What are you afraid of HR ??

When people ask me what profession I’m in, I don’t hesitate to proudly say, “HR !!  You know, Human Resources.”  Even when the response is, “Oh, sorry,” I’m not bothered in the least !!  Really, I’m not kidding.  Being in HR excites me and I wouldn’t trade it for any other profession (some of which truly do scare me !!)

One of the primary things that scares most folks I know in HR is that they aren’t quite sure where they fit in, or where the profession is going.  When your view on HR is “unknown”, I can understand why there might be some apprehension.

Too often people are paralyzed by fear and it makes them cautious, conventional and stuck.  These attributes aren’t attractive in any profession and especially HR.  So what can we do, if anything?

Glad you asked.  I don’t know if you’re connected to the good folks at Focus.com, but you should change that and get connected to them.  Recently, they published a survey that was given to HR practitioners entitled, Focus Research Study: 2011 Crowdsourced HR Survey.  It’s brilliant !!  You really need to click on this link, download the .pdf and see what people had to say.  It covers Trends in HR, the use of Social Media in HR and views on HR’s position in the organization.

I try to participate in all HR related surveys because I want to make sure to have a voice in things and also see what others are saying.  I can honestly say that this has been the most effective survey on HR that I’ve seen in quite some time.  It is reflective, critical and realistic.

You also need to read this to alleviate your fears.  Instead of wondering “what’s happening in HR?,” you can take these results in and see for yourself what your peers are saying. A special shout out to Charlie Judy and Caty Kobe who are working to keep HR relevant through work at Focus !!

So, on this Halloween change your outlook from being an HR Zombie to someone who’s no longer afraid and is excited to proclaim that you too are in HR !!

You Just Should Know How To !!

You know you’ve said this.  You may have even said it today to start the work week !!  We wish others would just “get it” because we sure know that WE do !!  I’m serious.  We want others to just know what to do because we’ve covered it over and over and over (or so we tell ourselves.)

This approach isn’t just true at work.  We want others to know how to do things because we told them to do it at home, in our civic activities, at church, at school – almost any environment has the issue of “assumed culture.”  This is when the people who have been around for some time assume that others get what to do through some form of mystical symbiosis, and then we get upset when they don’t do things right.

People, more than ever, are frustrated in their jobs and with their companies.  As an HR person, I hear this frustration coming from the C-Suite down to the front line on a daily basis.  Almost every day I can place the shared frustrations to assumed culture.  You see, we strive to make people conform because we feel that if everyone is pretty much the same, then things will go more smoothly.

However, this just isn’t the case.  I don’t know if there are things such as HR “formulas”, but if their were, I would have one that goes like this:

 Assumed Culture = Conformity which lessens Diversity or AC = Cf < D

This weekend my Boy Scout Troop camped near Old Man’s Cave in Logan, Ohio in the Hocking Hills State Forest.  One of the natural formations is called the Devil’s Bathtub.

The waterflow of the river that goes through the park rushes rapidly toward this formation and the water’s force has cut it into the constantly swirling whirlpool until it forces the water out this small opening several feet under the opening.  This is very reminiscent of how your employees feel when they are told they should “just know how to” do things.

This week take a new approach.  TEACH don’t TELL.  It may be frustrating to cover the same things more than once, but teaching people what to do and how the assumed culture works at your organization will make them better performing team members.  The time it takes is far more rewarding than building the frustration that eats at you !!  Try it out and let me know what happens . . .

The Inner Sanctum !!

One observation I’ve had about HR professionals is that they have historically been very isolated both professionally and personally.  This has to be either by choice or by design within organizations.  This observation continues to be affirmed when I attend conferences of any size.  HR people seem astonished that others would intentionally like to be connected to them.

Something I’ve been trying at my work, and toying with in general is this philosophy – Model the behavior you expect in others.

To that end, I’d like to talk to you about the Inner Sanctum !! (cue scary theme music)  What I mean by this is that I have a tight knit group of HR professionals who make up my personal inner sanctum.   This isn’t a “Personal Board of Directors” as you may have seen in other blogs.  There is something more substantial to this group.   They have some incredible shared characteristics that I think are essential for this to work.  They are:

  • They all challenge me in some way !! – These are boundary stretching folks and I need that in order to not remain stagnate myself.
  • They are willing to be candid !! – They speak their minds openly both positively or critically. They aren’t afraid to address my blind spots.
  • They are consistent !! – Each of them is incredibly consistent while remaining creative and unpredictable. They each have strengths that I learn from.
  • They are all genuine !! – Something I cherish in others is to be “who you are.” These folks don’t have pretense and don’t support it in others.
  • They are all my friends !! – I mean that. We talk about all things in our lives. Families, work, faith, ups, downs, etc. All subjects are regularly discussed.

Without this group of people to gird me in what I do in HR and business, I would be less effective. It’s just a fact.  I think that having folks you can count on is a professional differentiator.  This isn’t networking or being in a clique.  It’s intentional, fascinating and exhilarating !!

This week step out.  Start looking at who would make up your Inner Sanctum and then pursue it.  If you choose to do this, you’ll see a marked difference in how HR looks, feels and acts !!  I hope you do it and let me know if you do !!


Rehumanize Yourself !!

As my iPod continued on its endless shuffle at work, Rehumanize Yourself by The Police came on, and I found myself hitting repeat several times.  The song tells of people in “everyday” jobs who are reminded to humanize themselves because their work doesn’t really mean much.  Who knew that this song still has significance 30 years later?

I’m not writing about employees who seem to slog through the daily grind, I’m talking about HR practitioners !!

The job that HR does these days ranges from the ideal to the mundane.  It’s hard to find a sweet spot to truly excel in HR within organizations due to a myriad of reasons.  I’m not trying to define what may be ideal for some and mundane for others.  Where I’d like us to focus is this . . . humans are more important than systems !!

Systems are needed and provide great structure and definition.  Without them people make things up because they really want to do a good job. But without definition, they’ll make it up to fill time and make sure they are “busy.”  These folks are the sloggers.  They come in every day, knock out a job and then go back to what truly interests them.  Their jobs are a necessary evil to pay the bills.  Oh, yeah, I’m still talking about HR people.

No one said that HR had to be mundane !!  In fact, great HR is far from it.  However, it means getting outside the systems we create and enforce to the real heart of our businesses – the humans.

Where are you on the spectrum?  I get it that you can be creative in making new systems and that you can be broad in the “things” side of what HR has to offer.  But I’d challenge you in that those things impact people.

At the recent OHSHRM Conference, I challenged the attendees to be positive the whole time at the conference.  Sounds odd that you’d even have to say that doesn’t it?  But, I felt it was needed because I hear so many people stuck in what they’re NOT doing vs. what they do so well !!  I only heard positive things from people because they knew a different expectation was set for them.

In organizations, HR has to set that expectation themselves !!  So, this week be positive and encourage others to see what amazing things are truly happening all around you that you’ve been missing.  Make sure to  . . . rehumanize yourself !!

 Image courtesy of Dan White Jr.’s blog


Got an idea ??

Why has HR become passive within the organization?  There’s an on-going movement that is somewhat disheartening, and that is that HR feels it’s role is to be reactive and prepared.  To always play defense is not a healthy way to approach daily work.

Granted, HR does have to react because of the intangibles that people have each day, but if you’re just waiting for the red alarm phone to ring furiously off your desk, so you can jump into action, you’re doing things backwards.  Also, I can’t imagine how stressful you feel HR is by approaching the field this way.  When I talk to my peers, too many of them put themselves in this camp.  They also feel that this is what is “expected” of them from Senior Management.  Yikes !!

Time for something new . . .

Do you have ideas?  If so, do you share them, implement them, or shy away from them?  Do you feel you do/don’t have permission to act on your ideas?

Have you fallen into the pit of doing things the same way every day and for every situation?  If that is the case, let me share that I think that you have missed the value of how vastly different people and each situation you face truly is.  Most of us stopped either having, or sharing, ideas because we listened to others who beat us down when we want to try something new.

The other pitfall to ideas is that we think that systems “fix” people.  If we have the best system, it won’t matter who the people are. (I’ve heard this quoted verbatim at a company !!)  People are the difference at work and great people make great systems shine !!

Back to ideas . . .

I’d like to challenge you to follow my personal model.  I intentionally try to come up with 3 to 5 ideas a day to try something new at work.  Some are massive ideas, and some are small, trite things that take little to no effort.  The second step is that I try EVERY idea out.  EVERY ONE !!  That isn’t an exaggeration.

The response I can hear those of you reading this is – “But how do you have the time to have 3 to 5 ideas a day and then try them out?  My day is so full, I couldn’t possibly do that !!”  The fact is, my day is overflowing and I love that !!  With 3 to 5 ideas every day, it’s also new, challenging, fresh and positive.  Is that true with your full day ??

So, try it.  You have to remember that you don’t need permission to think and create.  You’re EXPECTED to think and create !!  Need to go now.  New idea brewing  . . .

Time to Stage Dive !!

This coming week I’m attending the 39th Annual Ohio HR Conference, HR Rocks !!, as its Chair. It has been an incredible year in planning this event.  You see, this event only comes together because of my amazing Committee !! (See last week’s post . . .)

And, this week, I get to enjoy the main reason I attend ANY conference . . . the people !!

As I type we are over 700 attendees and there will be another 180+ staffing the booths of our incredible Resource Partners as well as 20+ speakers/presenters.  That means I’ll get to see, meet and hang out with almost 1,000 great folks who are all about HR !!  That may not get others outside our profession geeked, but I can’t tell you how amped I am to encounter each and every person !!

Last week we launched a new facet to our Conference by conducting a pre-Conference conference call and attendees could call in to get the lowdown on the activities and events happening throughout the week.  When I asked for feedback, it was overwhelming to hear that people valued the personal touch that we were offering even before they hit the doors.

We’re trying to set a new trend in SHRM conferences by expecting everyone involved to be engaged and ready to have the best conference experience they’ve ever had !!  As I’ve mentioned before, people can only change their behavior if it’s modeled for them by others.  HR professionals need to take note that this is something that we hope is a takeaway for them from our Conference and it then permeates their workplaces.

I get in the van tomorrow packed with materials, goodies and surprises to head across the State to land at beautiful Sandusky, Ohio and the Kalahari Resort.  Just mere hours before I get to meet great new folks !!  I may not even sleep tonight because of the excitement !!

Come on Get Happy !!

When you saw the title of this post it either made you smile or cringe.  Do you need to be “happy” at work? Heck, can you even be “happy” in HR ??

The cynics out there, many of whom are my dear friends, would be saying things like, “It’s not the 70’s again !!  This isn’t The Partridge Family !!”  Some people at work, and life in general, feel that making someone happy is imposing on their personal space or beliefs.  Others, refusing to be happy, come to work everyday in a dark mood while ominous dirge-like music plays in the background.  There are countless statistics that now show that most people want to leave their job for something else.  For some – ANYTHING else !!!

So, why am I going on and on about being happy?  It’s because I’m knee deep into a great new read called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.  It’s a fascinating book that hit at the right time.  The premise is counter to most of the history of the field of psychology and that is this . . . If you are happy, you’ll be successful.

Achor points out poignantly that all of us have been looking at this the other way around – When I get successful, I’ll be happy.  However, the research shows that people never feel they’re successful enough – ever.

So, what does this have to do with HR?  EVERYTHING !!!

Many HR people I know are miserable in what they do.  They are burdened by the reality that working with and dealing with people is rough.  There is no doubt about that.  But, you don’t have to be miserable.

One of my friends visited one of our franchise locations a few years ago when I just had joined LaRosa’s, Inc.  He asked the owner if he knew me and he said, “That’s the new HR guy isn’t it?  Man, what’s wrong with him?  He’s happy all the time !!”  Great isn’t it?  The owner and I know each other more now and he’s a great guy.  He still wonders how I can be happy and be in HR.

So, this week ask yourself . . . happy ??  I think Achor is dead on by his premise that a person needs to be genuinely positive before they’ll ever be successful.  What do you think ??


Will it Make a Difference ??

As I’m typing this post, many of my peers and friends are enjoying the SHRM11 Annual Conference.  Yes, I am jealous because I always enjoy being with others who share my passion of HR !!  The tweets that are flying under the #SHRM11 hashtag are great to read, but they lack in that personal experience.  Ah, well, maybe next year . . .

The question I want to pose to the 14,000+ HR pros who have gathered at SHRM11 is  . . . Will it Make a Difference?

Will attending the largest gathering of those in your profession change how you approach HR when you return to your various workplaces?  When the lights and sites of Las Vegas dissapate, will you be making more of an impact in HR, or will you go back to the norms and ways you are following today?

I hope it transforms you !!  You can’t miss the chance to attend events like this and not come away with great things like new contacts, a broader vision of what HR offers, a new way to tilt the windmills that face you on a daily basis !!  Don’t just get enamored by the great keynotes, the great vendor events and the endless piles of swag you’ll take home from the Exhibit Hall.

Use this time away from the office this week to come back energized, enthusiastic and willing to move your company forward !!

If people don’t do this, we will continue to fight a stereotype that I personally heard this week from a question I posted on Focus.com regarding development vs. training.  A person responded that HR has to first “get it’s act together” before focusing on either topic.  I responded to this person and was pretty pointed that I didn’t appreciate his stance on our field.  He’s entitled to say what he’d like, but it eats at me that anyone continues to think that HR doesn’t “get it.”

So, don’t disappoint me you 14,000+ HR folks attending SHRM11 !!  I know you’ll have a wonderful time, meet and catch up with wonderful peers . . . just remember to come back and make a difference personally, professionally and for HR as a whole !! I can’t wait to see what you’ll do !!

Peace of Mind !!

When we in the wacky world of HR talk about the importance of “engagement,” are we talking about others or ourselves?

Seriously.  I’ve been really contemplating this lately and I continue to feel perplexed when I see Conference sessions, blog posts, and white papers on the importance of engagement, but it always seems to be about someone else.

If HR isn’t engaged, why should we expect others to be engaged?  Have you asked yourself if you really love being in HR?  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a “why people hate HR” post.  This is a challenge to see if you’re truly in the field you enjoy.  I find that the people who manage their careers the worst are people in HR.  We will go out of our way to help others in their career endeavors, but we shy away from taking this and being intentional.

Remember – If you don’t manage your career . . . it will manage you !!

I’ve learned this through personal experience and also from watching others who continue to state that they struggle with being effective in our field.  Trust me, there’s no other field I’d rather be in !!

I keep seeing posts encouraging people to attend #SHRM11 and I hope that people do because events like this can be spectacular . . . with a catch.  If you aren’t going to forums like this to network, seek great professional development and also learn to be a better HR professional, then you’re just missing out.  Take these opportunities to move yourself ahead so that, in turn, you can return to your company to move them ahead as well !!

I think we all need to be comfortable “in our own skin” when it comes to being in HR and to quit apologizing for it.  I think it was captured best by one of my favorite bands, Boston, in their classic Peace of Mind:

“Now if you’re feelin’ kinda low ’bout the dues you’ve been paying

Future’s coming much too slow

And you wanna run but somehow you just keep on stayin’

Can’t decide on which way to go

Yeah, yeah, yeah

I understand about indecision

But I don’t care if I get behind

People livin’ in competition

All I want is to have my peace of mind.”

So, take some time to reflect.  Get rid of any indecision.  It would be great to look around in our field and see people who really had that peace of mind to make HR rock !!  Come on and join in !!


Time . . . flowing like a river

Growing up I distinctly remember Alan Parsons Project and their classic ballad Time.  The lyrics that start the song say:

“Time flowing like a river, Time beckoning me; Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever; But time keeps flowing like a river to the sea.”

I was reminded of this ballad this weekend when I went on a college visit with my amazing daughter to my Alma Mater, the wonderful Ohio University.  To say I was geeked would not be a good enough word !!  I wanted to show her everything that I remembered.  The classrooms, College Green, West Green, the Convocation Center – just everything.  As I pulled in I was captured in my memories, but some things looked different.  I shouldn’t have been surprised having graduated back in 1986, things would have to change, but it still surprised me.

The architecture was the same.  The beauty of the mature trees was still there, but there were new things.  Really cool things like the amazing Baker University Center. The new features on campus really did make it better and, even though is altered my memory of the past, I liked the new additions and even wished that some of them had been around when I went to OU.

Oddly enough, it reminded me of work places today and how HR likes to hold onto the past.  We are notorious for it.  We come up with an amazing Performance Review system that we did back in 1986 and we wonder why people think it’s stale today.  You can pick almost any area of HR and it seems that practitioners lag in moving things forward.  What we don’t realize is that the business environment will change around us whether we want it to or not.

So, we can embrace the new environment, or better yet, we can stay on the leading edge and create it !!  Time will keep flowing either way.

This college visit opened my eyes to two things – (1) My family gets to enter a new and exciting stage with our oldest child entering a new phase of her own and (2) the past is great, but the future is so much brighter !!

She hasn’t chosen her college yet, but she has enough Bobcat paraphernalia to give her a daily hint . . .  Oh, yes, one other thing.  I did manage to pick up some new tye-dye because some things from my OU past still are current !!