The Cleveland Society of Human Resource Management

The Cleveland Society of Human Resource Management (CSHRM) June 2014 luncheon began with networking, and we saw Ucee Faenza from CSU’s Monte Ahuja College of Business and the International Trade Assistance Center; Robin Doerschuk, sales lead for Alliance Group; and Al Edwards, Manager Human Resources for Cox Communications.
Just before entering the meeting hall, I saw the registration table was offering a set of 15 50/50 raffle tickets for $10. I took the bait.

The meeting started with recognition of three of the organization’s progenitors including Hugh Fiebig and Rick Taylor. Then current officers and committee chairs recognized members active in promoting CSHRM.
The luncheon speaker was Mary Faulkner, and her topic: Critical Thinking. This was critical thinking for HR professionals. The basic premise: Get the best data to make the best decisions. Great speakers start with a bit of humor, and Mary’s lead in was a picture of a spiked fence with a sign bolted to it warning “Do Not Sit on Fence.” As if. Then she showed a few of corporate America’s greatest failures, the aborted change of the GAP logo, and Coca Cola’s formula change that resulted in “Coke Classic.” Her point: Too many decisions are based on gut instinct, which sometimes works, but too often proves too short sighted.

Mary said while HR doesn’t always have all the facts, HR professionals must fight for access to as much information as has Operations.

She presented the Deloitte/Bersin talent analytics maturity model, showing orgs operation in one of four stages of analytical competency:

Stage 1: Reactive, Operational Reporting, where operations runs on basic reports

Stage 2: Proactive, Advanced Reporting, where dashboards and multi-dimensional analysis better inform operations

Stage 3: Strategic Analytics, where “people models” are developed, statistical analysis performed, “analysis of dimensions to understand cause and delivery of actionable solutions.

Stage 4: Predictive Analytics, which bolsters strategic planning with predictive models, scenario planning, risk analysis and mitigation.

Mary said most companies are stuck in stages 1 and 2. Few reach stage 4, thought we sometimes see it in play when companies perform layoffs and stock reduction prior to experiencing the full force of a recession.

She described an HR credibility gap – where what HR perceives and what employees perceive are quite different
On each of these statements HR felt more than 50% of employees agreed, and employees felt fewer than 50% agreed:

1. Employees are generally happy

2. The company has a positive feeling toward employees

3. The company has good benefits

4. Employees are likely to stay more than one year

Mary showed two images: the fake package for iArm, and the classic picture of the elephant, where the observer holding the tail says “This must be rope;” and the observer feeling the wind from the elephant’s flapping ears observes, “This must be a fan;” and the observer touching the elephant’s side observes, “This must be a wall.” Each observer says what she sees, but isn’t taking the whole picture into account.


Many times operations want training before process improvement. A better mouse trap? Better to answer first, “Why are there mice?” So ask clarifying questions: why; who are the stakeholders; what are the issues, what are the show stoppers; what options are there; what are the benefits; and what are the risks.

Mary suggests using the Pearson R.E.D. model:

• Recognize assumptions: fact vs opinion, examine multiple perspectives, make assumptions explicit
• Evaluate arguments: relevance & credibility; account for bias, emotion & persuasion (book: Sway); logic check
• Draw conclusions: consider alternative conclusions, look for synthesis, consider unintended consequences

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) always asks:
• What do we think?
• What do we know?
• What can we prove?

The online Watson-Glaser Critical thinking assessment. For $60 online, find out your critical thinking score, and help predict job performance.

Use lots of different ways to ask questions: mind maps, 2×2 matrix, SWOT, flow chart

Understand the situation
“I’m sorry!” and “My bad!” mean the same thing except at a funeral.

Demand equal access to the data – reporting to make analytics

Use data scorecards to examine data

Stupidity – sometimes you have to learn the hard way – tongue on cactus

Mary closed with a quote from John F. Kennedy’s June 1962 Yale University Commencement speech, echoing her message that we must root our HR decisions in solid facts and data analysis rather than gut feelings: “We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

While a speaker on a podium rarely has the time to elaborate on quotes like this, it helps us to explore the context in JFK’s speech:

“The world of Calhoun, the world of Taft had its own hard problems and notable challenges. But its problems are not our problems. Their age is not our age. As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality.

“For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

At the close of the meeting was the raffle drawing. As they read the number, I looked at my tickets, and saw I had won the raffle. $200. Not bad. At least 40 people had put in $10 each.

Our office is very careful with its feng shui, and our staff feng shui expert recently added extensively to the Chinese vase collection with red money envelopes placed in them. This tradition enhances the firm’s revenue. This one is just outside my office.

I’m generally careful about attributing life events to things we do to affect the outcome of uncertain events, but when a tradition is possibly older than civilization itself, it’s not my place to argue.

Be that as it may, the feng shui was working to the advantage of CSHRM, as well. I immediately determined I would return the $200 to CSHRM, and I would ask Ms. Wong to match my contribution. She agreed with a very generous 50% match, and now both checks are in the mail.