled out a standard personality questionnaire.

The graphologists didn’t agree with the questionnaire findings, or with each other, the researchers said. “No evidence was found to validate the graphological method as a measure of personality,” they concluded.

Handwriting on the  Wall

Hopper discounts most scholarly investigations of graphology as flawed. He says well-designed studies support the technique’s validity. For instance, he says comparing handwriting of convicted bank robbers to handwriting of honest bank tellers shows it can accurately evaluate personality.

“We have over 2,000 published studies,” he says. “Everything’s there. Evidence it works. Evidence it doesn’t. It’s largely based on who’s conducting the study.” He did not respond to a request for examples of studies supporting graphology’s validity and a client he referred did not respond to a request for comment.

For now, business owners who wonder whether handwriting analysis can help them hire smarter are free to believe Hopper and Trump. Those who trust scientific studies and HR professionals will probably pass. “I have never seen rigorous empirical validation evidence showing handwriting analysis works,” Hunt says, “and a lot showing it doesn’t.”"

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A Different Kind of Cliff:12 suggestions for positive change and action in 2013
by Frank McCloskey
Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

“Come to the edge,” he said.
They said, “We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge,” he said. They came.
He pushed them…and they flew.
                         - Guillaume Apollinaire

I once had a man tell me that trying to be an ally for women felt like he was standing on the edge of a deep cliff. It seemed the closer he got to actually trying to do something to make a difference, the closer he got to stepping off the ledge, the more reluctant he became. He wasn’t sure of exactly what to do. He didn’t want his good intentions to make matters worse for women. He was frozen from doing anything at all.

So as we begin this New Year surrounded by discussion, frustration and even fear associated with the economic “fiscal cliff,” I want to use this metaphor as a way to introduce some New Year’s Resolutions for 2013. Specifically, practical ideas on how men can become more effective allies for gender equality.

Standing on the edge of a steep drop-off is naturally terrifying. Likewise, anyone resisting the pull of the conforming nature of male organizational leadership traits, behavioral norms, peer pressure, and the largely unrecognized benefits and systemic advantage men enjoy for just being male (all components of privilege), can easily feel like being on the edge of a mile-high cliff. So unless one can fly, it may feel like you’re taking an unnecessary chance.

The perception that many men associate with “breaking rank” with other men is one of unnecessary risk. Fear and anxiety often win out over learning “how to fly.” Hopefully, the following twelve suggestions will lead to positive personal change and action in 2013. Come to the edge and take steps to learn how to fly.

Please note a few of the recommendations are adapted from both Dr. Johnetta Cole’s comments at the Linkage Summit in Atlanta, Georgia (2008) and Charles A. Gallagher’s article, “Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Race Relations.”

  1. Confront sexist and bigoted humor and remarks at all times with a simple, “I don’t think that was appropriate. Please stop.” Failing to stand up indicates acceptance of the belief and behavior expressed.
  2. Avoid stereotypical language at all times. Develop confidence to directly and politely confront statements from family, friends, and work colleagues such as:  “All women (fill in the blank for other identities also) are like this…,” or “Asians are…,” or “white men can’t do…”
  3. Expand individual comfort zones by developing meaningful relationships and exposure to different backgrounds:  gender, racial, ethnic, religious, non-religious, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness, as examples.
  4. In addition to personal relationships, expand sources of news, information, books, and entertainment to counterbalance how mass media shapes the images and stereotypes of how we perceive and understand society and each other.
  5. Become self-aware and conscious of personal anxieties and tensions towards others who are “different.” Reflect on whether your reaction was created by either societal scripting or peer pressure.
  6. Proactively and willingly attend various workshops, conferences and personal development sessions to improve leadership and management competencies in a demographically changing workforce, community and customer base.  Additionally, become a board member or get individually involved with organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Urban League, Catalyst, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Association of Blacks in Energy, the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, the Organization of Chinese Americans, the NAACP, Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and the Society of Women Engineers, as examples. 
  7. Become actively engaged in and committed to your company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and employee resource groups. 
  8. Strategically invite outside speakers to address and engage executive leadership and employee groups. 
  9. Recommend and become involved with efforts to benchmark your organization against other companies recognized as “best places” to work.  Additionally, commit to being mentored by a peer or someone above your organizational rank from outside your own company who is different from you by gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
  10. Learn about, identify, and admit your points of power and privilege without embarrassment and guilt. Use your points of power and privilege to create equity and fairness for all. Tell your story. Give voice to your journey. Share your epiphanies and struggles.
  11. Teach and share your learning’s with family and friends…even before professional colleagues. Most importantly, teach by example, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
  12. Don’t wait on someone else to lead the way. Begin the journey in your personal circle of influences.  
Questions for MARC readers to consider:
  1. What other recommendations would you add to the list?
  2. What does it mean to be an “ally” in both your personal and professional lives?"
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What if your candidate is 6 months pregnant?
Originally Published: January 31st, 2013

"The appointment of a female CEO to the embattled Yahoo was enough to cause a stir. Just like in Canada, only a small percentage of listed companies globally have a female leader in the top job. Add to the mix the news that 37-year old Marissa Mayer was six months pregnant when she got the top job, and it was nothing short of an all-in media frenzy.
The whirlwind of commentary which followed the announcement was in itself evidence that employment and pregnancy is a red-hot issue. For one management expert, it’s a situation which needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but ultimately employers cannot discriminate against someone who is pregnant. “Obviously Yahoo realised the situation they were in, and thought ‘well, the costs and benefits of [this hire] are likely to outweigh the negatives’, and they’ve made that decision that in the long-term it’s going to be better for them to have that key person,” Associate Professor Peter Holland from Monash University told HRM.

According to Holland, in making a hiring decision about a pregnant candidate, the principle question is the same as it would be for anyone else. It’s about taking on someone who has the right skills and experience. “[A candidate] might be asking for 20 weeks off in two months’ time, but you may have them for five, six or even 10 years – and if you think they’re the right person for your company, are you looking at the short-term implications rather than the long-term return?” Holland said.

It seems the danger of discrimination lies in the slippery slope of making judgment calls and arbitrarily deciding on a candidate’s availability. For example, a candidate may be observed having a cigarette outside before their interview and this may lead to assumptions about health, propensity to take sick leave, and taking extra breaks.

According to a 2012 factsheet compiled by the Australian Human Rights Commission regarding sex discrimination, the Sex Discrimination Act makes it against the law to treat candidates unfairly because of a person’s sex, marital status, family responsibilities, because they are pregnant or might become pregnant, or because they are breastfeeding. All stages of employment are protected, including recruitment, staff selection, workplace terms and conditions and dismissal.

Some tips for avoiding pregnancy discrimination in recruitment:
  • Identify the essential requirements of the job and ask all applicants about their capacity to fulfil these. Consider whether any reasonable workplace adjustments can be made so an applicant can meet the requirements.
  • Ask applicants about their skills and abilities. Avoid assumptions about what pregnant women can and cannot do, or their ongoing commitment to the job.
  • Do not ask an applicant questions about pregnancy unless there is a clear non-discriminatory reason to do so.
  • Select the person best suited to the job.
  • When in doubt, seek legal advice."
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B.C. to face skills deficit by 2016: 18,800 jobs could be left unfilled in 2020 
Originally Published: January 30th, 2013

Canadian HR Reporter
"A skills shortage will hit British Columbia in 2016 and will continue to grow, according to a recent report.

In 2016, the number of jobs requiring university, college or trades credentials will exceed the supply of B.C. graduates — a skills deficit that will grow through to 2020, found the BC Labour Market Profile released by the Research Universities’ Council of BC and based on the provincial government’s BC Labour Market Outlook.

In 2020, approximately 18,800 jobs could go unfilled because too few British Columbians have the necessary training — 8,400 requiring a university degree, 8,100 a college credential and 2,300 trades training.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us," said University of British Columbia president Stephen Toope. “To secure our economy, we need to continue to build on our excellent post-secondary system and deepen our commitment to education, innovation and research.”

The Lower Mainland will see two-thirds of the one million jobs openings projected for B.C. from 2010 to 2020.
The report makes a variety of recommendations to close the skills gap including the launch of the Innovate BC initiative, bringing government, business and post-secondary institutions together to build on B.C.’s research and innovation potential, advance new opportunities, and help drive economic growth."

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Do You Know How to Interview a Veteran?
Originally Published: January 30th, 2013

"Many members of the US Armed Forces are returning home to a progressively competitive civilian job market. What’s worse is the fact that these men and women are having difficulty translating broad military experiences into gainful employment.

“Most of these men and women have never applied for a job before. They went straight from high school or college and they went into the military,” said former Marine Corps Captain and President of Hire Heroes USA, Brian Stann. “So for them to play the unemployment game and translate their skill-sets effectively, it is very difficult for them.”

Stann’s comments are directly on point. From M1A1 Abrams Tank Operators to Platoon Leaders, veterans are having difficulty translating their skills and are giving recruiters the added challenge of interpreting unfamiliar experience.

When interviewing veterans and service members, take the following interview tips into consideration and you’ll discover a strong crop of top candidates.

Uncover Qualities through Performance Based Interviews

Interviewing a veteran is no different than interviewing a civilian candidate. The Department of Veterans Affairs even recommends using performance based interviews for applicants directly out of the service. This type of interview has been widely used for the past 30 years and focuses on what a person has done, instead of what they would do.

As many recruiters know, the performance based interview does have its flaws. Most notably is the fact that an applicant with great presentation skills can secure strong consideration by conveying what the interviewer wants to hear over what is true, meaning they may or may not possess the skills relevant to the position.

To avoid this, shift the focus from past behavior to verifiable experiences and achievements that matter most to the specific position. Basically, don’t look at achievements, but the path that led them there.

This may require some tailoring of normal interview questions to fit the applicant.

How to Tailor your Interview Questions to Veteran Experience

If you are interested in the veteran applicant’s ability to handle customer service, you will want to ask them interview questions that allow them to provide a complete answer:

Tell me about a situation where you realized a person needed help. How did you realize the person needed assistance and what did you do? What was the outcome of this situation?

Keep in mind that for many veterans, this could be their first job interview outside of the military. Thus asking them to provide a time they had to deal with an unruly customer may not yield an appropriate answer.

Remember that the rules of combat and military service often differ from civilian life. Your job is to determine if the candidate you’re interviewing can differentiate these situations.

What Not to Ask in the Interview Process

Beyond knowing what interview questions to ask, remember to keep the interview legal by not asking interview questions related to the candidate’s type of discharge, current military status and potential disabilities.

Asking questions related to training, education and service experience is fine; however, unless you are a Federal agency or deal with Veteran Preference Points, you should never ask anything that requires the veteran to give their discharge status.

Similarly, you should avoid questions pertaining to an applicant’s military status. Asking a National Guardsman if they will be deployed soon is similar to asking a woman if she is pregnant or planning to have children.

Lastly, if you are interviewing a wounded warrior, refrain from asking questions that would require them to disclose any disabilities.

It is perfectly fine, and encouraged, to ask an applicant if they have read the job description and can fulfill the minimum job requirements; however, questioning an applicant on their disability or trying to uncover PTSD or a traumatic brain injury is a direct violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Why Hire Veterans

Hiring veterans isn’t charity work. These men and women possess job skills and qualities that don’t just make them good employees, but some of the best employees.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of hiring well over a thousand qualified and sometimes not so qualified applicants. In many cases, these employees proved to be major contributors to the company’s success; however, not every employee has been a seamless fit, emphasizing the importance of acquiring stand-out candidates.

I’m very pleased to say that of the veteran candidates hired, their military experience and its related qualities -- leadership, respect, teamwork, loyalty and the ability to produce results under pressure -- has made our company an even more united company with a common goal.

As you consider your next group of new hires, don’t discount our nation’s veterans. Dig deeper and ask questions that truly uncover values and qualities that can determine how well they mesh with your company’s culture."

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'Girls? Ladies? Folks?' Here's A Visual Guide To What You Should Call That Group Of Individuals. 
by Kashmir Hill
Originally Published: January 30th, 2013

"I belong to an excellent list serv called the “Tech Lady Mafia.” One of its members, Shawna Hein, 28, a user experience designer from Berkeley, recently expressed annoyance on the list at the widespread use of the word “girls” to describe women long past elementary school age.

“I first started thinking about it when Girl With A Dragon Tattoo came out,” says Hein by phone. “It’s a whole action series where the main character is a bad ass, and yet she’s called a girl. You never see an action hero with boy in his name.”

It’s hard to imagine Robert Downey Jr. signing up to play “Iron Boy.”

Hein, who went to Oberlin with Lena Dunham, says she was equally perplexed by her former classmate using the diminutive term Girls for her successful TV show, and troubled that a series of dinners for women in technology in the Bay area was entitled, “Girl Geek Dinners.”

“Every time I see the word ‘Girl’ used in scenarios that are supposed to empower women, it really grates on me,” she says. “When I saw the launch of ‘Girls Who Code,’ I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was actually aimed at youngsters.”

My own take on the use of “girl” and “boy”: If you’re not talking about a child or a love interest, these terms are best avoided.

Hein is far from the only person thinking about the language people should be using to describe women (and the terms women are using to self-describe). Ann Friedman had a terrific piece in the New Republic on the reclamation of the term “lady.”

But now, “lady” splits the difference between the infantilizing “girl” and the stuffy, Census-bureau cold “woman.” (Both still have their place—just not in the witty conversation that young feminists want to be having.) It’s a way to stylishly signal your gender-awareness, without the stone-faced trappings of the second-wave. It’s a casual synonym for “woman,” a female counterpart to “guy,” commonly used in winking conversation between one in-the-know woman and another. A scan of my phone reveals dozens of text messages that begin, “hey lady.” General David Petraeus’s paramour, Paula Broadwell, reportedly concluded an e-mail to a friend, “GREAT to see you, pretty lady”—a more grown-up way of signing off “xo.”

If your head hurts every time you have to think about how to generically refer to a person based on the presence or absence of the Y chromosome, you’re in luck. For those not immersed in the study of gender semantics, Hein has created a handy guide for which term to use when. Enjoy, um, folks:

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