Reverse Polar Vortex – American workers are whipping their way up across the Canadian Plains

ImageFor years oil industry workers headed east to Saudi to make quick thousands (or  tens of thousands) toiling in air conditioned offices beneath an unrelenting Saharan sun.  Now there is a new migration patterns as American workers flow north, a Keystone Pipeline  in reverse, to Canadian oil fields.

With 50,000 job vacancies in the energy employment sector,  Canadian employers are hungrily eying skilled American workers to the south.  The province of Alberta, in particular,  has launched a recruitment campaign in the United States. American veterans are among those being targeted.

Reasons Canadian companies are particularly looking our direction to fill their skilled labor gap include the fact that Americans speak English, share a similar business culture, and, most importantly, after spending a couple of dark, sub-zero winters up north, will be more than happy to relocate back to the United States.

Let’s just hope they don’t bring another polar vortex with them.


The Buck Stops Where? What Bridgegate and Benghazi Have in Common

George Washington Bridge Once a popular Broadway musical, Jersey Boys has reinvented itself as mini-series of scandals heading the front pages of our newspapers. Has its star, Governor Chris Christie,  gone from being  “Big Man in Town” to  “Fallen Angel?”

As I write, the Democrats are expanding their “Bridgegate  investigation to look at claims that politics played a role in the distribution of Sandy relief funds.”  (“Democrats Plan to Expand Christie Probe” USA Today, January 20, 2014). Governor Christie’s administration allegedly withheld Sandy recovery aid from the City of Hoboken, when the city rejected a major redevelopment plan.

Regardless of whether Governor Christie knew about, much less authorized, these not-so-natural disasters, the fact is they occurred on his watch.  Executives of corporations, non-profit organizations, and government offices alike have a responsibility to establish a cultural tone, a brand, an ethos, if you will, for the organizations they lead.

One of the tools they have at their disposable for accomplishing this are their Human Resources Directors. They should enable and empower  Human Resources to communicate, promote, and, when necessary, enforce their organizations’ code of ethics. This cultural branding should begin at the recruiting and selection stage and should be reinforced during onboarding.

When a local corporation recently asked me to help screen applications for a Safety Officer opening, I read through stacks and stacks of resumes.  The one resume which jumped out at me belonged to an applicant who, under work experience, had written, “created a culture of safety.”  Yes! That’s what the corporation was looking for.

When you have a position to fill, read resumes not just for the facts they contain but for their tone. You may also take advantage of social media  to assess each applicant’s “personal brand” (how he presents himself online).   Is he a good fit for your organization’s culture?

Next, use new employee orientations to emphasize your organization’s culture and its code of ethics.  Last, but far from least, encourage management to live up to and model that code.  Refer to it in your organization’s newsletters or on your intranet. When someone, anyone, in the organization falls short of  The Code, they should be reminded of what the organization stands for and the behavioral expectations which go with it.

The Buck Stops HereIt seems The Buck Stops Here has gone from a clever sign that President Harry Truman once kept on his desk to  a sometimes overused cliché to, regrettably,  a thing of the past. We saw this when the Democrats attempted to place the blame for the Benghazi attack on the shoulders of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Of course, Benghazi was not so much a breach of ethics, as it was a breach of competence. Either way, it should never have happened. Maybe Governor Christie, like President Obama, didn’t know exactly what was going on with the George Washington Bridge traffic jam until it was too late.  Neither Governor Christie nor President Obama can undo what has been done, but they can take full responsibility for it. President Truman would have done no less. Or so his sign said.

Going forward, all executives (corporate, non-profit, and government alike) would do well to draw on the ethical expertise of their Human Resources Directors, not only to guide them through the often choppy, gray waters of business and politics, but to establish and nurture a culture of ethics among their staffs.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the show. Jersey Boys is in for a long run.


With Virtual Interviews and Gamification on the Rise, Will the In-Person Interview Become Obsolete?

I had nearly forgotten about the three-martini lunch, that oh so popular ritual among the businessmen in the New York neighborhood where I grew up. Then Mad Men came along with its high-definition window on what our  fathers had been up to all day at their Manhattan offices in the sky.


Is the in-person interview destined to become as much of a nostalgic oddity as the three-martini lunch? The first whiff of an applicant’s cologne, the strength and sincerity of a handshake, and those intangible signals emitted by an applicant’s body language may soon become obsolete.

What is taking their place? Two new millennia approaches to interviewing and screening applicants are becoming more popular by the day: virtual interviews and gamification.  

 Some virtual interviews (aka online interviews) may be held live using a platform like Skype.  In other cases, the recruiter will e-mail the candidate a link to a series of pre-set questions. The applicant is recorded on a webcam as he gives his answers. According to Dave Zielinski’s SHRM article, The Virtual Interview,  “Hiring managers review and rate the video profiles, share them with co-workers for comments, and move contenders to the next round.”     Recruiters like this process because they can view the interviews at their own convenience, be it at the office during work hours or at home in the evening.

 Gamification is the process of evaluating job candidates by having them participate in video games involving tasks or simulations which test for particular behaviors, skills, and strategies.   No doubt, this selection tool delights a whole generation of gamers whose parents told them, over and over, that playing video games was a huge waste of time.

If you have never played a video game in your life, you may want to find a young person to show you the ropes.  You’ll likely be surprised by how sophisticated and educational some of the modern  games are.

Should you find yourself at the applicant-end of an online interview, check out  Dawn Dugan’s sage advice, “8 Tips for Acing Virtual Job Interviews.”  

Whether you find yourself facing a live Skype interview, a recorded virtual interview, or a challenging video game, wait until after you’ve logged off to indulge in that triple-martini.


Unemployed Need Not Apply

A non-profit organization in our area is well known for its program to help unemployed individuals find work.  Imagine my surprise yesterday when I read a job posting from this organization for an Executive Coordinator. The posting ended with a statement that any applicants who had not been employed continuously for the past six months would not be considered for the position.

In other words, while this organization continues to solicit and receive funds from contributors to coach job seekers on how to best find work,  they themselves would not consider any of these job seekers, no matter how qualified, for employment.

This ad epitomizes a trend among employers around the country. They separate applicants into two categories: the Haves and the Have Nots. Those who currently have a job are considered for hire; those who do not are automatically excluded. One could make a case that having a job, any job no matter how menial, reflects a certain integrity and work ethic valued by prospective employers. However in an era when even the most menial jobs are difficult to come by, treating current employment as a prerequisite condemns the currently unemployed to become even more unemployable as the gap on their resumes continues to widen.