Post Chronology

September 2021

InFullBloom Archives


Speaking Engagements

Predict and Prepare sponsored by Workday 12/16

The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #171, 2/15
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #160, 8/14
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #145, 1/14
Workday Predict and Prepare Webinar, 12/10/2013
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #134, 8/13
CXOTalk: Naomi Bloom, Nenshad Bardoliwalla, and Michael Krigsman, 3/15/2013
Drive Thru HR, 12/17/12
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #110, 8/12
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Business Value," 5/3/12 Audio/Whitepaper
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Predict and Prepare," 12/7/11
HR Happy Hour - Episode 118 - 'Work and the Future of Work', 9/23/11
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #87, 9/11
Keynote, Connections Ultimate Partner Forum, 3/9-12/11
"Convergence in Bloom" Webcast and accompanying white paper, sponsored by ADP, 9/21/10
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #63, 9/10
Keynote for Workforce Management's first ever virtual HR technology conference, 6/8/10
Knowledge Infusion Webinar, 6/3/10
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Predict and Prepare," 12/8/09
Webinar Sponsored by Workday: "Preparing to Lead the Recovery," 11/19/09 Audio/Powerpoint
"Enterprise unplugged: Riffing on failure and performance," a Michael Krigsman podcast 11/9/09
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #39, 10/09
Workday SOR Webinar, 8/25/09
The Bill Kutik Radio Show® #15, 10/08

Keynote, HR Tech Europe, Amsterdam, 10/25-26/12
Master Panel, HR Technology, Chicago, 10/9/012
Keynote, Workforce Magazine HR Tech Week, 6/6/12
Webcast Sponsored by Workday: "Building a Solid Business Case for HR Technology Change," 5/31/12
Keynote, Saba Global Summit, Miami, 3/19-22/12
Workday Rising, Las Vegas, 10/24-27/11
HR Technology, Las Vegas 10/3-5/11
HR Florida, Orlando 8/29-31/11
Boussias Communications HR Effectiveness Forum, Athens, Greece 6/16-17/11
HR Demo Show, Las Vegas 5/24-26/11
Workday Rising, 10/11/10
HRO Summit, 10/22/09
HR Technology, Keynote and Panel, 10/2/09

Adventures of Bloom & Wallace

a work in progress

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter XV

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI Chapter VII, Chapter VIII, Chapter IX, Chapter X, Chapter XI, Chapter XII, Chapter XIII, and Chapter XIV in case you missed them.]

When they’d gathered, making small talk until their food had been served, it struck each of the two ladies, without any conversation about it, that they weren’t being treated as suspects but rather as partners — or perhaps just assistants — in the investigation.  And while they both wondered about this privately, neither gave voice to their impressions.  Meanwhile, once they were settled and enjoying their excellent lunch, the serious discussions began.

DCI Fritz first reported on the autopsy and toxicology results, calling attention to the high levels of diazepam found in the victim’s system.  He’d heard back from Cummins’ GP, just before he’d met the ladies for lunch, who was shocked that Cummins was taking this controlled drug.  It had certainly not been prescribed by him, and NHS records showed no such prescription over the last five years (as far back as he had looked).

Ms. Patel asked if the quantity in Mr. Cummins’ system would have rendered him incapable of fighting off or running away from his attacker, of screaming for help, or of even recognizing the danger until it was too late?  She also asked about the time it would take from ingestion until these effects would be at their peak?  And how might the massive dosage have been administered or even taken voluntarily?

As they were talking, Zelda suddenly saw, in her minds eye, the elaborate sherry tray in Mr. Cummins’ office, something she’d seen on each visit, but which she’d always ignored as looking more ceremonial than purposeful.  Now she realized, for the first time since she’d found the body, that the sherry tray was no where in evidence when she’d stood looking around the room after calling for help.  Almost bursting with this realization, she interrupted the other two to tell them about the missing Sherry tray, which thus far no one else had mentioned.

Grasping immediately the significance of the missing Sherry tray, DCI Fritz made a quick call to his SOC team leader to get a search warrant ASAP, search the offices of everyone involved in the investigation from the CEO, Mr. Wrigley, on down, and then as needed to search the rest of the building and grounds.

Stay Tuned For Chapter XVI

A Bloom’s Christmas: Inventory Management And Retail Retold

[I’ll get back to writing about my life after HR tech, about the murders I’m encountering along the way (as in murder mysteries), and about my increasingly portfolio life style, on Monday.  But before we get to 2017, here’s the last reflection for 2016, on my childhood in the 50’s.  The memories of those early years become more vivid rather than less so with the passage of time.  I can still taste the special foods prepared for each Jewish holiday, still remember the excitement of packing carefully labeled uniforms for each summer’s two months at Camp Mar-Lin, and still remember Bubbi Bloom’s incredibly sage and still applicable advice better than I can remember what I ate for lunch yesterday.  Aging hasn’t dimmed my memories; au contraire, it has sharpened up the important ones and blurred the trivial.  

My education as a business woman began almost at birth.  I learned so much about business, absorbed it through my pores, as I worked at Bloom’s Camera (later, Bloom’s Photo Supply and then just Bloom’s, Inc.), lingered at my grandmother’s kitchen table after Friday night Shabbat meals where all the important decisions were made for that business, and was then apprenticed to all the other small businesses run by various relatives.  I went on buying trips to New York for the fancy ladies wear shop run by one aunt (they used to model the dresses at high end shops), learned the uniform business from another aunt, and was taught the basics of the Borscht Belt hospitality business by a great cousin.  By the time I got to my MBA program, cash flow, supply chain, human resource management and more were already baked into my world view.  So, with Christmas just around the corner, I thought you might enjoy a retail merchant’s Jewish child’s perspective on this holiday.] 

Bloom's Camera Catalogue Circa 1950

Bloom’s Camera Catalogue Circa 1950

On Christmas Eve, my Dad’s retail camera shop closed early, and we knew we’d have him with us all that next day.  Really just with us, even if he were too tired for much conversation after working the very long hours of the retail Christmas season.  New Year’s Day was for taking inventory, and it was all hands, even my very small hands, to the wheel.  But Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were really special.

Time alone with my father (of blessed memory) Jack Bloom was rare and precious.  He ran a modest camera shop with his brothers Paul (who passed away in early January, 2015, just after his 99th birthday and who has entrusted me with finishing his memoir) and Herman (who also published several “romantic” novels under the name Harmon Bellamy).  Our cousin Elliot took over the family business as our fathers retired (he was our only male Bloom cousin so he was always the heir apparent), automated early and aggressively, built it up into several thriving divisions, and then sold at the absolute peak.  Well done Elliot!

When I was really young, my Dad left for work before dawn and rarely got home before I was put to bed.  Friday nights were usually spent having Shabbat dinner, with all my Bloom aunts/uncles/cousins and even great aunts/uncles (those without their own children), at my grandmother’s house.  After dinner,  Dad went off to Schul with his brothers.  On Saturday mornings, we were all off to Schul, but we were orthodox so my only male first cousin, Elliot got to sit with his Dad.  The store was open on Saturdays, so my Dad and his brothers, despite the Orthodox prohibition against working on Shabbat, went from schul to work on many Saturdays, especially if they were short-handed by employee illness or vacations.  Summer Sundays were for golf in the mornings and family time in the afternoons, often spent visiting family who lived far away.  For example, in those turnpike (yes, before there were highways, there were turnpikes) days, the trip to Hartford, less than thirty miles away, took well over an hour.

But on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we didn’t go visiting.  After working extra long hours during the run-up to Christmas, we stayed home so that Dad could rest.  That meant me sitting beside him as we watched TV (once we had one) or read from the World Book Encyclopedia.  My Dad was a great reader, something my sister and I have “inherited” from him.

With everyone, including the mothers, working long hours, it was rare to see my Dad during December except when I was working at the store.  My cousin Ronni (of blessed memory) and I, from about age seven, ran the strange machine in the open mezzanine above the retail floor that took addresses on metal plates and transferred them to labels for the Christmas mailing of catalogues (like the one pictured above) and calendars.  Long before it was fashionable for small businesses, Bloom’s Photo Supply was into direct marketing, and we carefully collected the names and addresses of every customer and caller, all of which were entered in the perpetual address files that my Uncle Herman kept.

Sitting in the mezzanine, Ronni and I bickered over whose turn it was to load the metal plate (not fun), load the next item to be addressed (not bad), or turn the wheel (most fun) and discussed what we saw going on all around us.  Excess inventory, the bane of every retailer then and now, was a major topic, along with fanciful ways of getting rid of it profitably.  We also took careful note of anyone who appeared to be shoplifting, quickly reporting any irregularities with arranged signals to the salespeople on the floor, and our eyes and instincts were sharpened by those experiences.  Even today, on the rare occasions when I’m in a store, I can’t help but notice such behaviors.

While I can never be sure, I think those conversations with Ronni must have been the origin of my now famous story about the invention of Christmas as an inventory management scheme.  In that story, first told publicly and in its entirely to my Wallace family when joining them for our first Christmas as a married couple, the wise men were retail merchants who saw in the humble birth of Mary and Joseph’s son a solution to the already age-old problem faced by retailers everywhere of how to ensure that the year ended without extraneous, highly unprofitable inventory.  This is one interpretation of the Christmas story that my Christian Wallace family had never heard until they met me.

By the time we were ten, Christmas season found Ronni and me, the two youngest Bloom cousins, helping behind the counter after school and on weekends, ringing up sales, selling film and other simple products, dealing with shop-lifters rather than just watching for them from afar, recording those sales in the perpetual inventory files kept by my Uncle Herman (there never was nor ever will be again a filer like my Uncle Herman!), and generally learning the business.  Everyone worked during the month before Christmas, including our mothers who were otherwise traditional homemakers, and by Christmas Eve, we were all exhausted.  But the lifeblood of retail is the Christmas shopping season — always was so and still is — so our family budget for the next year was written by the ringing of those Christmas cash registers.  Throughout my career, whenever I agreed to a client project or speaking engagement, I could still hear, ever so faintly, that old-fashioned cash register ka-ching.

My Dad was buried on my 50th birthday.  My cousin Ronni, just four months younger than me, died in her mid-thirties.  Cousin Elliot, Ronni’s older brother, took over the business from our fathers when they retired, built it into something completely non-retail but VERY successful, and sold it 15+ years ago.  But if you’re ever in Springfield MA, you can still see the four story mural of long gone camera and photographic supply brands on the exposed wall of Bloom’s Photo Supply’s last retail address, on Worthington Street, just up from Main Street.

For me, sitting in my usual place at the keyboard, Christmas Eve will always be special.  Years after my Dad retired and I had a business of my own, we talked daily, with me updating him on my business in response to his questions.  You can’t fail to hear the ghosts of a retailer’s Christmas past even as my very non-retail business thrived.  ”How’s business?” “Business is great Dad.” “Are your clients paying on time? “They sure are, Dad.” “And are their checks clearing the bank?” “Absolutely.”  This Christmas Eve, I’d give every one of those checks for another Christmas with my Dad.

To all my family, friends and colleagues who celebrate the holy day of Christmas, may you and yours enjoy a wonderful sense of renewal as you celebrate the great miracle of Christ’s birth.  And please pray hard, on behalf of all mankind, for more peace on earth in 2017 than we’ve had in 2016.

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter XIV

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI Chapter VII, Chapter VIII, Chapter IX, Chapter X, Chapter XI, Chapter XII and Chapter XIII in case you missed them.]

The next big issue presented itself to DCI Fritz when he got the final autopsy report with toxicology results.  The most interesting item was that Mr. Cummins had a great deal of diazepam, prescribed with care as a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety medication, in his system at the time of his death.  With no obvious muscle pulls or tears, and because it clearly wasn’t the cause of his death, the presence of so much diazepam raised a number of interesting new questions.

Could he have been taking this drug in such large quantities as a matter of routine or had it been slipped to him by the murderer so as to make the murder itself go more smoothly?  If it were long term use, was it possible that Mr. Cummins was medicating a guilty conscience?  That he’d been doing things illegally and unethically not of his own volition but rather under some form of coercion?  Was it possible that Mr. Cummins was not the primary guilty party in this apparent discrimination scheme but rather a pawn being manipulated by someone in higher authority or someone who had some other power over the murdered recruiter?  Fritz’s office was already in touch with Cummins’ GP, and they’d know soon enough if diazepam were being prescribed and for what?  But even if Cummins was taking this medication under his BP’s instructions, there were no allowed uses that would explain such a large quantity being present in the autopsy.

At this point in the investigation, DCI Fritz thought that there were too many questions rolling around in his head.  And with new information coming in from his own team’s interviews with the tick-marked candidates, the continued deciphering under Ms. Kahneifmeyer’s watchful eye, and Ms. Patel’s preliminary meeting with each of the hiring managers who had key positions which needed filling urgently, DCI Fritz thought a meeting with the two ladies, informal and quiet, might be a good idea.  So he suggested that they meet for lunch at the type of tea shop where their colleagues weren’t likely to turn up.

Stay Tuned For Chapter XV

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter XIII

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI Chapter VII, Chapter VIII, Chapter IX, Chapter X, Chapter XI and Chapter XII in case you missed them.]

With this first news conference behind them, and everyone working hard on their assigned inquiries or analyses, and with the analyst assigned to help her making good progress, Zelda finally had a chance to reflect on all that had happened in such a short period of time.  And there was much to consider.

As the person who had found the body and then broken the code which pointed to, if not the motive for the murder then at least the context within which that motive might be found, Zelda found herself almost looking over her shoulder as she went about her project duties.  Somewhere there was a murdered whom she probably knew and who did know that it was she who had found the body.  There’d been no public mention of coded files or deciphering, no public mention of murder for that matter, but in the small town which is any closed society — and Great Software was exactly that — nothing stayed secret for very long.  So Zelda took to parking her car closer to the building, leaving before it got dark, and generally being more cautious than she was naturally.  And she also found herself mentally measuring each of the referenced hiring managers for the suit of murderer.

The next big issue to surface — raised by Ms. Patel — was that, with so many important open positions to fill, they couldn’t afford to stop making progress with their recruiting.  Someone would need to pick up the open positions for which Mr. Cummins had been the recruiter, really pick up his entire workload, and that would mean either leaving them entirely in the dark about the coded candidates and hiring managers or bringing them into the small circle of Great Software people supporting the police investigation of the murder case.  Ms. Patel felt that, with a murderer who had not yet been caught, someone jumping into Cummins’ position might inadvertently expose him or herself to danger if they saw any of the manual files Cummins had kept.  And because they didn’t know yet if any other recruiters were using similarly illegal or unethical methods, Ms. Patel was loath to assign an existing Great Software recruiter to Mr. Cummins’ workload.

After conferring with DCI Fritz, but with no one else, they agreed that Ms. Patel would take on recruiting for those key open positions personally and would retain an external contract recruiter to work with her on them.  They would use only the electronic files and ATS to manage the sourcing, evaluation and hiring for these key position, and Ms. Patel would say to the relevant hiring managers that she was going to handle this recruiting until the questions surrounding Mr. Cummins’ death had reached closure.  It was during this conversation with DCI Fritz that Ms. Patel realized that those same hiring manager were suspects and that her interactions with them could put her at risk.  With this realization, Ms. Patel, with a similar sense of caution as that which had enveloped Ms. Kahniefmeyer, began figuratively looking over her shoulder.  Meanwhile, DCI Fritz added more officers to the security team monitoring the situation at Great Software’s campus.

Stay Tuned For Chapter XIV

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter XII

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI Chapter VII, Chapter VIII, Chapter IX, Chapter X and Chapter XI in case you missed them.]

On one thing they all agreed.  Much more deciphering was needed to paint a more complete picture of what Mr. Cummins had been doing, for how long he had been doing it, with what impact on the organization, and with what, if any, co-conspirators.  In addition to the deciphering of current files found on Cummins’ desk and the current chart on his office’s white board, much deeper data digging and analysis would be needed to review every candidate who had passed through Cummins’ “hands,” their evaluation process and hired or not hired story, and so much more.  And, although records over the past year were automated, digging into earlier records would involve a lot of manual work on files which were stored — as you’d expect — in a records management facility.

DCI Fritz suggested that since the murder had just happened, it was far more likely that it was related to current or recent activities rather than to something which had occurred (or should have but had not occurred) more than a year ago.  He also realized that taking Zelda away from her pressing responsibilities on the stealth project were already causing challenges for that project, challenges which would become much worse if she wasn’t able to address them.  Therefore, he asked if an analyst could be assigned to work under Ms. Kahneifmeyer’s direction to continue the deciphering and compare what they had learned to the automated records for the current activities.

With information from these files and some interviewing guidance from Ms. Patel or someone on her team, Fritz further suggested that his team could interview every one of the candidates on which they had color-coded, tick-marked, manual records to fill in the demographics and obtain any insight they could as to the hiring process and results.  Of course, doing that outreach was going to raise a certain amount of scuttlebutt about what was going on at Great Software, about the murder itself and what connections it might have to the company, so discretion and a suitable “cover story” were needed.

Since it would also be necessary to interview all of the hiring managers who appeared, subject to further deciphering of Cummins’ tick marks, to be either (at least) comfortable or not comfortable with the demographic filtering that Cummins appeared to be doing, Ms. Patel suggested that she was in the best position to speak with each of these hiring managers without raising any unnecessary or distracting fuss.  That said, it was going to awkward as hell to determine how best to approach a potentially complicit hiring manager, who might in fact be the murderer, and ask questions which might reveal something useful without appearing to accuse them of anything related to the murder.

Knowing that there was no way to keep a lid on the situation, Mr. Wrigley suggested that he and DCI Fritz hold a joint news conference, announcing that there had been a suspicious death and that an investigation was underway which would involve not only interviewing colleagues of the deceased but also members of the community with whom the deceased had had recent contact in the course of his duties.  That would handle both internal and external interviews but not alert unduly the potential culprit(s) to their suspicions of murder by someone connected to whatever scheme or because of whatever scheme Cummins had been running.

Stay Tuned For Chapter XIII

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter XI

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI Chapter VII, Chapter VIII, Chapter IX and Chapter X in case you missed them.]

Fearful that Ms. Patel had fainted, Zelda stopped mid-way in her explanation of what she had found and moved quickly to Ms. Patel’s side while DCI Fritz asked one of his officers to bring some water and a cool wet cloth.  Mr. Wrigley was strangely silent while the others fussed over Ms. Patel, but in a few minutes her color improved and she asked that Zelda go on with her findings-to-date.

When Zelda had finished, Mr. Wrigley’s sputtering began, slowly and softly at first but then rising to a crescendo of alarm.  “How could this have been going on right under our very noses?  What about will be the legal and financial fall-out of violating our regulatory and contractual commitments for having fair and open recruiting practices?  What will be the damage to our employment brand, short and long term, among our increasingly liberal talent pool of new PhDs.   The publicity will kill us if this ever gets out.  What could Cummins have been thinking?  With whom, if anyone, was he collaborating?  And why was he or were they doing this.”  As before, Mr. Wrigley’s voice got louder, his speech faster, and he really did seem in danger of some kind of fit.  Fortunately, DCI Fritz now had an officer standing by with glasses of water and cool clothes, but Zelda thought to herself that something stronger would be needed before they sorted out this case.

By now her usual self, but as before, Ms. Patel spoke more quietly and thoughtfully.  She too realized the huge, negative implications of Zelda’s research on many aspects of the business, and she had many more questions.  “How long had this been going on?  How many hiring decisions have been made within this biased and, potentially, illegal decision-making framework?  Have any of the hiring managers been aware of this?  Been complicit?  And what about those who had been hired via Ms. Cummins’ discriminatory system?  Did they have any idea what was going on?  Clearly Ms. Kahneifmeyer didn’t know, but then her project was fairly new, and most of her hires-to-date have been transfers from other parts of the organization.”

So many questions, and very little time in which to track down the answers and determine if they would lead to Mr. Cummins’ killer.  Unspoken was the concern that, where one murder had occurred, others might follow.

Stay tuned for Chapter XII

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter X

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI Chapter VII, Chapter VIII and Chapter IX in case you missed them.]

Mr. Wrigley was the first to speak after the word murder had hung in the air for a bit, and he was quite agitated.  “But we’re a top security facility, and there’s not a chance that some deranged person from the outside wandered in, weapon in hand, and pushed a knife into Mr. Cummins’ chest,” said Wrigley.  “So are you saying that someone here at Great Software, someone we all know, is the likely murderer of our lead recruiter?  Stabbing in the chest with a beautifully etched oriental-looking curved knife?  Doing this during normal business hours in Cummins’ own office?  Without being seen or at least not seen by anyone who has yet come forward?  With what possible motive?”  By then Mr. Wrigley was sputtering, and he stopped doing so to pull himself together.

Ms. Patel, who had listened to the proceedings in her usual quiet way, taking everything in and thinking carefully about what she had heard, began to speak when Mr. Wrigley stopped for breath.  “If it’s an “inside job,” as the Americans say, and no one has yet come forward, either as a witness or with any useful intelligence, then I think we must search for a motive in order to find the culprit unless we assume that this was a random murder by a homicidal maniac who just happens to work here.”  And then to DCI Fritz she added: “Have your investigations uncovered any possible motive that’s internal to our organization?  Do you have any suspects in mind?”  Then, hesitating just long enough for DCI Fritz to notice, Ms. Patel continued:  “Could there be something about the work he was doing, about how he was doing it, or with whom he was collaborating that bears on the investigation?”

With this wonderful opening, now turning to Ms. Kahneifmeyer, DCI Fritz said:  “Perhaps you’d like to explain our findings-to-date in our deciphering of Cummins’ manual staffing records?”  But before Zelda could respond, Ms. Patel jumped in with:  “Manual staffing records?  Manual staffing records?  What manual staffing records?  We converted all of our staffing processes more than a year ago to wonderful new technology from Intergalactic ATS, and everyone’s staffing records are now completely automated.”

Even as she acknowledged her own surprise at finding these remnants, these artifacts, of their previously more manual staffing processes, and using some of the manila folders and Cummins’ white board chart as props, Zelda began to explain what they had found in his office and what their deciphering efforts had thus far revealed.  When she got to the part about color-coded tick marks on both candidates and at the intersection of candidates and hiring managers, Ms. Patel, already reeling from the apparent murder of one of her top recruiters, slumped in her chair.

Stay Tuned for Chapter XI

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter IX

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI Chapter VII and Chapter VIII in case you missed them.]

As agreed, they all convened in Mr. Wrigley’s office at 7:00 AM, hoping to meet while the building was quiet so as not to attract undue attention.  Because she was best qualified to explain their research into Cummins’ recruiting records, Fritz had told both Mr. Wrigley and Ms. Patel that he had invited Ms. Kahneifmeyer to their meeting.

Before the meeting, DCI Fritz had gotten an update on his team’s work, and there was a lot of progress to report.  He also wanted to report the results of his own meetings with Cummins’ bank, accountant and lawyer before joining Ms. Kahneifmeyer the previous day.  Once everyone was settled, Fritz began his report.

Nothing in Cummins’ finances suggested that he was paying or receiving blackmail nor that he was in anything but reasonable financial shape for a man in his circumstances.  His finances, at least as far as they could tell from the obsessively neat office in his modest home, consisted of his salary from Great Software, some income from savings and investments, and a small annuity that he appeared to have inherited.  Per his banker, there was no obvious pattern of deposits or withdrawals that would suggestion that he was either the perpetrator or victim of blackmail.  So no obvious motivation for suicide there or any indication of a motive if in fact he had been murdered.

Nothing in his legal affairs suggested anything out of the ordinary except that his will left everything he had to a number of charities, at least some of which warranted further investigation.  On the surface, they looked reasonable, but one of his team members seemed to recall a connection between one or two of those named charities and some rather unpleasant, anti-immigration agitators.  Also, per his accountant, Mr. Cummins was in the habit of making small donations annually to a number of charities which appeared to be fronts for various anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi groups, but here too there was no suggestion of coercion or undue influence.

The further results of the autopsy did show that Mr. Cummins was taking garden variety tranquilizers and may have had a bit more in his system than would be recommended, but not so much as to make him either unaware of what he was doing nor an easy victim for a stranger.  The autopsy also showed that the angle of the knife and the damage done by it were not very likely to be the result of a self-inflicted wound.

Summing up their investigations-to-date, DCI Fritz used one of his favorite phrases: “Together with the scene of crime evidence, it’s beginning to look a lot like murder!”

Stay Tuned For Chapter X

Death by Lousy HRM — Chapter VIII

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI and Chapter VII in case you missed them.]

In response to Zelda’s excitement over the phone, DCI Fritz stopped only long enough to pick up some tea and scones in the cafeteria, rightly assuming that Zelda hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for many hours, and he was with her within the hour.  As she showed him what she had discovered before and since she had called him, he quickly saw the implications.

If Zelda were correct, then Cummins was conducting his hiring practices not only outside of the automated systems intended not only for great efficiency and effectiveness but also to ensure compliance with both regulations and company policies.  Clearly Zelda knew nothing about this, but who else might have known or discovered what Cummins was doing?

Was Cummins acting on his own or were there others conspiring to bypass the laws on non-discrimination in employment?  If he were acting on his own, could someone have found out and murdered him to protect the company so that, when the story broke, as such stories always do, his death could be passed off as a suicide whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed with guilt?  Had Zelda’s unexpected arrival after normal business hours prevented the murderer from finishing the stage management needed to persuade the police that this was a suicide?  At this point in their ponderings, they both realized at the same moment that Zelda could well have run into the murderer and herself been killed.

So far, the autopsy findings were inconclusive, and it was just possible that Cummins, in a fit of despair or anxiety over being caught and revealed as a racist, operating on his own as rogue recruiter, had taken his own life in a hari kari sort of way (but hitting his chest instead of his stomach).  It could still have been suicide, albeit a weird one as to method and a complete lack, at least so far, of a suicide note, even if Cummins had not been working alone.

And then suddenly a whole raft of other questions surfaced.  If there were others involved, how far reaching was the conspiracy and whose careers would go up in smoke if they were discovered to have been a knowing co-conspirator?  What Cummins’ was doing was not only illegal but could expose Great Software to very expensive litigation, with potentially large fines, awards, and legal fees, and/or to even more expensive out of court settlements, so were there higher ups who, although perhaps not involved in the original “crime” of institutional discrimination, would see their own careers go up in smoke when this was discovered for their negligence and lack of effective oversight?  They could see several possible motives for murder here, along with a growing list of murder suspects if murder it was.

And even if this were genuinely a suicide out of remorse, with no co-conspirators nor avenging higher-ups, was Cummins’ despair the result of new pressures on him to improve his recruiting performance?  Had someone found out and been threatening exposure as the basis for a little blackmail?  Or had this been going on for long enough that someone had found out and been blackmailing Cummins until the poor man was wiped out, both financially and emotionally?

Stepping back from all of this supposing, and putting aside an entirely personal suicide that had nothing to do with what Zelda had deciphered, DCI Fritz felt is was time to meet with the GM, Algenon Wrigley, and the CHRO, Nikki Patel, together with Ms. Kahneifmeyer.  He wanted to bring them up-to-date and to rattle their cages just a little in case either Wrigley or Patel had a hand in this affair.  Setting the wheels in motion for a meeting early the next morning, DCI Fritz suggested that they call it a day.

Stay Tuned For Chapter IX

Death By Lousy HRM — Chapter VII

blog-dilbert-evil-hr-52521ee980dbabd9286331355dc6fd85[Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V and Chapter VI in case you missed them.]

With her eyes gone dry and her back aching, Zelda knew she needed a break and some time for all the disparate facts and questions to chase each other around her fertile brain until a useful pattern emerged.  Since she was reluctant to go to the cafeteria where gossip about Cummins’ murder was by now swarming, not to mention word of her having found the body, she slipped out quietly, got into her own car which had been left at the office overnight, and drove to the local curry take-away.  Then, while parked at the edge of the village pond and eating her curry, Zelda listened to an episode of East Enders and put her Cummins deciphering problem right out of her mind — or so she thought.

When she got back to the office, she found herself taking each of the candidates whom she had interviewed personally and looking hard at their manila folder tick marks and those on the wall chart.  All three of those candidates had been well-qualified, but in each case Mr. Cummins had either identified HR-related reasons why they would not be an appropriate hire (e.g. that they did not have the requisite certifications or that a background check showed some unexplained gaps between periods of employment) or reported that the candidate had taken themselves out of the running because of another opportunity.  A closer look at those folders showed that all three of those candidates had several tick mark and color combinations in common.   So what was it about them that Cummins wanted to remember, that was the same or similar for all of them, but which couldn’t or shouldn’t become a part of their automated record?

Suddenly, Zelda let out a gasp.  Those three candidates had all been women of color, one of Indian, one of North African, and one of Caribbean descent.  They had all been fairly recent immigrants, either coming to the UK as children with their immigrating parents or arriving for university and staying on.  And they were all women of considerable presence, accomplishment, strong ideas, and the effective presentation of those ideas.  Could it be that the tick marks were Cummins’ way of recording facts about ethnicity, personality, citizenship, gender, etc. which were NOT acceptable as input to hiring decisions and/or hiring offers?

Then looking at all of the hiring managers on the white board chart who had tick marks against these same candidates’ names, she saw that the intersection cell for each of them with her name had some of the same tick marks in either red or mostly green, whereas the color coding of tick marks on the manila folders never used those two colors.  Was it possible that Cummins was recording, by hiring manager, which of these facts about ethnicity, personality, citizenship, gender etc. would be acceptable or not to specific hiring managers?

Knowing that she was on to something, Zelda dialed DCI Fritz’s cell phone and waited impatiently for him to pick up.

Stay Tuned For Chapter VIII