This Recruiter’s Perspective on DeVos: The Conclusion

Part III of III.

Part I and Part II of this series, respectively,  focused on what the job, Secretary of Education, is and what skills, knowledge, experience and abilities a recruiter might look for in a qualified candidate. The final part of this series focus’ on Ms. DeVos’s qualifications for this role and ultimately my conclusions on her fit for the job.

Upon review of her credentials, it is without a doubt that I state that Betsy DeVos is not qualified for the role of Secretary of Education. Further, had her resume come across my inbox, I wouldn’t have even scheduled a phone screen let alone recommended her for a face-to-face interview with the hiring manager. 

Ms. DeVos’s website, betsydevos.com, provides some insight into this candidate’s past professional experience and is my primary source for the following information. 

  • Education credentials: Ms DeVos has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Calvin College, a private school, in Grand Rapids, MI. Calvin  College is accredited  by the Higher Learning Commission. Though Calvin College does have an education program, her Bachelor’s degree is in business administration and political science. Not Education or Public Policy. 
  • Direct and relevant experience: Ms. DeVos has zero instruction experience. Zero years of instructing any student whether that be in public or private school; primary, secondary or college. 
  • Experience serving in a public or private education administration role: Betsy DeVos has not served in an administration role, ever
  • Experience in educational public policy. Kinda?  Here are my findings. Ms. DeVos’s website states that she serves on a number of national and state boards, including Board Member for the Foundation for Excellence in Education from 2012- present. However a search of the foundation’s website comes up with zero results for Ms. DeVos’s work on this foundation. However, The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation is listed as a 2016 donor  and 2015 donor in the $50,001-$100,000 donation range. Other Board positions Ms. DeVos has formerly or currently sits on that hold educational reform as part of their mission include the American Federation for Children, Alliance for School Choice, Great Lakes Education Project and The Potter’s House School. Clearly, Ms. DeVos has a vested interest in education as evidenced by the charitable foundations she is associated with. However, when one peels back the layers, you will see that her interest is very narrowly focused on school choice- this is the primary mission of these organizations. One might question her ability to arbitrarily review empirical facts about the state of education if one has spent a ton of money and time serving one cause. 
  • Former or current state Board of Education member. Ms. DeVos has never served on a Board of Education for any public of private school system. 
  • Experience managing a large team of professional employees. Ms. DeVos is listed as Chairman of the Windquest Group, a privately held investment and management firm with a diversified consumer product and service portfolio. The Windquest Group appears to be in the business of investing in innovative start-ups. None of these companies, per Windquest’s website, have any relationship with education, educational technology, etc…Further, there is no evidence that Ms. DeVos manages a large staff in her role as Chairman. 
  • Experience managing a large budget. There is no evidence that Ms. DeVos manages a large budget in her role as Chairman at the Windquest Group. One may presume that as a Chairman or a Board Member that she had oversight of budgets in her roles, but there is no evidence that she had the sole responsibility of a multi-million dollar budget. 
  • Experience managing a debt portfolio in the trillions. Ms. DeVos’s previous experience does not provide any evidence of having had responsibility for a large debt portfolio. Rather, it seems her and her family have only enjoyed managing financial surpluses. 

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity

Do you ever leave work wondering what the hell you just accomplished in the last 8 hours? Between non-stop emails, phone calls, drive-by interruptions and meetings, our days feel wasted. And that’s a problem, since most of us want to walk away from work with the feeling we have actually completed something or at least made some mere progress from the day before.

Here are some things that I have found that improve my productivity and ultimately reduce my stress level at work. The trick for me, though, is that I have to mindfully and consistently practice them.

  1. At the beginning of each workday, I print my day’s calendar from Outlook. Most of my day is paperless, but printing this and keeping it within eyesight all day keeps me on track. As things are completed, I highlight them or put a checkmark next to them. At the end of the day, this becomes my visual reminder that I have accomplished something(s).
  2. As voicemails come in, or small requests are made from my customers, I jot these down on my printed day calendar so that I don’t forget about them. Periodically, i review these items for priority and time-commitment and ultimately decide if I can squeeze them into my day or if they have to move to another day’s schedule or task list. A lot of my stress comes from the fear of forgetting something, so having one place and one place only that my “reminders” are written reduces both the chance that I will forget something and eases the mental effort of constantly trying to remember all of the little things.
  3. I actually schedule email review and projects on my Outlook calendar. For example, from 9-10am and 3-4pm daily I open Outlook, review email, prioritize it, get the easy ones out of the way and figure out what to do with the big ones. By carving out time to review email, I’m setting a limit to how much time I dedicate to it and am giving myself permission to shut it down so that I can begin work on something more meaningful to my job. By scheduling time to work on projects, I’m also giving myself permission to tell others that I can’t meet or do not have time for their impromptu sit-down sessions.
  4. Setting boundaries and expectations for my time and efforts- this may be the hardest to do but pays off in dividends. When I receive a meeting request, before I accept, I require an agenda or a reason why the meeting is necessary from the meeting organizer. If the agenda is something that seems like it can be accomplished in a phone call or email, I decline the meeting with a reason why. I decline meetings that conflict with my task or project schedule or do not require my attendance. Since HR should be accessible, I do not like shutting my door. If an employee has a important matter to talk about, I will, of course, invite them in to talk. However, sometimes an open door policy works against you. In those moments, set boundaries with those people by asking if their question, or visit, requires an immediate response and if not, ask if you can schedule 10-15 minutes another time that is mutually convenient.
  5. Get up and walk around. This accomplishes a couple of things. One, it gets you away from your computer, gets you up and walking, gets the blood flowing, the brain can take a break and you can reset your eyes. Two,  if your peers see you up around the office, they can take these moments to ask you the little questions that they would have otherwise clogged up your email with yet another message.

What HR Won’t Tell You

You’re right in your assumption that HR knows things. Sometimes HR folks know all of the things. Because they support the business, they are likely to be communicating with all departments, all managers and Senior Leadership and they know what’s up.

While I personally take the position of being as transparent and honest as possible with all of my managers and employees, there are just somethings I’m not going to tell you. Sometimes it’s because I can’t, sometimes it’s because I don’t want to lean into that shitty conversation, sometimes it’s because I don’t like you and sometimes it’s because I’m lazy.

  1. We won’t tell you if and when you are getting fired. But we do know when the dark mark has been put upon you.
  2. We won’t tell you if the company has plans to eliminate positions or is planning a downsizing. We may tell you the company has hit some hard times, and tough decisions are being made to turn the ship around. That’s code for reductions in force.
  3. We won’t tell you that you are the office douche-bag or the office narc and no one likes you. Though sometimes I really want to tell you. So you’ll just stop already.
  4. We won’t tell you about certain policies of the company because we really don’t want to advertise them. Usually it’s because we know the policy is stupid and we don’t want to answer the hundreds of questions we will get if we remind you. (See: inclement weather policy/office closures and dress code policies)
  5. We won’t tell you if your manager is monitoring your email. But if you are on a performance improvement plan or had a disciplinary warning, you should be hyper-aware that someone in the company is probably watching your email, network and web activity.
  6. We aren’t going to necessarily spell our your rights as workers. That’s what labor law posters are for. Read them and ask your HR person sometime about the FMLA or the FLSA . Know your own rights.
  7. We won’t tell you your manager dislikes you. Though we may want to warn you, we just won’t tell you.
  8. We won’t tell you your candidate referral bombed his or her interview and the interview team resoundingly gave a thumbs down to hiring him or her. We will simply say that another candidate was more qualified.
  9. We won’t tell you when your manager is about to be terminated.
  10. We may not tell you, that you may have the right to review your employee personnel file, depending on your State’s laws and/or company policies. We may not necessarily suggest that you ask your HR team to review your own file periodically (wink, wink).

Why We Can’t Disconnect.

France recently passed a Right to Disconnect bill providing employees the right to ignore work emails after hours without repercussions. Some have applauded the bill saying that it gives workers their personal lives back. Still others are skeptical that the law will really abolish a behavior that has become so conditioned in workers across the world.

Though benevolent in its motivation, the law won’t be successful. And even if it’s somehow successful in France, its D.O.A. in the United States. That’s because this law doesn’t address the real causes that lead to our inability to disconnect.

Only super humans set healthy boundaries. By many accounts, the current U.S. populace is one of the most debt-ridden, addicted, medicated and obese in history. This says a lot about our ability to say “no” and set healthy limits and boundaries for ourselves. That same underlying inability to set boundaries in our relationships with food, money, drugs and alcohol also prevents us from setting healthy boundaries with our work life.  If we can access work from our mobile device or laptop, we will answer that work email or take that work call.

The normal 8-5 factory of office job is no longer as the world has transitioned from the Traditional Economy to the Knowledge-Based economy. The boundaries that were once defined for us- punching a time clock  and using our hands to make a widget on a factory line- are the way of the dinosaur, extinct. Because most work can be done anytime and anywhere, individuals must rely on themselves to set their own boundaries. Which, as mentioned above, we aren’t good at.

We have been conditioned to be connected. Humans fear disconnection. In Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brené Brown writes “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.” Constant connection to work means knowing the latest and greatest, it means coming to work on Monday with no surprises, it means being one step ahead of your colleagues and in many workplaces being connected all of the time is recognized as an admirable trait worthy of public praise and maybe even some additional compensation. Why, with all of this positive reinforcement, would we not want to be connected?

 

 

How To Ask For More Money. Part II.

In a previous post, I laid out initial steps you should take to ask for a raise in How To Ask For More Money, Part I.

Without further ado, here are the final steps to being flush with cash.

How About Your Performance? 

Third, you need to do some self-reflection and be really honest with yourself. This can be the most difficult step. If you are going to ask your manager for a salary review with the end goal to increase your salary, you had better know for certain if you are a valued employee doing valuable work. You had better be able to answer the question that a manager won’t ask but will be thinking, “what have you done for me lately?” if you want your company to show you the money. If you don’t already have copies, ask your manager or HR for your performance reviews. Look over them, have you progressively improved year over year? Have you met your goals? Have you earned additional designations? Have you increased your skill set? Put yourself in your manager’s shoes, if you had several grand each year to award to an employee at your discretion, who gets it? The employee who meets expectations year-over-year but never challenges themselves and loves the comfort zone or the employee who exceeds expectations by sticking their neck out to lead a highly visible project and eagerly pursues developmental opportunities? Then the hard part, you have to consider the value of your position to the organization. If you work for the R&D department in a tech firm, your position is likely highly valued. If you are the clerical assistant in an engineering firm, your position is not that highly valued. If any one can replace you in your position with minimal training and the same work gets done and at the same level, you do not hold a valuable position. All jobs are not created equal.

Sizing Up Your Manager

After reconnaissance and self-reflection, now it’s time to size up your manager and your relationship with him or her. Is your relationship more formal or informal? How long have you been working for him or her? Is your manager a front-line supervisor or senior manager? Is your manager hands-on in his or her employee’s professional development? Does he or she freely give recognition? Does your manager really understand what you are doing? Not just your job description but what you are doing. The answers to all of these questions are going to guide how you approach your manager, how you request a salary review and increase and how much and what type of ammunition you need to build your case. Use your emotional intelligence to get into your manager’s shoes.

The Salary Discussion

Now that you have properly done your research and are ready to ask for a raise, schedule time with your manager and let them know ahead of time that you want to discuss your compensation. Be prepared for the meeting, bring your talking points and all of the data you have gathered. Once you have presented your request and argument, your manager may straight up say no or tell you they need to get back to you. You need to be prepared for either of those answers and anything in between. Whatever the outcome, let your manager know you appreciate their time in listening to you and considering your request. If you do not get a raise, leave the door open to have further discussion with your manager by asking what you can do to be considered for one in the future. If you do receive an increase, be thankful for what you get and continue to work your ass off.

Good luck to you and may the odds be ever in your favor. 

How To Ask For More Money. Part I.

Feeling overworked and underpaid? Join the crowd. In a March 2016 article from Fortune, only a little more than 1/3rd of Americans feel they are paid fairly. As an HR Representative counseling employees, I often hear a multitude of reasons why people are unhappy to some degree with their salary. From the perception to being “on-call” all of the time, to doing more than what their manager realizes to just plain feeling undervalued, employees are starting to wonder how to take steps to ask for more money.

Before you barge into your manager’s office demanding more money with little to know argument to back up your request, which never works out well for anyone, I strongly urge you to do the following.

Do your recon.

First, you need to do a little reconnaissance. Schedule a meeting with your Human Resources department and tell them you want to discuss your compensation. You need to find out if the company has a compensation philosophy,  does the organization tend to pay above market, do they pay to meet market averages or do they lag the market? A lot of companies right now are opting to pay median salaries, giving raises each year that just beat cost-of-living inflation, while awarding performance with discretionary bonuses. This is a less riskier option for companies than awarding high salaries in a ever-changing economy that can render a business obsolete in 6 months. Ask HR how the company recognizes performance. You also have to consider how your company is doing overall and where your company is in its life-cycle. If your company is in start-up or decline mode, they likely do not have the capital to be throwing around on employee raises. As the old saying goes, you can’t get blood out of a turnip. Other questions that are helpful to ask are if your company assigns salary ranges to each position and where your position lies on a career track (junior, mid-level, senior-level). Also ask your friendly HR professional for his or her recommendation on how to approach a salary review or request inside of your organization. Any HR practitioner worth their salt, will be able to give you an honest response. If your HR rep is squeamish about your questions, that may be a red flag that your company has an old-school mentality around compensation transparency which still isn’t all that unusual to encounter these days. Yet, it’s good to know this about your company.

External Research.

Next, you also need to do some external market research. You need to hit the internet and find out what data is available on salary ranges for your position, think payscale.com, glassdoor.com and onetonline.org. But heed caution here and build in a margin of error. These websites usually cite self-reported data and individuals usually inflate their salaries when asked. Additionally, these sites do not take into account certain nuances that make an apples-t0-apples comparison very difficult- different geographical regions, international versus regional organizations, successful versus declining companies, and booming industries versus dying industries. You may also want to reach out to recruiters in your area or network and ask them what they see is the going rate for your position. But, proceed with caution for the same reasons stated above. Also, don’t forget the monetary value of your benefits. The company probably pays for a portion of your health insurance and matches your 401(k), even though this isn’t money deposited in the bank every 2 weeks, doesn’t mean it isn’t compensation. You need to figure out the value of your benefits as part of your total compensation to understand what you are truly being paid to do your job. Now, with this information, you can create an acceptable range of what you think your position is worth.

 

 

Once you have done all of this stuff, you are ready to put your plan into play. Tune in on Thursday for How To Ask For More Money, Part II.

 

Kill The Resume

Why do we even use resumes? Are they meant to signal the candidate’s interest in a particular position with a company? We know that past behavior is not an accurate predictor of current or future behavior, so no matter how the resume is formatted or what information is on it, why do companies require this as the entry point to employment with the organization?

Has HR or any organization ever challenged the reason why the resume is the thing that a candidate has to send in? It seems to me that this is just assumed. All people have resumes and all companies request them. But the majority of resumes suck, they do not provide valuable information, they most certainly do not provide valid and reliable data.

I say kill the resume. Let’s take a hard look at what we as an organization require from a candidate and hack a better way.

What about a video profile? Job incumbents can easily use their computer or mobile device to make a short elevator pitch describing what they can offer to the company and why he or she deserves to be considered further. Through video, recruiters and hiring managers get a better idea of how well the candidate prepared for his or her video submission and how effectively the individual advocates for himself or herself to advance for further consideration of employment.

How about using a test or an essay submission that is specifically designed to draw out required competencies of the position? Humans are used to writing essays or taking a test to be considered for things like college, a grant, a scholarship etc… why not use these tools in lieu of a resume? Individuals that truly want to work for your organization and have a vested interest in earning consideration for a particular role in your company, will have no problem accepting the challenge of an essay or test.

Why waste our time on resumes when we can cut right to the chase of assessing one’s skills and competencies from his or her very first interaction with the company? It’s time to get innovative with the application process.