Have you laughed lately ??

Well, have you ??  Today’s white water rapid pace of constant information, technology and drive are a fact.  We say we want to escape it, but few really do.  This constant push leads to things like job dissatisfaction, stress, tension and makes people uptight.

How is that good for the workplace ??

I love to laugh.  Those that know me can attest that laughter is a daily part of my life – intentionally.  I know there are things that are challenges, and things that we don’t like about work.  But, does that mean you have to succumb to that way of thinking in order to succeed?

HR people are the toughest crowd when it comes to laughter because we don’t do it enough.  We think that if we’re not taken “seriously,” then we won’t get a “seat at the table” or some other catch phrase that we cling on to.  Honestly, it makes me laugh to even think about how people make themselves miserable and call it a career.

For the past eight years I’ve written a song each week that makes fun of HR.  Seriously.  I run an old-fashioned, pre-social media Internet message board that reaches a ton of people with an e-mail.  And, to start off each weekly update I write a song that pokes fun at the profession I adore.  Last week I chose I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats.  It’s not a song that many probably know, but it’s really a classic !!

My version was “I Don’t Like Paydays.”  I’ll send you a copy later if you’d like to join the HR Net. (covered at the end of the post).

Each week I love writing a song.  I giggle, count syllables and spend time on Rhymezone to make sure the songs match the tempo, pace and lyrics of the original.

After I send out the weekly message I will inevitably get e-mails back from people who say things like this:

” Unsubsribe !! I just don’t get this and your songs !!”

“I’ve never heard of this song and I don’t have time for this !!”

The emphasis is there every time.  It makes me sad that something as simple as an e-mail can ruin our day today.  I would bet that the people that discard things that make them stretch a little also laugh little.

I’m not saying you have to like my songs.  I just want HR to step back, laugh and not take itself so seriously.  People learn more when they laugh.  They remember situations and they develop stronger relationships.

So, as you start your Monday, try something different HR . . . laugh . . . laugh a lot !!

(Side Note: If you want to get the HR Net, then e-mail me.  I’m at sbrowne@larosas.com – It’s a fun resource that is meant to connect HR folks so that we can do even greater things in our profession. Just know you’ll get a song and a broader musical awareness as part of this.)

The State of the HR Union – the GenX Response !!

My co-facilitator at #HRevolution 2011, Jason Lauritsen, and I have been talking between blogs and invite those of you who read us to jump in !!  It’s so much more fun when you get off the sidelines and into the fray !!

Jason posed the question – What is the State of the HR Union?

I had to have a “party” response in order for it to ring true to those responses you see to the National State of the Union addresses.  However, my response will not be canned or spun . . .

HR is in a state of flux honestly.  People are tending to “maintain” versus lead in organizations and that type of approach hinders our profession and lends itself to the critical articles and blog posts that tear at its foundation.  When HR is risk averse, it suffers.  We are so handcuffed with the fear of liability, that we miss the chance to do what is natural for us – keep the human factor in the workplace.

HR has the chance to alter the landscape of the business environment if they would do one simple thing – turn words into action !!

HR can’t continue to be the “them” in conversations within the workplace.  We have the unique position in representing both management and staff.  We must be decisive in that role and not ambiguous.  Again, action – not words.

If HR doesn’t act, it becomes irrelevant.  Now, for those of you who are the purveyors of the incessant catch phrases of our profession (ROI, synergy, analytics, etc.) – cut it out.  This isn’t about talking about being businesspeople, it’s about BEING businesspeople !!

I for one love where HR stands right now because there are countless opportunities where practitioners are making a difference.  Companies who not only value HR, but expect them to be integrated in their businesses.

The question is – Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to commit, or just settle for contributing?

The thing I’ve enjoyed about getting to know  Jason is that we share passion for HR that isn’t a trite, shallow, rah-rah passion.  It’s practitioners who dig HR and want it to succeed.  So what’s next in our conversation?   One question, my friend . . .

Have we buried passion for HR in systems and methodology in order to appear to be relevant in the business world?

“MANDATORY” HR DISCLAIMER: The GenX party of HR practitioners would like to state that the views shared above were from our representative Steve Browne.  They do not fully represent the entire party. (hee, hee)

Anarchy + Lava Lamps = HRevolution !!

I hope you had a chance to see the post from my HRevolution partner and co-facilitator, Jason Lauritsen, on Monday.  We are conversing between blogs to share some thoughts, insights and give a bit of a hint as to what our session will bring to Atlanta.

You see, I’m relatively “new” to the whole social media platform thing.  Even though I’ve been in HR for, let’s say “many” years, I was behind the many voices who are going to be attending #HRevolution this year.  I knew many of the folks who had signed up through Twitter and/or Linked In, but I don’t know many of them personally.  In fact, I relied on Jennifer McClure – a fellow Cincinnatian – to get me more involved in the “space.”

When I got the call from Jason to get to know each other better, I was surprised a bit to have him ask me to consider present with him this year at HRev.  I’m a pretty laid back guy and love to meet strangers who dig HR.  So, let me answer his questions and pose a few of my own.

  • Why is it that you agreed to do a session at HRevolution with a guy you’ve never met?
  • I have this odd trait about me – I trust people immediately.  I don’t believe in “earning” trust – I believe in giving it first.  If you make people “earn,” you’re really just seeing if they fit your beliefs/filters/norms.  I honestly figured if you wanted to do a session with me, you had good intentions.  You also had been at HRevolution before and I liked your perspectives on your experience.

  • What are you hoping we can accomplish in our short session?
  • I hope we can accomplish three main things: (1) To have maximum interaction from the whole group to gather their thoughts and insights on our topic of how YOU can change HR, (2) to have people respond to a “call to action” and (3) laugh – a bunch !!

  • Most importantly, why do you invest so much of your time trying to impact HR pros?
  • I believe in our field.  I’ve never been a person to tear down HR.  I’ve been critical, but I think that people matter. This isn’t a cliche with me.  If people have met me, they know that I do everything passionately.  Someone has to believe in other HR pros.  I know I’ve had people who’ve been there for me, and it just seems natural to give to others. I’ve never done anything on a “small” scale.

    ***************************************************

    Enough about me . . . Here are my questions for you . . .

    1) Being that you, and others like you, are my “future” in HR – why stick with a field that others rip apart?

    2) What attracts you to stretching the boundaries of our field?

    3) Why should people even care about this session?

    I await your response . . . .

    Let’s go camping !!

    The forecast said – High temperature 37, low 21 with a 90% chance of precipitation . . . makes you want to camp, doesn’t it ??

    Well, that’s exactly what I did this past weekend.  You see, I’m very fortunate to be the Scoutmaster for Troop 941 in West Chester, OH.  My son is in the Troop and we went on our first campout of the year to go horseback riding with 23 other boys and 6 adults.

    It was amazing !!  I love going on these weekend jaunts with my son and with the other kids.  I learn so much with them.  We laugh, tell stories, play tons on Euchre, and most importantly, I get to see people grow into adults right before my eyes.

    Today, there is so much that can be daunting, tragic and even horrifying.  We continue to fill our days with junk when the majority of our “news” isn’t news at all.  When the lead in story is about some celebrity train wreck vs. the real human condition that all of us face, I can see how we get cynical.

    But I digress . . .

    From Friday to Sunday I had no cell coverage, no Twitter, no Linked In, no e-mail.  However, I had EVERYTHING I needed and more.  To hear my son recount the exhilaration of his first ride on a horse, Zeus, was better than any distraction I fill my life with.  To sleep in the cold, to eat fresh meals cooked in a dutch oven from recipes my son found, to sing I’m a Little Teapot at a campfire to the tune of We Will Rock You by Queen, and to have kids pick you to imitate during Adult Impersonations – phenomenal.

    In the midst of all that is going on around us, I have to ask . . . do you enjoy yourselves?  Are you taking time to take everything in?  Do you see the miracles that happen literally everyday with the people you work with?

    Or, are you too busy rushing to check that next e-mail, make sure you get that next appointment entered into Outook, while ignoring the great people you work with so you make sure YOUR needs are being met?

    When my son and I got home on Sunday, I collapsed from the full weekend.  My body isn’t as young as it used to be.  But, I collapsed full of joy and great experiences !!

    Here’s my challenge to those of you kind enough to even read my blog – take time to enjoy what life brings you !!  Ask the person you work with what they did this weekend and  . . . stay there long enough to really take in what happened !!  Quit ignoring all that is good going on all around you.

    Now, I have to get recharged.  We camp again in 2 weeks (and I can’t wait !!)

    Quit looking for the Silver Bullet !!

    Recently, I had the opportunity to be the opening speaker at the Northern Ohio HR Conference (NOHRC). It was a great time and I appreciate people slogging through the 4 inches of snow to make it out for a day full of quality professional development !!

    I’m not sure what the attendees expected from my presentation, but one thing that didn’t happen (and never will) was that I didn’t give anyone a “silver bullet.”  I didn’t do this because I don’t think they exist.

    Conference attendees keep looking for “best practices” and ways to copy what successful HR efforts have already been done.  I struggle with this because I follow the tenet I heard from Dave Ulrich (paraphrasing) – Best practices are always behind. HR should be creating NEXT practices !!

    It’s a great philosophy to follow because I truly think that HR can, and should, move things forward both in the profession and in their organizations.  To do that you have to do two things: (1) Create the future and (2) Act !!

    The time of “let’s see what happens” and “I want my seat at the Table” are gone.  In order for HR to remain relevant and sustainable, it has to create and act in order to be integrated within organizations.

    Don’t say it can’t be done either !!  Companies and Sr. Management are looking for HR to be integrated.  They don’t need administrative death traps that only look at what is compliant or not.

    So, what can we do?  How can we help the profession and practitioners see that there are so many ways to help HR move forward ??

    Well, Jason Lauritsen and I are going to facilitate a session at HRevolution 2011 at the end of April which will attempt to gather the thoughts of a great group of HR pros to see what they think and how WE (that means ALL HR professionals) can move HR forward.

    I have a feeling that many “bullets” will be shared and I can’t wait !!  I already have my Kevlar fitted.  Jason and I want to see HR move ahead.  How about you ??

    You can’t handle the truth !!

    One of the toughest things in HR is that we are called upon to keep so many things confidential.  It’s difficult because we can’t even tell others that may think we’re “lying” when we’re actually keeping the peace.  When I was just starting my career in HR, I came face-to-face to the power of what confidentiality means.

    I worked for a small entrepreneurial company and the owner felt that is was time to start his succession plan and name a new President and he would move into the role of CEO so he could focus on externally growing the Company.  He was going to rely on the new President to run the internal day-to-day operations.  He had an engineering background, so to him everything was pretty black and white.  Not a lot of gray.

    I hadn’t worked with him much, but now I was put into a position of working with this new executive every day. One of the first things, let’s call him Barry, did was dive into salaries.  He hadn’t had access to what others made in the organization, but it was the first thing he asked for from HR. Imagine that !!  I had a gut feeling that this wasn’t going to go well.

    At his first management meeting, he thought he’d “set the stage” for his reign by saying, “I’d like to go off the agenda.”

    We worked in an open office with no walls from the 1st to 3rd floor, so everyone who worked in the office could hear everything – literally.  Barry states, “I’ve been reviewing the salaries and I think Steve makes too much as our HR Manager.”

    You can guess what my face looked like.  And, you can also guess that I was having “fond” feelings about this change !! Everyone was silent. No one knew how to react.

    Just then, the CEO said, “Really?  Steve, how much do you make?” (Remember EVERYONE can hear what we said at these meetings and you could hear crickets chirping waiting for my response.)

    “Uh, do I have to say?” I said. The CEO said, “If you want to keep your job, tell everyone your salary.”

    I gulped and said, ” I make $46,000 per year.”  No reaction from the managers. You see I made the least. “So, how much does our Plant Manager make?” (he’s at the table too !!) “He makes $55,000 per year.” The plant manager, my best friend, gave me the look of death.  The CEO went around the table and made me state every manager’s salary.  When it came to the President, the CEO said, “And Barry? How much does he make now that I’ve promoted him?”

    I couldn’t believe I had to do this. I looked down at the table and said, “Barry makes $110,000 per year.” I could feel the daggers coming at me from Barry. “Steve, what about me? What do I make?,” said the CEO. I felt as if I was going to throw up in front of everyone.  You see, Barry didn’t know how much the CEO made. I said, “You make $185,000 per year.”  Barry turned ashen. He wasn’t as close to the top as he thought.

    The CEO said, “You see, that’s why Steve’s in HR and you’re not Barry. He can handle confidential information. Now either grow up, or step down. Salaries are just numbers and now that we have the air cleared, can we get back to the agenda?”

    I respected the CEO even more and any credibility Barry thought he had by wielding power had evaporated.

    What we do in HR is tough.  Hang in there because we can handle the truth !!

    We’re Just Playin’ !!

    When it comes to training and OD, HR tends to take things to extremes.  We hire the best consultants, make sure we follow the newest trend of training noveau, and the more “HRey” it is, the better we feel justfied of our existence.

    Okay, that’s a little extreme in itself.  But, the point is this – we try too hard when it comes to training exercises !!

    I was made aware of this tendency at a recent retreat we had.  I was excited to be involved in training our great folks.  My topic was “Communication” and Operations told me I could be over the top to make sure we had fun.  I was a little skeptical about this honestly. I don’t mind going over the top whenever I do presentations to HR chapters, conferences or even other businesses, but I wasn’t sure how I would be accepted.

    The Ops leaders threw another curve at me when they said they were going to kick off the day with something “fun.”   My abject fear of the Lifeboat Exercise was racing through my mind (when you’re given just one item and then you determine who should survive).  Just what was fun going to be?

    When the day of the event came up, we met at a very cool place called Blue Ocean Facilities . Spread out all over the room were board games. Everything from Clue to Apples to Apples. (my personal fave)  The Ops Leaders then pulled out the classic OD training technique of numbering us off from 1 to 6.  Then the radical instructions came – “Okay, now we’ll go by numbers, pick a board game as a group and go play it.”

    That was it.  Go play the game. One GM even started by saying “So, what’s the real meaning here that you’re looking for?” Isn’t that sad that we’re conditioned to expect some hidden agenda even before we started?

    No agenda. We just played board games for the first 1 1/2 hours of the day.  It was a riot !! BTW – my team picked Apples to Apples and we howled and laughed the entire time. When we finished one round, we had the option to change, but my group stayed with it to laugh even more.

    Playing a game set the stage for the rest of a VERY successful day where we did take time to learn about better communication as well as improving our guest’s experience.

    Here’s something I’d like all of HR to remember . . .

    When we were kids the world was limitless. We could imagine anything from simple household items and change the world with our imagination.  We also played constantly. Everything was a game !!

    You know what happens when kids grow up ??  They become our employees.

    So, keep things simple.  Play a game !! It’s the best “training” you’ll ever do !!

    And the Mentor goes to . . .

    On Sunday night, much of the United States will watch some, if not all, of the Oscars, and we will talk about the stars.  We’ll talk about how they dress, who they’re with, what party they go to, etc. etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge movie fan !!  I love to see almost any movie and there are some great choices this year. But, have you noticed something?  The key awards where the stars win are given the best spots, the most time to gush during an acceptance speech and we expect them to be memorable.  However, the people who are behind the scenes like the screenwriters, make-up, score and others are clipped short even though they have reached the same pinnacle.  We just don’t WANT to see them.  It’s sad.  To make a movie you need hundreds of people and yet few ever get credit.

    It’s a lot like mentors.  Great mentors are people who are there for you throughout your career either to move you ahead, stop you from falling into a career-ending ravine, or just to listen.  Mentors are something that is essential for every person in today’s business climate of constant change.  You need an anchor !!

    Let me tell you about my mentor.  His name is Fred Eck and he is the current HR Manager for Atlas Roofing.  He’ll probably kill me for making this much about him, but you have to hear about how a great mentor does this naturally.

    Fred has held almost every SHRM leadership position there is at the chapter, State and Regional level.  In fact, he’s the Program Chair for me this year for the 2011 Ohio HR Conference, and I couldn’t think of a better person to be in this critical role to our conference’s success !!

    I talk to Fred two to three times a week just to check in, talk about life and get a piece of wisdom – which he always has.  We are inseperable at Conferences or SHRM meetings.

    Now, if you look for Fred online, you’ll find him on Linked In and I even convinced him to join Twitter, but you won’t see a lot of Tweets from him (yet). You see Fred is like that great screewriter or the the cameraman who captures the perfect scene.  He’s not the visible person up front who gets all the accolades, but you couldn’t do the movie without him. He’s taught me several things, but one pearl of wisdom has set the stage for me.

    “You can’t be a mentor – without having a mentor.”

    I am a mentor now too to a few people.  I won’t tell you who they are because that is not necessary.  I want them to grow to be future businesspeople who will make anything I ever get to do seem minor.

    So often lately, I get the feeling that we keep focusing on the HR voices who are edgy, visible, contrary and larger-than-life. I think they are doing great work, but I don’t want us to forget the thousands who are behind the scenes making this happen.

    So the Mentor goes to . . . Fred Eck !!  I’m going to sit back now and listen to his acceptance speech no matter how long it goes !!

    Image courtesy of There from Here Blog

    WIFO – A New Approach

    It’s time for HR to quit trying to focus on the “me” side of HR and look at focusing on others. This approach isn’t happening today and imagine if it did !!

    Have you been to HR seminars where they emphasize the WIFM effect of employees?  You know, “what’s in it for me?” There are entire marketing efforts and focuses that try to figure this out from a consumer’s perspective.  I get it.  I’m attracted to things that meet my preferences and styles, but I’m sure they don’t fit anyone else’s choices.

    We’re all unique as people.  HR struggles with this.  How can we provide the “what’s in it for me” factor if everyone is different?  It’s impossible !!! Or, is it ??

    I think it’s time for HR to try the WIFO approach – What’s in it for others?  If we’d do this, we’d be more successful in the end in meeting the needs of most – not all.

    Using the WIFO approach, you can really put people first.  HR needs to understand that without people, we’re nothing but a giant bureaucratic machine that people see in negative connotations.  We have to put others first – all the time !!  This may not seem fair, but it really works.

    More often than not, HR departments approach the least common denominator when it comes to policies, programs and initiatives.  We have a small sample of employees who either make the most noise, or cause the most problems and Wah-lah !! – something new magically appears that we now impose on everyone.

    You have to ask yourself, “When I go talk to employees, am I talking about a situation, or am I focusing on them as a person first?”  Is it more important to get resolution, or understand what’s happening to them as a person? Try it. Focus on your employees as people first.

    I think we don’t think of others first because people rarely think about us as people.  Why don’t we change that? If you would take the time this week to e-mail, call or visit an HR peer and just ask them how they’re doing, how do you think the profession would change?  I think it’d be amazing !!  Intentionally reaching out to others to model what we could do for our organizations.

    People are difficult, challenging, amazing, creative, unpredictable and that’s a great reason to be in HR !!  You and I need to remember . . . we’re people too.

    If I were you, I’d be on the lookout for a call . . .

    Whole Lotta Love (for HR) !!

    Too often people are tearing down HR vs. building it up. This needs to change now. If we did this, can you imagine what workplaces would be like?

    When you think of Valentine’s Day, the first band that comes to mind is . . . Led Zeppelin of course !! 

    These rock giants defined an all-out, unabashed approach to their music and they renewed the world of rock post-Beatles.  I’m a GIANT Zep fan and when I hear any song from them I just get jacked up (even their ballads.)

    Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a tribute to Led Zeppelin.  Instead, it’s a call for HR to be as all-in every time they approach their jobs and the field in general.  When I go to chapter meetings, roundtables, conferences or read the endless blogs that trash HR, I hear more voices joining in tearing down HR vs. building it up.

    When was this ever a good approach to changing anything?  Seriously.  If we think, “Let’s all show why HR falls short, isn’t strategic and can’t get out of its way in the business world – then things are sure to change !!”

    I was talking to Jason Lauritsen recently.  He’s a fellow HR practitioner and we were sharing that we want to take 2011, and beyond, to lift HR up and not tear it down.  It’s not to say that people can’t be critical, but give solutions not just gripes.  Also, we agreed that the human perspective of what we do can’t be buried in the HR/Corporate speak of metrics, ROI, synergy, etc.  Really, people don’t talk like that.

    Jason and I have different approaches to HR with one common theme – PASSION !!

    Passion is a word that isn’t supposed to be set aside for one day in February when everyone is “supposed to be” passionate because a card told you to.  We can’t expect employees to be engaged if we’re not passionate about them !!  It’s past time for HR to be passionate about what we do, how we influence people’s lives and how our work and perspective assist companies to move forward.  Mediocrity isn’t an option.  It never was.

    The time is now to show a Whole Lotta Love for HR !!  What do you say? Are you in?

    Image courtesy of Etsy