Get Established !!

Earlier this month, my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary of marriage. I’m very fortunate that Debbie said “Yes” three decades ago !! I mean it. We are very compatible because we’re opposites. As extroverted as I am, she isn’t. As detail oriented and organized as she is, I’m not. It works for us, and I’m grateful for her every day.

I’ve written about our kids here on the blog over the years as well. This weekend we hit a true life milestone by “officially” becoming empty nesters. Both of our adults have moved to different cities, San Diego and Indianapolis, as they start the next stage of their life. We’re excited to see them grow and can’t wait to see what will come next for both of them.

Our anniversary occurred in the midst of both of our kids transitioning which was fine with us. So, we didn’t have a giant night out or some massive celebration. That really isn’t our style. The kids wished us well and told us to keep our eyes out for a package. We hadn’t seen anything, so we forgot about it. We just completed the move to Indy for our daughter this weekend. After two fairly full and exhausting days helping her set up her apartment, we came home to an unexpected surprise.

A large, flat, square cardboard package was leaning against our front door on the porch. We were eager to see what it was !! Once we opened it, we both smiled and were very touch. Here’s what we opened . . .

We couldn’t believe it !! The gift from our kids was perfect. This would be a daily reminder that we “established” our lives together. It seemed to give our family a sense of permanence. In fact, my wife was tickled that we were now finally established.

It made me think of other areas of my life. Our kids are now taking steps to become established themselves in new cities and with new jobs. It is our hope that they will do well and start having milestones of their own.

What about work? Was I established there? I’ve been with the same company for 13 years now so I guess you could say “Yes” from a tenure standpoint. But, had I put my stake in the ground to make HR and the organization better in what I had done over this time? I’d like to say “Yes” to this as well.

However, it made me think about others in HR. Far too often I hear of stories where HR practitioners don’t feel they’re grounded or have their place identified within their organization. This is extremely frustrating and people feel defeated in their roles. Why don’t people take steps to address this when they find themselves in this situation? Why suffer unnecessarily?

You can turn this around. You can. It isn’t as difficult as you may have been lead to believe. Organizations want HR to be relevant, successful and needed. We just need to see it in ourselves and believe it. The steps you need to take are unique to your role and your organizational culture. I can only offer one piece of advice that will get things started.

Ask the organization what they expect from HR and inform them of what you expect from them. Establish this with the leaders of every department. It will be different for each one, and that takes effort to keep track of the various expectations that will be shared. This type of effort works. You shouldn’t leave your relationship to chance or ambiguity.

Setting expectations of each other is something my wife and I have done over these past three decades. As life has evolved, so have our expectations. The years have been filled with far more joy than challenges, and part of this is because we know where each other stand.

This week set your expectations and get established. It would be great to get your own sign to put up on your wall starting this year !!

Making the Sale !!

This past week has been one of transitions. My wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and our oldest child was getting ready to leave home. We’re excited that Melanie is moving and continuing her career as an Occupational Therapist in Indianapolis, Indiana. A few weeks earlier, our son Josh, moved from Ohio to California, so our adventure as empty nesters is on the near horizon.

To get ready for Melanie’s move, we took a trek up to Indy to shop for furniture for her new apartment. She’s been working for a year and wanted to get her own things. We agreed and thought it would be fun to help her out. She was going to be purchasing everything, but she wanted us to check things out and share our opinion. My wife and I are grateful that we have solid relationships with both of our kids. They touch base every so often which is just enough. We don’t have any intention of being helicopter parents. We want to see our kids stand on their own and thrive !!

Back to the shopping excursion . . .

I don’t know about you, but I dread shopping for furniture. I love meandering through the stores and sitting on various sofas and chairs. I also love seeing the different styles, colors and shapes of things that can accent a house. The reason I dread furniture shopping is the immediate accosting that happens when you step two feet into a store by an over eager salesperson.

Now, I understand this is their occupation and respect that. I appreciate that they have knowledge of pricing, financing, dimensions and availability. What I can’t stand, from the majority of them, is their approach. They know why you’re visiting the store, and yet you still get asked, “Are you here to find some furniture?” We both know we are, but they use this mundane and obvious greeting for one reason which is to set their hooks in you. This ties them to you and gives them a chance at commission while also fending off the other salespeople also lurking at the front door.

The first store we visited caught me off guard. We visited Value City Furniture, and the salespeople greeted us and said to contact them if we needed them. Then we roamed freely for an hour !! It was bliss. It also allowed my daughter to take her time and see what she did/didn’t like. Roger, who met us at first, came up to us after an hour and then assisted us in purchasing a sofa and a love seat. He gave us all of the details and was outstanding. He also worked directly with my daughter since she was the purchaser.

The second store was an even better experience !! We went to Bob’s Discount Furniture and met Chauncey. He lit up the showroom and was warm, welcoming and hilarious. He worked directly with our daughter while also checking in with us to make sure she found what she needed. He had one liner jokes that put us at ease even though they were outlandish and cheesy. He chose to be intentional and engaging while also allowing us the time we needed. Melanie ended up getting a bedroom set from him.

The third store we saw brought back my anxiety, dread and past experience. We were ambushed at the door and the young man said he wouldn’t stalk us, but gave us a coupon that we could show other salespeople slowly circling for their next kill to keep them at bay. He said he’d be back in 10 to 15 minutes which really meant three. Oh, and he only addressed me as the man/father of our group. He never talked to my daughter because she obviously wouldn’t be the one paying. We walked out.

The key to all of this is relationship building. Every salesperson I know states they believe in doing this, but few practice it. I wish that people would take the cues from Roger and Chauncey !! Each of them were willing to stay in touch and allow us to have a good experience. The time they allowed for latitude ended up securing a sale for each of them. Neither had the same style, but they understood the value of meeting us where we were.

In HR we don’t think we “sell”, but that just isn’t true. Every day we are selling to make sure people have a great experience in their roles. Too often we buy the myth that we are pressed for time and that we just don’t have enough time in our day to invest in others. That, my friends, is sad.

The poor reputation that haunts our profession can be tied almost exclusively to our approach towards others. If we’d see the value of making the time to build relationships, our “sales” record would drastically improve !!

This week make time for those you work with and teach others the value of this practice. Make it your norm like Roger and Chauncey do. Trust me, you’ll start seeing the value in others, and your experience as an HR pro will get better on purpose.

Stop the Sighs !!

We’re about to embark on yet another week of work. As you get ready to make your commute, what is your mindset? I’m sure the answer is “it depends” which is a fair answer for any day. In the midst of whatever is ahead of you, are you geeked about what lies ahead or do you have an overwhelming sense of dread?

Now, I know these hypothetical questions are broad generalizations. Rarely do we have a day that is an either/or reality. Our days don’t present themselves in such absolute terms. However, you wouldn’t know that because the vast majority of people heading to their jobs tomorrow start with the same reaction before they enter their workplace.

They pause, take in a massively deep breath and then . . . SIGH !!

It’s true. Whatever is sitting at our desk, out on the floor or in the field, we see the worst outcome first. Think of that !! We head into another new day with a sigh because our mind assures us that something negative is sure to smack us squarely in the face. How often has that truly happened? I would think that it’s rare unless you are seeking that because it’s been your typical experience. (If a negative outcome is your regular experience, I would encourage you to find a new job !!)

I’ve noticed something about how people view their work that is very unsettling. Everyone feels that the only reason for their existence is to solve problems because “everything” is broken. It truly isn’t, but that’s how people approach their jobs. We feel better when we fix things because we think it defines our worth. It is very important that we do “get things done” on a daily basis, but it isn’t because everything is broken.

Organizations keep perpetuating and expecting this martyr approach to performance. In fact, we reward and promote those who are great “doers” far more than we do those who are strategic and accomplish things as well. If you step back and look at this, “everything” can’t be broken or companies wouldn’t exist in the first place. So, why do we keep making this the norm for our daily existence all the way from the C-Suite to the front line?

Let’s change this. Seriously. Let’s stop the sighs.

How would your day look if you were eager to jump in and take on the work laid in front of you? Instead of looking as everything as fractured and ineffective, what if you looked at the opportunities to take existing systems and improve them?

We should perform and make work better. As HR professionals, that “work” is humans. I’m sure you don’t look at your role this way, but it’s the truth. We have the opportunity to jump into the work week, and honestly every day, to engage, interact and encourage every person we encounter. Our approach to our work and the great people we work with is the key. You can’t expect people to have a positive attitude towards their roles if you aren’t positive yourself. So, if your day starts with a sigh, guess what you’re going to expect from others who are coming with work with you.

This week turn things around for yourself and, eventually, your workplace. We’re fortunate to have jobs that provide a living for ourselves, our staff as well as a product/service valued by our guests and consumers. What an incredible landscape that is full of options and an environment where we can utilize our talents and strengths. This isn’t Utopian, it’s what truly lies in front of you every. single. day.

Stop the sighs. Believe in yourself and in others instead !!

Hidden Gems !!

If I asked you if you were an adventurer, what would you say? Most people I know tend to fall into patterns because we like the stability and predictability. I try to fight this pull because I don’t want to get into a rut. I’ll be honest, it isn’t easy. I like traveling on the same route to and from work and I have some favorite places to eat on a weekly basis. I understand patterns and respect people who have the discipline to follow them.

This weekend, my wife and I went on an adventure. She is very tolerant of my desire for constant change which is ironic because she is VERY pattern driven. It gives her comfort and an understanding of what most potential steps are going to be. A friend of ours sent me a Facebook message about a restaurant she thought I’d enjoy. It’s located on the edge of Pleasant Plain, Ohio (population 140). The restaurant is called the Plain Folk Cafe.

She thought the restaurant would be appealing because it’s a hippie themed place that features local live bluegrass and country music. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to make the trek no matter where it was located. My wife and I jumped in the car, turned on Google Maps and headed out. It took us almost 40 minutes to find the cafe. We went through a few small towns and plenty of rural landscape. As the phone indicated we were close, we saw an old school house on our left surrounded by a small gravel parking lot.

It turns out that the cafe sits inside an old two-room schoolhouse that was built in 1913. The moment we entered I was hooked. The walls were covered in album covers and a large blackboard had only positive vibes written on it including – “Practice kindness everywhere.” The staff was in tie-dye shirts or Grateful Dead gear. The music that played overhead was a mix of the Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and other folk and rock artists. They also played very cool bluegrass artists. There was a stage on one end of the restaurant and a back patio which also was set up for live music.

The cooler was covered in peace and hippie related bumper stickers. There were also several small model VW buses scattered throughout the cafe to match the real vintage one used by the owner sitting in the parking lot. The whole menu was made up of hippie related names for their sandwiches, paninis and salads.

I couldn’t take in enough of the vibe and ambiance of this hidden gem. It reflected much of what I enjoy because I’ve been someone who’s always enjoyed tie-dye, folk music and a lifestyle that promotes peace, kindness and community. The staff talked to every person who came in and engaged them about their day and their take on being at the cafe. It was like sitting in someone’s house and taking in their home cooking. I haven’t been this relaxed in a restaurant. I even showed one of the staff the new tie-dye tapestry I just put up in my basement earlier that day.

Now, I know that this is something that I enjoy. What did my wife think? She loved it !! She stated, “I can’t believe you’re so excited about going to a restaurant that you’ve never seen before. However, I love that you’re adventurous. Let’s see what it’s like.” After our time there, she was the first to say that she wanted to come back again.

I think there are hidden gems all around us in life and at work. We tend to miss them because they often take extra effort and a willingness to try something new. In fact, I think there are folks who want to contribute, but we overlook them because we’re used to going to the same people over and over again.

As HR practitioners, we can’t let people stay hidden. Every person in your company is worth the effort to go out of your way to see who they are and how they want to add value. No one should be seen as too distant or difficult to engage. You need to make sure that you break out of your rut and take a new path to make sure that everyone is connected in your organization.

We can’t wait to go back to Plain Folk Cafe !! I’m going to make sure to tell everyone about it so they can see the joy in finding a hidden gem.

Age is Just a Concept !!

When do we start complaining about our age? Is there a certain birthday that sends us over the edge and make us feel that we’re deteriorating more than we are living? Is it different for different people?

I’ll admit that when I get up from the couch, or wake up in the morning, there are far more snaps, creaks and groans than there were 30 years ago. That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact !! I get it that there’s no way to stop the natural process of aging. I honestly wouldn’t want to change a thing as the years roll by. Sure, I hope that my health and mental state don’t fade. There are positive choices I can make with my diet and exercise that will assist in hopefully doing well. I also know that all of this could be taken away in a second without my choice.

This summer I’ve been doing something that I haven’t done regularly in over 20 years. I’m going to rock concerts !! The majority of the artists I’ve seen so far were ones I grew up with. I still listen to their music often and have been geeked to see them perform live before they hang it up. You see, the majority of the artists I’ve seen are in the “way over 50” club.

On the Saturday evening before the SHRM Annual Conference started, some friends and I went to see Aerosmith !!!! (that’s really not enough exclamation points by the way.) They just started a residency in Las Vegas, and the concert was mind blowing !! The played a little over two hours and crushed every song with the same energy they had when they started in the early 1970’s. The set list included hits and some deep cuts. Phenomenal !!

During the conference, the ageless Lionel Richie played for the Tuesday night conference. He moved seamlessly from ballads to the hard funk of his time with the Commodores. He was engaging, funny and great to take in.

That should have been enough for one summer, but this weekend I saw two more great acts. The first was Jason Bonham‘s Led Zeppelin Evening. For those of you who say, “So what ??” Jason is the son of John Bonham, the original drummer of Led Zeppelin who passed away over 30 years ago. This band just ripped into amazing versions of Zeppelin songs and I was screaming out the lyrics right along with the lead singer. Zeppelin broke up years ago and they are one of my favorite bands of all time. So, to hear something even remotely close in a live venue was perfection !!

Bonham was the opening act for another fave of mine, Peter Frampton !! He is on his final tour and I couldn’t believe I got to see him one last time. This was my third time seeing him. What was amazing about the show is that he shared very poignant stories throughout and it made the experience even better. Later this summer, I’m going to see The Doobie Brothers and Santana together !!

What does my summer of concerts have to do with HR ?? Everything !!

You see there continue to be countless articles, blogs and conference sessions on the younger generations either in the workforce or entering the workforce. I can’t handle any of them personally because I think it’s a shame that we separate anyone for any reason in life or in the workplace. Age is a fact. Categorizing someone because of their age is unnecessary.

You see we think it’s just one generation getting crotchety and becoming the grumpy old folks they swore they’d never become. Some of that unfortunately is true and needs to stop. However, the same light is being cast on those who are older workers. It seems that once someone crosses the half century mark (that’s 50), then a person’s value has to automatically diminish. Doesn’t it ??

The same narrow thinking and stereotypes towards younger workers is also being applied to older workers. Seeing these rock legends of my time reminded me that you can still ROCK regardless of your age. Because, you see, age is just a concept. The work we do should be based on expectations to perform and not what year we were born. HR absolutely has to step in and address anyone who is starting to treat older workers poorly. We may be the only voice who does this.

I know people much younger than me who are stymied by facets of life or obstacles at work that aren’t that challenging. I also know people much older than me that can, and do, work circles around me. Also, please don’t say “age is just a mindset.” Catchphrases aren’t necessary at any age. One other thing to remember . . . EVERYONE gets older !! So, if you’re allowing this behavior now, one day when you’re older don’t be surprised when this same narrow treatment gets applied to you.

Let’s make a pact HR. Stop ageism regardless of the generation. Treat people as Steve, Sally, Jorge or Dee – humans. It’s time we right this inequity in the workplace for good !!

Now, sit back and enjoy some of the music I heard . . . Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun covered by Peter Frampton on his Grammy winning Fingerprints set. It’s ageless !!

No Permit Required !!

This past weekend my wife, daughter and I traveled to Athens, Ohio to help my son clear out his apartment one week before he graduates from Ohio University !! (I’ll write more about this milestone next week.) Being an alumni and proud Bobcat, I always welcome the chance to visit the town and my old school. There wasn’t a ton of time to enjoy ourselves in the sleepy city because we were there for a purpose.

I don’t know if you’ve been on a college campus lately, but parking is challenging. It’s a giant revenue option for landlords of apartment complexes and also for the university dorm system. Street parking in Athens is at a premium as well, and vehicles are bumper to bumper on each and every block. This isn’t a complaint, it’s just an observation of what students face. It’s always takes quite a bit of time to circle around and around blocks surrounding our son’s apartment with the faint hope that we’ll find a spot where we can squeeze in our car.

This weekend we not only had our car, but we also rented a UHaul box truck to get everything back home in one trip. The only truck available could have been used to move the contents of an entire house !! This made driving, maneuvering and parking an adventure to say the least. I wasn’t sure how we were going to get near his apartment building with this behemoth. There was NO way it would fit in any parking space.

As I was waiting near the truck as my family marched back and forth moving items to be loaded, my mind wandered and I wondered about the marked parking spaces and the permit needed in order to use them. You see, in addition to the distinctly marked parking spaces, there are a myriad of cameras for security as well as signs warning that illegally parked cars would be towed at the owner’s expense. My son even noted that as we were driving through town he saw four roving tow trucks eagerly searching for illegal activity. They couldn’t wait to bury their hook under an axle and tow yet another hapless car away to an impound lot. There would be at least a fee involved if not a traffic ticket.

This layered system which limited options and threatened punishment reminded me of the workplace. I know that may seem extreme, but hang with me. Many managers of others don’t want performance from their staff. They want people to occupy their space and their space alone. You can’t wander into any one else’s space because that would mean absolute chaos !! Wouldn’t it?

In addition to making sure people stay where we expect them to be, we add layers of veiled threats of punishments either through discipline or performance management systems. We so desperately want people to stay put that we develop programs and systems to ensure that moving around isn’t an option. We are no different than the lined parking spaces at my son’s university.

Why do we continue to think this effective? In the world of desired collaboration and engagement, how does confining people seem like the best option? Sure, the systems of limiting people’s experience and reach produces results, but are they the best results possible? I don’t think they are.

I think it’s time to have a “no permit required” approach to work. We need to foster relationships and expect that people will do their best when they interact outside their regular space. We can’t continue to bemoan the reality of corporate silos if we aren’t willing to break them down. I understand that we need structure in our organizations, but it should be structure that allows people to perform and not constrain. We can’t keep thinking the worst is going to happen everyday without imposed restrictions. People have the desire to get work done and done well if they’re given the environment to do that.

We ended up pulling the UHaul directly in front of the apartment garage. We parked our car in an empty space without a permit. I kept watch as everyone brought down the items to the truck, and was prepared to move if needed to let the other tenants out. We broke the “rules” in order to do the work needed. We accomplished it using a system that was speedy and efficient. We even had time to interact with the landlord’s son who saw we were breaking the rules. He commented on how it was smart to get a head start on moving a week before graduation and understood that we weren’t complying, but would be done soon.

This week take a look around and see if you’re causing more barriers and parking spaces to exist. Take this approach and remove the permits. You’ll be pleased to see how amazing people are and how engaged they can be if you’ll only allow them to work as people within a system instead of in spite of it !!

Guard !! Turn !! Parry !!

When I was young, I loved getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons !! They were fantastic. I would get a bowl of cereal and sit in front of the glowing screen for hours. I especially enjoyed Looney Toons with the hilarious characters of ranging from Bugs Bunny to Daffy Duck. They were five to seven minutes of incredible action, story line and humor. Most of the humor, to be honest, was above my head. That didn’t matter though because they were so different than the other shows that were on.

One of my favorite cartoons was Robin Hood Daffy which featured Daffy Duck as Robin Hood and Porky Pig as Friar Tuck. Daffy is exasperated to prove to Porky that he is, in fact, Robin Hood. Porky is suspicious and thinks that Daffy is a bumbling buffoon who is far from the hero who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Most of the cartoon proves that Porky is right.

In one scene Daffy is crossing a log over a stream with a long stick which he uses for several moves, but ends up hitting himself in the face and bending his bill back towards his face. He tries the moves over and over with the same result. He even talks his way through it with confidence exclaiming, “Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!,” and then “Sproing!” his bill snaps back. During this endless, futile exercise, Porky steps up with a small stick and thwarts Daffy by inserting it into his moves during his spin. It’s hilarious !!

The reason I bring this up is that I find that most HR people spend so much time going through much of the same futile regimen that Daffy Duck does with the same result. Instead of being intentional and direct with people we dodge, spin, guard, parry and thrust. The only thing missing is screaming the “Ho Ha !!” distraction. Doesn’t that just tire you out? The constant maneuvering to skirt along the edges of employee interactions just in case you’re called into action. Inevitably, an employee comes up with their small stick and throws you into the stream.

HR should never be the buffoon that has to try to prove who they are either. It’s another giant waste of energy and time. We are looking for constant affirmation and acknowledgement by those that may, or may not, matter within the organization. This too is tiring and is discouraging for those who practice Human Resources.

Look, it’s a New Year. Let’s not be the Looney Toon character anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s immeasurable room for humor, color and animation !! Those things bring life to ourselves, others and organizations as a whole. I would just encourage you to no longer go through wasted motions that seem like thrashing around just to be seen as busy. Be intentional. Be among your employees. Be spectacular and give them the HR professional they deserve !! When you do that, you’ll be working alongside the great people you have and quit having to pull yourself out of the stream.

Replacement Parts

My Mom is an amazing human in almost every way !! This November she will celebrate her 80th birthday and I’m geeked to see that come along with family and friends. If you met my Mom, you wouldn’t think that she’s roamed this planet for eight decades. She is active, vibrant and a true servant leader in her community.

Just this past week, she had a hip replaced. This wasn’t due to an injury. She just needed some new parts. Her doctor has asked her for months if she was in any pain. My Mom always replied that she was “fine.” Evidently she had arthritis building up and her doctor was concerned that if she fell at some time, her hip would break and it could seriously hurt her. Thankfully, she had the procedure in time.

Seeing her go through this made me think of HR of course. How many systems, programs, policies and procedures have you created that are out dated, stale and stagnate? Do you even know? Chances are the vast majority of all of your human resources efforts need a check up. I’m sure that you are oblivious to how your systems are performing. I know I am. That may be a hard thing to admit, but it’s true. Most HR processes only get dusted off when there’s some “crisis” or policy violation. I know there are times when I ask to buy some time so I can pull up a Word document from some long forgotten file to make sure that I respond correctly.

This is not an effective way to practice HR. There are so many instances when we are reactive because we just don’t have a good reason to utilize our systems on a regular basis. I think it’s time we look at some replacement parts for what we do and how we practice.

I’m not sure what specifically needs to be replaced in your systems, but I’m sure there are ways to make things current and relevant. I’d suggest that you do some of the following steps to see what happens.

Does anyone know it exists? – We all have policies and procedures that were developed years and years ago. If you pull up one of these to review it and it says “As of . . .” and the date is over two years old, you need to see if people even know it exists. Chances are they don’t, and you didn’t either.

Is it relevant? – Our companies go through change on a daily basis (at least). I remember going through an old handbook I had written about the use of pagers. Pagers !! (If you don’t remember these technological miracles, look them up on Wikipedia). At the time, we HAD to have a policy because people spent too much time on them. Sound familiar? It was stupid then and senseless now. These gems are riddled in your documents. Trust me. Find them and get rid of them.

Can you be consistent? – This is the one piece of advice that I hope you use for anything you create in HR. It has to be able to be applied and implemented consistently. If it can’t be, then  keep working on it until it is. My rule of thumb is that any program, system, policy or procedure has to affect the majority of employees and not the exceptions. That runs contrary to how most HR products are created. You can’t be consistent when you’re systems are geared towards exceptions.

Try them out !! – The last piece of advice is based on my Mom’s surgery again. The hip she received is brand new and shiny. However, unless she can walk easily and have mobility and range of motion, it’s just shiny. So, instead of having constant launch parties for your HR efforts, try things out in focus groups or departments. Test them to see how they perform. If they need tweaked, then do that before you release it to the entire organization.

My Mom was up and walking within hours of her surgery. It was amazing to see. She’s walking better than she had been for months. She still had little pain still and I’m thankful for that. She’s going to continue to be amazing. She just needed a tune up. This week, start the tune up you need in HR as well !!

What’s Your Sandwich Board ??

I love when you’re out browsing shops in a town and you see a sandwich board. They are either telling you the specials of the day, or they have a catchy message to try to grab your attention. I have to be honest that I love the ones that are humorous, sarcastic or a bit snarky.

If a sandwich board is creative enough, it will cause you to stop and consider dropping in. You may not have planned to stop at that particular establishment, but the message on the board drew you in.

My wife and I were getting some birthday cupcakes for my son this weekend at Tres Belle Cakes and Coffee Shop. Before we entered the store, the sandwich board made me stop, smile and laugh !! We were heading to the store regardless of the sign because we had a “purpose” before us, but the sign set the mood going in.

When we went in the store I asked about the coffee they had, and we ended up walking out with a few “additional” pastries. I also saw a coffee brand new to me called Death Wish Coffee which both intrigued and concerned me at the same time. I may have to return to at least try this strong brew !!

While I was enjoying my pastry from the store, my mind began to wander and I wondered what my sandwich board says when people meet me both as a person and in my HR role. I also wondered what others see when they interact with HR. If I had to guess, most messages on people’s boards would be more self critical and reserved because most HR pros tend to be conservative and cautious.

Have you asked what others think of HR in your company? I know that many companies do this through surveys, but I’d like to challenge you to gauge how people see you through personal interactions. That is more telling than allowing someone to sit behind a survey to share with little or no context.

I hope that when people encounter me and my team our sandwich board says that we’re approachable, empathetic, understanding, human and . . . fun !! Yes, fun – It’s the “F” word that should define HR regardless of what your company is like. There’s no reason that people shouldn’t read our board based on our behavior and look forward to interacting and working with us.

This week take some time for reflection. If you had to actually post a sandwich board outside your department/office, would it invite people in? If it wouldn’t, what steps would you take to reformat not only your message, but how you practice HR?

I think that all HR pros should establish how they can market themselves with a simple message and attract people so that they want to know us, work with us and enjoy all that HR can be !! Have some fun (from now on) and create your sandwich board !!

Some Assembly Required !!

This past weekend I was helping my son get ready for his senior year at Ohio University by moving some of his big items to his new apartment off campus. I’m a proud OU alum and I’m geeked to see my son enter his final year of college, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him !!

Moving furniture has drastically changed compared to when I went to college. We would either fill a small U-Haul truck or take several cars in a caravan down the highway. We had two cars for this trip, but everything was in boxes. I mean the furniture was in boxes !! You see we went to IKEA to get a bed and a dresser.

I’m a huge fan of IKEA. How cool is it that you can get furniture that is functional and practical all in boxes? Yes, it takes some time to assemble everything, but it’s worth it. You can get every type of furniture as well from beds to sofas to dressers to shelves. One of the very unique aspects of buying furniture from IKEA is the instructions that come with the piece.

The instructions only include pictures. There are no words. None. It’s very strange because if you’ve ever assembled anything else, they seem to be covered with more words than pictures. Also, there are tons of parts involved to make even the most simple box !! As I was assembling the furniture along with my son, I couldn’t help think how these instructions correlate very much with HR.

Some assembly required – We never have a “typical” day in HR despite our best efforts to follow a set pattern or schedule. Distractions are really our norm which causes us to alter our days.

We all need direction – This is more true than we care to admit. We tend to think in terms that leaders and managers direct people. That may be the case, but employees at all levels need directions !! In the IKEA instructions they break it down as to even which way something should be turned in order for the piece to be tightened. The key is that the directions are simplified and given step by step. This is something we should emulate !!

Every step is necessary – Too often in today’s business climate, expediency is valued much more than being thorough. It’s assumed that being thorough will slow down things to a screeching halt. This just isn’t the case. When you’re working with people, you need to make sure that you take time with them and not just rush to the next item that grabs your attention.

HR is heavy !! – Have you ever lifted a box from IKEA? They are crazy heavy when you take on the whole piece and it’s unassembled. You even can get discouraged because when you experience the weight you can’t imagine the final product will every come together. Practicing HR is like this as well. We can get swallowed by the weight of what we do. However, we need to be encouraged and realize that the work that we put in will bring forth a great, completed solution.

You need tools – You can’t assemble any piece of IKEA furniture with instructions alone. You need tools. It’s a solid reminder for HR pros as well. We need to develop and equip others, not just list instructions. When people have context, they know what to do and they can perform even better. Spend more time equipping others !!

The project came together after a mere five hours. We ended up with a great bed and a dresser !! Every item was used and ended up in it’s rightful place. His apartment is going to be great.

This week step back and look at how you’re practicing HR and make sure that you give instructions that are simple, equip others with tools and take the time and patience it needs to “assemble” the people you work beside !!