Everything HR is Illuminated

When the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) named Matt Stollak (Business Administration) to the quintet comprising its inaugural Blog Squad, Stollak did as he so often does. He blogged about it on True Faith HR, weaving in a pop culture reference: “I like to call it the ‘Blog Force Five.’ To paraphrase Tarantino ... ‘Blog, as in we’re a bunch of bloggers. Force, as in we’re a force to be reckoned with. Five, as in there’s one ... two ... three ... four ... five of us.’ ”

Stollak’s blog, popular among HR types, creates “a new order between HR theory and practice.” His commentary covers everything from the NCAA Final Four to ’70s musical duo Hall and Oates.

A brief tour of True Faith HR begins with Stollak’s take on the alchemy of NFL recruiting:

Labor Day and the NFL
by Matthew Stollak on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013

It’s tough to be an NFL player this time of year.

Teams must reduce their rosters to a limit of 53 players. Those individuals who made it through training camp and four preseason games may have found themselves looking for work.

The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow, is unemployed.

The No. 3 pick in the 2006 NFL draft, Vince Young, was cut by the Green Bay Packers.

Meanwhile, despite hundreds of hours of scouting, observation and interviews, 78 undrafted players from the 2013 NFL draft made active rosters.

As screenwriter William Goldman says, “Nobody knows anything.”

Three days until kickoff!

Happy Labor Day, everyone.

From the Labor Day labor woes of one of the U.S.’s highest-profile employers, Stollak moves to an obscure movie industry figure and the lessons he offers in employee engagement:

R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen - The Most Engaged Employee Ever?
by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, May 9, 2013 

It was with great sadness that I read this week about the passing of Ray Harryhausen, one of the icons of my youth.  

If the name is not familiar to you, you might at least be familiar with his special effects work in such films as “Mighty Joe Young,” “It Came From the Sea,” “20 Million Miles to Earth,” “Mysterious Island,” “One Million Years B.C.” and “Clash of the Titans.” My personal favorites that I cherished as a youth were “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.”  

And what makes him the most engaged employee ever? He was a pioneer of stop-motion filmmaking. Unlike the CGI work today, stop-motion filmmaking was a painstaking process requiring you to stage a scene and take a picture. Then, you move an arm, and/or a leg, and/or a sword, and take another picture. Repeat. Given that the typical film speed is 24 frames per second, the ability to turn those micro-movements into the illusion of motion is extremely time-consuming.

Take, for example, his work in the aforementioned “Jason and the Argonauts.” To create the battle with the skeleton army, it took Harryhausen nearly four months, working seven days a week, mostly alone, to create the scenes. Some days, he was only able to get 13 entire frames, less than a second of film, completed.

So, the next time an employee is complaining about the difficulty of their job, point him or her to the work of Mr. Harryhausen, and see if he/she will continue to be upset about his or her work.

Rest in peace.

Stollak’s film references are wide-ranging and include an analysis of HR matters in a recent science-fiction film:

Elysium: Even 140 years in the future, there is bad #HR
by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2012

"Elysium" takes place over 140 years in the future in 2154. The 1% live on a space station orbiting earth where there is no war, no crime, and health care eliminates all illness. Meanwhile, the 99% on Earth are living in Rio de Janeiro-like favelas, scraping to get by.

What sets the movie in motion? A case of poor supervisor-subordinate relations.

Matt Damon plays Max De Costa, a small-time criminal, trying to get his life back on the straight and narrow. As noted in the trailer, he works in a huge factory assembling robots.  As he loads the pallet of robots into a chamber to be irradiated, the door gets jammed, and production stops.  What occurs next could have happened 90 years ago.

The supervisor tells Max to go in the chamber to fix the problem. Max is hesitant. The angered supervisor threatens Max, "either you go into the chamber or I'll find someone who will." Of course, seeing no other choice, Max goes in, unjams the door, the door closes, and Max gets exposed to radiation, and only has 5 days to live. And, the rest of the movie proceeds based on this singular incident.

Why wasn't the manager trained to engage his employees more appropriately? Why weren't better safety procedures put in place? Even 140 years in the future, we will still be dealing with bad HR.

In Stollak’s world, HR perspective arises equally in movies as in college athletics. Here, he explains why players from a disgraced NCAA football program will make great employees:

Why I’d Hire A Penn State Football Player
by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, July 26, 2012

If you watch any college sports, Im sure youve seen a variant of this video.

The message resonates: There are more than 380,000 student-athletes, and most of them go pro in something other than sports. They put time, energy, sweat, tears, body and soul into serving the sport, their coach and peers, and fans. Yet for most, the end result is not a lucrative sports contract.

Imagine, then, you are a football player at Penn State University. Sanctions have just been announced that effectively cut off many of the benefits of the “job” you currently have undertaken.  No bowl game at the end of the season to reward good performance ... having to do more with less, as scholarships have been taken away ... reputation of your organization dragged through the mud. You’ve been “punished” for a very serious crime which you had no knowledge of or involvement in.

A lifeline has been offered ... you have the opportunity to transfer to another academic institution and get immediate playing time (instead of having to sit out a year). Do you take it?

Soon after the sanctions were announced, approximately 25 players at Penn State made a statement that they are sticking with their commitment. Senior Michael Mauti stated, “This program was not built by one man, and this program is sure as hell not going to get torn down by one man.”

If they are willing to stick to their organization, despite the sullied brand and lack of tangible rewards (outside of their scholarship and education) for the next few years, wouldn’t that be an asset to be cherished down the road as you look to fill a position for which that former football player is qualified?

Nov. 19, 2013