Come Together

I just came back from a quick trip to Seattle. No, it wasn’t because I was chasing Pokemon for Pokemon Go. I was a part of the SHRM Talent Symposium hosted by the Puget Sound SHRM Chapters – Seattle SHRM, Lake Washington HR Association, South King County SHRM, and the Washington State Human Resources Council. Fortunately, I was able to speak and attend the entire event. There were 300 other HR folks who come out for the day to learn about current and future Talent Acquisition trends.

It was encouraging to see HR pros set aside time, leave their desk/office and take a day for networking and professional development. When I met different attendees, I found that most of them did not know each other. A venue like this allows people to come together – and this is needed more than ever !!

With all of the social unrest happening globally, we’ve lost something in the midst of emotion, rhetoric and posturing. While groups want to gather during this storm of change, they are overlooking the families that have been directly affected by violence, loss and unrest.

On top of all of the ever changing social climate, you have a highly charged election season in the US, Brexit in Europe and military coup attempts in Asia. It seems that you can’t turn on the TV or your phone or tablet and not be faced with massive shifts in the midst of extreme actions and dialogue.

What about the workplace?

You see, in the midst of all of this upheaval, these people are employees of some company or another. Please note that I’m not trying to belittle the social weight and implications of all of these events one bit. However, when the next tragedy hits the social media sites and airwaves, the prior one that still conjures up visceral emotions, is less visible and not as much of a priority as the newest occurrence.

And after whatever people are facing, they go back to work. They have to work through all of these emotions and also perform and produce. As HR practitioners, and as companies, we rarely walk into these situations head on. Instead, we hope that people cope and move on as soon as possible.

This has to stop.

Come TogetherIt is past time for the Human Resources profession to come together as one across the globe. This isn’t a time for self identifying whether you belong to Group A or Group Z. It’s a time for HR practitioners, and those who work with humans, to realize that we can be a bridge that will make a lasting impact on our employees who are either affected or dealing with these constantly changing social conditions.

We can’t keep being people wishing that things will be all right if we just passively sympathize and console people. It’s time for us to be intentional and strip away the practices that we think define who we are, and we should act as who we really should be – HUMAN RESOURCES !!

We should always be present and available for our people, but we aren’t. We spend so much time trying to categorize and place people into “controllable” environments and boxes when we could be spending our time in fostering and developing relationships.

I ache for all of the tragedy that is happening around me. It seems to be endless, and it may be. However, I choose to no longer just hope it will go away. We need to come together and be available for our HR peers, our communities and our workplaces. This isn’t something that is going to remedy itself by wishful thinking.

I don’t know exactly what this looks like, and it may be vastly different for each situation (as it usually is). But action needs to start now and continue going forward both personally, professionally and organizationally.

So, this week – step out, reach out and help me in making us come together !!

Your Stadium Moment !!

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but in case you missed it, I am a music freak !! I have music playing pretty much all throughout every day and in everything I do. There’s even a hashtag that a few of my friends and I started called #HRMusicShare on Twitter. It captures what people are listening to and it’s a ton of fun. Music is something that brings us all together.

During the summer, I get to enjoy my fascination with rock music even more because the community I live in has free outdoor concerts each week in several venues. My wife and I love to throw our chairs in the back of the car and go to catch two hours of tunes !! This week we went to a new venue and listened to a great cover band who played classic rock hits. They were tight as a band and they got the crowd out of their seats and out dancing.

While they were deep into their second set, the drummer, who was the leader of the band, shouted out over his microphone – “Who has seen our band play before ??” There was a “roar” from the crowd because many had seen them before. He said, “Thanks !!” (and then quietly) “I live for that.” It was his stadium moment !!

Rock Crowd from StageIf you’ve ever been to a rock concert, the front man usually yells out to the crowd, asks how everyone is doing, and then they wait for the swell of yells and screams as their response. They let it wash over them, and I have to think they are like the local band I saw and that they “live for that.”

HR practitioners need to have a stadium moment as well although most rarely experience one. Why is that? The key for me is that most of us are hesitant to take the mic and “be on stage.” I appreciate that we do better behind the scenes at most times, but we often blend in too much. HR in the shadows is limited in its exposure and its influence. So, you may not want to rock the boat, but you may not be rocking things at all.

We can also take note that our employees are looking for their stadium moments as well. We tend to downplay recognition and want to make sure things are more “fair” than over the top. Individuals deserve individual attention. The continue attempt to make all things fit all people has never worked, and it never will. Each person in your company brings a uniqueness to what they do. All together they make up an incredible ensemble. To do this they need someone to bring them to the mic as well. HR can be that person. Make the time to elevate the strengths and talents of all of those great people around you.

HR step out. Be bold. Look out over the crowd and take in all you see. It’s time for your stadium moment !! Go out there and seize it !!

 

Do The Work !!

Do you enjoy meeting people personally and professionally ?? Does there have to be a compelling reason to do so ?? Is the only reason you meet people is because you read a blog post that tells you to ??

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I thrive on meeting new people. That’s a fact. Whenever I go to a new environment, I reach out to meet people. I really want to get to know them, know who they are and something unique about them. I understand that this isn’t the norm and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have the capacity to take in more and more folks.

You see, I’m not a collector. Many people who network are because they have some ulterior motive that is intended to result in a sale of their services or products. When this occurs, people are only scratching the surface of truly connecting and yet people continue to do this. Just last week a person who was a guest at the restaurant I work at came up to me and said, “You look friendly and are always smiling. Here’s my card, I represent . . . .” I was floored. No name. No introduction. Just a chance to whip out the 30-second sales pitch because this is how you think it’s effective to meet other people. I threw his card away.

Let me share an example of how networking has a lasting effect – as it should !! My best friend, Fred, calls me every week. Every. Week. He checks in to see how things are with me personally and professionally. He also just stepped up to run a monthly networking group, GETDOT Cincinnati, as their new President. By the way, he’s officially “retired.” Meeting new people really shouldn’t matter to him anymore should it ??

Fred is not only a dear friend, but he’s a great mentor and example that you need to have relationships with those in your network. That is the key !! If you can’t tell others about a connection past a rectangular piece of paper, then they really aren’t a connection at all. Remember, if you’re too busy to make time for others, don’t have them in your network and don’t be in theirs. That may sound a bit harsh, but great connections encourage each other. They don’t use each other.

Do The WorkThe key to networking is to Do the Work !! I think that having a viable network and being an effective networker should be a mandatory skill for all business people and especially for those in HR. Let me be clear – this is a business skill and not a job hunting skill. We’ve lost sight that having a set of “go to” people makes you a stronger professional in your role both within your company and in your industry.

The challenge I see is that HR people are hesitant to reach out and meet others in our field. I don’t understand this because I’ve only seen it benefit me personally and allow me to have access to incredible folks !! This isn’t a factor of being extroverted or introverted. It is a factor that we don’t see the value of taking the time to connect with others.

This week, I’d like you to start doing the work of connecting. Make a commitment to connect with one or two new people in HR. Send them a Linked In request with a personalized invitation. Be active on Twitter and connect with other HR folks and share HR blogs you read with others. Go to events and find a few people you don’t know and take the time to intentionally meet them.

Be good with adding just a few people to your network each week. If you have a larger capacity, meet more people. However, commit to making sure they are connections and not collections. You’ll be a stronger HR pro when you have others around you that can encourage you and share their experiences and knowledge.

I hope you understand that I know that this makes a difference. It will be some of the most meaningful work you’ll ever do !!

Be Bold !!

I don’t know if you’ve attended HR conferences or SHRM chapter meetings. I have a feeling that many HR pros want to do this, but they may have not gone to them . . . yet. There may be great reasons that you haven’t taken this step yet, but I want to challenge this (and some other things.)

When you attend conferences, you see HR pros attracted to sessions where they can receive encouragement and/or motivation. This is great and also telling. Everyone likes a shot in the arm to get energized. I think these sessions are so full because people are just flat worn out. I don’t want to support a “woe is me” stance for Human Resources practitioners. I don’t think it’s needed. There’s too much of the deconstruction of HR out there. I want to see that turned completely around, and never take that approach again . . . ever.

This past week I read something that describes most of HR. It said, “The majority of people wish for safety. You should be bold instead !!”

I completely agree with this sentiment. When I scan the HR landscape, the tone of the profession is to play to the middle and keep as much stasis as possible. Keep everything, and everyone, calm. We’ve done our best to remove the excitement, passion and fun in the workplace. Isn’t it ironic then that when we go to HR events, we seek the presentations that will fill us with the same items that we’ve tried to squelch?

The only thing holding people back from being bold in who they are and what they do, is the voice of doubt that runs like an endless tape in our heads. The desire to take bold steps is inherent in all of us, but the fear that we sense becomes irrational and leads us to maintain the status quo.

Be BoldAren’t you tired of this? Why would you keep practicing HR if it continues to be frustrating and mundane? Time to be bold !!

The key thing to note in making a 180 degree move like this is to be connected to others who have gone before you. There may not be an overwhelming number of these folks but they exist. I’d encourage you to start being bold by getting out and finding HR events to attend. It will be difficult to make this sort of transformation just through your own efforts at your workplace. It will seem so out of the norm to those you work with that you could become quickly discouraged.

When you gather with other HR pros, you can connect and network with those who can encourage you. You’ll find that those who are bold themselves are never alone. They surround themselves with others who also are willing to not except the ordinary as the norm. I’ve also seen that they welcome the chance to help others and make themselves available. They relish the chance to see more HR folks practice boldly !!

So, when the voices of “I can’t spend time away . . . ” or “My company won’t support . . .” or “I can’t afford . . .” start playing in your head – you have to ignore them and look for ways to get to HR gatherings. If something is too far away, then find something local or virtual. If something is too costly or out of your budget, read HR blogs and get active in social media forums. If your company won’t support you, then don’t settle. You need to push back and show them that they will benefit from you receiving professional development and having more HR resources.

I know this is risky and I know that it will be challenging. I also know that it’s a much better way to live and practice HR !! There is no need to keep playing it safe. Join me and be bold !!

Your Voice Matters !!

The calendar has turned which is always exciting !! I’m really geeked about this year because it is also a Presidential election year. This post isn’t about one candidate or another because I think everyone should make their own choice for who they support. It’s unique this year because we have those vying for their party’s nomination and they are either polarizing or nominal. But it’s January. I’m sure many things will change before November comes !!

There is another event which has a major impact on Human Resources which happens on Tuesday, 1/12/16 and that is the State of the Union address. It is President Obama’s final address and it will surely be filled with issues and items that affect the workplace. Don’t believe me ?? Check out his past address which ushered in the Affordable Care Act, several labor initiatives and a call for other items ranging from wages to paid leave.

The fact is EVERY State of the Union address directly affects HR and the workplace. This isn’t a political call to action, it’s a reality. For the past few years the great team at SHRM‘s Governmental Affairs have been hosting the #HRSOTU – the HR State of the Union Twitter chat.

I’ve made sure to watch the speech every year and also participate in the Twitter chat. It matters because it gets out the voice of HR and our perspective on the items that come up. You may say . . . but it’s just something on Twitter. Fair enough. However, every time we have one of these, it gets attention from folks in Washington, D.C. It plants seeds for an opportunity to possibly discuss these workplace items with congressional staff locally or personally in D.C.

We Want to Hear From YouIt’s very easy to say “No” to opportunities like these and continue to implement whatever comes out as the newest law or regulation. We can sit by and just react, or we can make our voices heard. I personally know the impact that being an advocate for HR has. I’ve participated in Visit the Hill days with SHRM several times, advocated in my home state, participated in roundtables with the Department of Labor, and was even fortunate enough to testify in front of Congress. This isn’t meant to be a “brag” list. It’s an example of a regular person who is an HR professional who wants to make sure legislators hear the voices of employers and employees. You are one of those HR practitioners too !!

Every time I’ve participated, the staff and/or representatives of Congress want to hear from us and not lobbyists. They want context and not posturing. It only takes your willingness to step out and try it. They want to hear your voice and your perspective. You have that built in already !! HR advocacy is key to our profession and will help shape things. Wouldn’t you rather have your voice heard than to be silent?

Start with a first step by participating in the #HRSOTU Twitter chat with me and several other great HR folks from around the country. Let’s observe, comment and share. It matters !!

The Year of Others !!

It is rare that you get to write a blog post on your actual birthday when you write a weekly post, but today is my day !! I’m thankful to be another year older and geeked for what this year holds (and hopefully many more years to come !!)

I’ve seen many year-end posts chock full of predictions and resolutions for HR for 2016. I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions because we talk more about how they fail than they succeed. I dig the aspiration side of what they represent, but few ever expect them to result in sustainable change.

I’d like to take a page from the Chinese Zodiac where they have the Year of the  . . . (insert animal of they year of your birth) and declare for HR that this is  . . . The Year of Others !!’

So, what does this effort entail ?? I’d like to throw out to the profession that HR needs to be focused on others and not themselves. This isn’t some fluffy feel good idea. It’s a viable way to influence business and affect the bottom line. The difficulty is that it takes a change in our mindset. Focusing on other people goes contrary to the “What’s In It for Me (WIIFM)” mantra. The thought that you have to identify the trigger for every single person as their WIIFM and make that a reality is not feasible.

However, spending time – uninterrupted time – with others at all levels of an organization is priceless and a differentiator. Why? It’s simple. People don’t do it now. Companies, especially at the executive level, feel that when you spend time with people you’re “wasting time” because things aren’t “getting done.” They’re wrong.

Their is NOTHING more valuable and long lasting than investing time in others.

Others ButtonIt’s so difficult because we are surrounded by a society that is self-centered. The majority of social media is predicated on how many views, likes, retweets, etc. that one gets. People are more than willing to post their own work but rarely will they curate and post the work of others.

You have to understand that if you join this Year of Others effort that you will be going against the flow. It gets tiring and you could get discouraged, but it’s worth it !! You have to trust me on this. Organizations, and senior management, are looking for ways that HR can be a business partner, and that can happen if you’re willing to put your waders on and step in the stream to walk against the current.

Doing this also means taking a risk that it will work, and we are unfortunately very risk averse as a profession. We can no longer be timid. Your employees are yearning for an advocate who will genuinely take the time to meet them, listen to them, care for them and work with them. People want to perform and they will do better when they know that someone is there for them. You can do this by showing supervisors how to more consistently approach people as humans and not as task fulfillers.

Will you join me? Will you be a part of the Year of Others? I think we can alter the HR landscape and make what we do relevant and desired. When you do this, you will see how being in Human Resources will matter for you both personally and professionally !!

It’s going to be our best year yet as an industry and I look forward to walking alongside you as we do this !!

Checkers or Chess ??

I know this may sound presumptuous, but I have one of the best HR jobs ever !! It has definitely been the best of my career. One of the highlights is that I meet weekly with my boss who is part of the C-Suite. Now, don’t start to shudder thinking this is going to be another one of those “seat at the . . . ” posts.

Chess and CheckersOur weekly meetings are great because we talk about HR, the organization as a whole, our families and many other items. He always has some nugget for me to chew on, and I appreciate that he does his best to develop me. Recently he asked me if I practiced HR playing checkers or chess. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this so I took the bait. I chose not to answer directly and returned with the question – “Which one should I be doing?”

He explained which game made more sense for my role personally and for the organization. Can you guess which one? It’s Chess.

Many HR practitioners get caught up playing Checkers though. They move in straight lines and either forward or backward. They are more concerned with “getting things done” so they can reach the other side of the board and get rewarded. This is much more of a short-term task oriented approach. It may have bursts of success and things are coming off lists, but the pace never ends. It’s really a narrow way to practice what we do and can be very frustrating. If things occur that aren’t in a task format, you may halt and not move at all.

HR played like Chess is much different. This takes into account multiple players who have various skills. It also knows that the return move by the other team will not be predictable. There is strategy and various ways to conduct counter moves throughout the game. You can position yourself well and look ahead at what may happen. True, you may suffer losses and setbacks, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be defeated. You can still get tasks done, but those can happen by every member of your team using their strengths !!

The other primary reason to approach HR as a Chess game is that you’re going to be playing with other departments who may have to play Checkers. How can you bring a long-term, strategic approach to those who are task oriented? I think the key is that you have be agile and adaptable in order to be strategic. I’m not talking about designing or developing some massive written publication. This is more hands-on and requires you to make the moves on the board – where they’re happening anyway !!

Which game do you play currently? Trust me when I say that you need to evaluate and determine which one it is. It’s difficult to try to keep either one of them as a hybrid because you will tend to drift toward what is more comfortable versus what is more challenging.

Chess takes time, thought and risks. We continue to think that if we pursue these characteristics in our job we aren’t “really working.” That just isn’t true !! Taking time to do HR well while being thoughtful in your approach is essential. Also, risk taking has to occur in order for you to move forward.

Making the switch to Chess is needed and fulfilling. Let me leave you with this . . .

Pawn to E4. Now it’s your move !!

Yep.

One of the best aspects of my job in HR is that I get to recognize our Team Members when they hit years of service milestones. I wrote about this in the past, but here’s a quick recap.

When one of our Team Members hits a 5-year anniversary, I go visit them during the day and shift they work at their location. We keep things simple by bringing them balloons, cookies and a gift card. Keeping things personal and one-and-one has made recognition more meaningful for them and for the Company. I get to make 7 to 10 visits a month because we are fortunate to have incredible tenure. It’s not uncommon to have people reach milestones from 5 years to 30+ years each month !!

The reactions I see range from being surprised, to sincere gratitude and, at times, tears. You never know what will happen, and that is fantastic !! This past week, we had a very touching anniversary that kept things in perspective.

I went over to our anchor store to celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of our dishwashers. Greg is one of my favorite Team Members. We chat every time I’m in the store about the Cincinnati Reds, the weather or whatever is on his mind. A group of folks from the office and pizzeria all gathered around Greg in the dish area. I came with my balloons and a large tray of cookies.

YepWhen I came up to him, I said, “Hi there Greg !! Do you know why we’re all here?”

He calmly said, “Yep.”

I said, “We’re here to celebrate your 35th anniversary working here !!”

He said, “Yep.”

I said, “Well, since it’s your 35th anniversary, that must make you 40 years old.”

He said, “Nope Steve. I know how old I am. I’m . . . 57.”

Everyone clapped and there were a few tears in some eyes (including mine.) You see Greg is an adult with special needs and he’s been a part-time dishwasher for us for thirty-five years !! Greg took his cookies, that each person gets in their own gift bag, and thanked everyone for coming over to see him. Then, he went back to his job.

Greg is a great reminder that so many employees come to work to do a great job willingly and positively. He’s also an example that our focus in HR should shift from spending the majority of our time on a small number of negative people. It’s staggering to me that we continue to be an industry that doesn’t see the great side of employees. We also don’t step in the gap and stop others from focusing on the few negative people in our organizations.

I think HR practitioners would love what they did more easily if we saw the best in our people. There’s absolutely nothing in the way from making this happen. It’s a choice, and it’s a choice that’s easy to make. The challenge is doing this all the time. It’s not enough to get excited when you get the chance to recognize people. Employees want to be valued and have the chance to perform with support and in a positive environment.

Making this shift seems well within our grasp, don’t you think ??

Yep.

All the Time !!

One of my favorite daily things to do is randomly call friends on my commute home. I have almost an hour in the car, and it’s a great way to make the time go by. (Don’t worry, I’m a hands free user.)

This past week I had a great conversation with Heather Kinzie from Alaska. She’s a great HR pro and I highly recommend you connect with her !! We were chatting about life and work and she was telling me her thoughts about work when she said something profound. She noted, “I don’t want to work at a place where I’m half a person all of the time !!” I almost swerved off the road because that statement rang so true.

Heather wasn’t bemoaning a certain environment or employer. She was just stating the sentiment that affects the vast majority of employees who go to any workplace. You’ve had to see the statistics that are out there right now that state that 70% to 80% of workers are disengaged in their current role. That is staggering to me because we instantly personalize data like this and think of our own workplaces. What we don’t do is compile the number of workplaces that exist. If 70% to 80% of workers are disengaged in ALL workplaces, then we face a massive obstacle each and every day regardless of where we work.

In HR, we express that we want people to bring their “whole self” to work, but that’s not really true. We want people to bring as much of themselves as fit our systems and norms. We freak out if people are outliers and work so hard to make people conform. This isn’t an indictment, it’s an observation. Since this is the culture of most companies, it’s not surprising that someone would bring half of themselves to work – all of the time.

Is there anything we can do to shift this state of malaise? I think there is. However, it will take a truly radical step for HR. You see, we are the controllers of conformity. Our systems, procedures and policies scream for same mindedness and behavior within a tight framework of parameters.

I think there should be company norms and the majority of these happen naturally. If your company’s leadership and/or industry is more formal, your norms will follow. If they are more hip and edgy, your norms will follow there as well. HR has to look at how it makes these cultures come to life to see if you’re allowing people to freely move and perform in these environments, or if we’re making sure that people show up.

All The TimeYou see, the best cultures can be stifled if our HR practices are more focused on being visible and seen (i.e. showing up), or if they’re on performance. If your culture truly champions performance, and your focus is development and shepherding within that culture, then people will bring more of who they are to work – all the time.

What is the big concern? If we looked at having less control, would chaos really ensue? Trust me when I say this – If your HR systems are built to control folks, you actually have no control at all. You don’t have a work environment, you have an institution. People can’t help but be disengaged because the environment doesn’t even exist to encourage them to be engaged.

This week look around your company. Do you see “half people” ?? Are you existing as a half person yourself in HR ?? This needs to change and it starts with you. Don’t settle for environments where people only exist. Instead, work intentionally on building an environment where people can, and are expected to, thrive !!

Shadowcasting !!

I’m a fairly tall HR pro. I’m 6’4″ tall and have always been one of the tallest folks in a crowd all the way back to Kindergarten. I mention this because I notice this more when I attend HR conferences. As I lurch down the hallways of the conference centers, I see the crowd mill around me and I wonder what they’re thinking and experiencing as they head from session to sessions.

One other thing you need to know about me. I dig HR conference sessions. I really do. I tend to go to see speakers who stretch and challenge me to look at things differently. Over the past few months, two speakers really stuck with me – Mary Faulkner and Jennifer McClure. Mary presented at the SHRM Annual Conference on leaving a legacy as a leader and used an analogy of a shadow. Jen just did a presentation on building your personal brand and noted that you have a brand whether you cultivate one or not. As I mulled over these two presentations, a new thought came together !!

You see, everyone can cast a shadow as well as have a personal brand. I think that HR misses out on this because we tend to be great workers, but not folks who intentionally stand out to impact others. Aren’t you tired of just existing around others? What if you stepped back and put together a plan to live by and revolutionize HR for yourself and your workplace?

I think it’s possible and within your grasp. However, in order to be a shadowcaster, you need to take some steps that are guaranteed to make you uncomfortable.

Shadow Selfie 2Get out of the Dark !!

Shadows need light. Too often HR wallows in the dark underbelly of organizations. There is a reality in this face because we are tasked with addressing difficult situations between people. These situations can either consume you, or you can take them head on. There will always be difficult situations because there will always be employees in the workplace !! When you bring light into your approach, you’ll see how differently the outcomes become. You’ll also see that HR is a field where you can thrive and not just struggle through.

Be intentional !!

People want to connect, but they typically won’t take the first step to make that happen. You’ll hear people say that they don’t care if they’re connected to others, their jobs or the company, but that isn’t true. You need to be the person who initiates those connections. To me this isn’t a matter of being extroverted or introverted. You’re in HR and that means that you are in the midst of people on purpose. Be the one who cares. Be the one who casts their shadow over others and engulf them to let them know that they matter to you and the company.

Act Now !!

Remember, you have a brand and a shadow already within your role and your company. The question is, what does it look like? I’m pretty sure most people don’t know because this type of personal reflection is counterintuitive with how HR usually functions. We ask others to focus on development, but we don’t take care of ourselves. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself personally and professionally. Having a direction and a vision for who you are and how you’ll practice is essential. Don’t keep wishing for this transformation to occur. Take steps to make it happen !!

The pic above is my tall shadow. I want to be an HR professional who lives in the light and influences others. I have this radical goal of pulling all HR professionals together globally into one community. I know that I can cast my shadow at home with my family and in my community as well. Being intentional takes time, energy and determination.

I’d love to see you join me and step into the light yourself so that together we can bring HR out of the shadows and start casting our shadows positively on others !!