You can count on me !!

You may, or may not know, that I am an incredible music freak !!  I can’t get enough of it and this Thanksgiving weekend a true classic popped into my head – Count on Me by Jefferson Starship.

When my extended family gathers for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, we call it BIG Thanksgiving or BIG Christmas because there are so many family members that attend.  Before we eat and open with a prayer, we count off – literally.  We have had a few family members pass away over the years, but we never stray from this tradition.

So, it begins 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . etc. until we get around the oval. (It’s never a circle because there are too many folks.)  This year we had 35 and it’s been as high as 60.  Included are aunts, uncles, cousins, their kids, and starting this year the newest generation has it’s first engaged couple.

I know that you need to be careful about what you do/don’t share on-line, but I’m 47 years old and completely cool with that.  If you met me you’d say I’m at least 28, so age is not the focus here. My family has been getting together intentionally between 50 to 60 years because I have aunts, uncles and cousins older than I am.

Think about that.  Being together, intentionally, for 5 to 6 decades and NEVER missing a holiday.  We’re not unique in this and I’m sure there are families who have met for centuries, but the point of the gathering is this . . . we COUNT on each other to be there all the time.

It’s a great example for you personally as well as an HR professional.  You NEED to be counted on, and others NEED to count on you !!  Too many employees are out on their own within a company and they need someone they can rely on.  Remember, you aren’t their for Management, nor are you there for employees.  You’re there for EVERYONE !!

Is that how you approach HR?  Have you even stepped back to look lately?  Just think how HR would be viewed in organizations if people knew they could be counted on !!

This week, start something new and reach out to someone in our profession and get connected. Be someone that others can count on !!

Forever in Blue Jeans !!

When Neil Diamond sang the iconic song Forever in Blue Jeans, I don’t think he knew he was dealing with such a taboo subject for the workplace !!  Seriously, you do know that denim is evil, don’t you ??

This coming week I’m traveling to Washington, D.C. for the annual SHRM Leadership Conference (#SHRMLead).  I’m very excited to go because I have the honor of being the next SHRM State Council Director for Ohio in 2012 !!  I can’t wait to work with the 26 SHRM chapters in the State as well as with other leaders throughout the country.  I think it will be a great way to continue to keep the profession relevant in general as well as another way to keep trying to bring our whole profession together and connect them !!

A true highlight for me will be on Thursday when I get to join other HR professionals on Capitol Hill to visit lawmakers and lobby on behalf of HR.  I really am geeked !!  To get ready, those attending listened to a webinar put on by SHRM to get an overview of what the visit would entail and the issues we were going to focus on.

It was very well done and was just a glimpse of what we needed to learn in order to have a successful visit and leverage the time we had with our representatives and their staff.  During the webinar people could post questions, which I thought was cool.  I think it’s amazing that I live in a country where I can go to have an audience with the national leaders of the government and express my opinion to them.  It truly is astonishing !!  I submitted a question asking who the two people were in Congress who had an HR background because it was noted in the webinar.

So, when the moderator started to relay the questions to the leaders of the forum, my jaw hit the floor !!  We spent the first 15 minutes of the 20 minutes we had left for questions talking about clothing.  “What should we wear?”  “Can I wear blue jeans with a suit coat?” – and then the firestorm happened.  People sent in myriads of comments (not questions) about the evil of jeans.

When I hear my peers question why companies don’t take HR seriously – here’s your answer . . . We continue to focus on the splinter issues when we miss the lumber all around us !!  When we could have been focusing on the issues for this lobbying opportunity, people chose instead to focus on proper attire !!  I’m not sure what I’ll wear to visit Capitol Hill.

On Friday, night our State Council, Ohio SHRM, is up for a Pinnacle Award which is the highest award for volunteers from SHRM, and we have a tradition of wearing logo’d clothing to these things.  At the banquet we’re wearing these great gray fleece jackets . . . . and blue jeans !!  I wonder where the focus will be ???

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 . . .

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

 

Please say “Thank You” !!

Sitting at my keyboard in my house on Labor Day, I am thankful that I have a holiday to spend with my family and recharge my batteries.  At a time when more and more people focus on what is wrong with our economy, our political infighting and world turmoil, I again am thankful for the day to gather my thoughts.

As I was on a morning walk today, I was reminded of something that I too often forget on days like Labor Day.  As I enjoy a holiday, there are thousands of people who are working today to serve others.  If you didn’t know, I’m an HR professional in the Restaurant Industry.  The company I work for, LaRosa’s, Inc., is a true iconic tradition in Cincinnati. Today, the majority of folks I work with will be at our restaurants serving people who so graciously choose to dine with us.

There are others who are working in gas stations, hospitals, retail locations, hotels, and more while others celebrate the holiday.  Ironically, most people take this service for granted and actually expect people to be there to meet their needs.  In fact, few people who use these services take time to say, “Thank You !!” to the people who are working while they enjoy their day off for the holiday.

This really needs to change.  I know that I hear stories of employees who don’t think their employer gives them feedback or thanks them for their efforts, and they hate it.  They should.  The lack of constructive feedback in the workplace is a shortfall that too many people encounter on a regular basis.

So, today when you’re enjoying the holiday and you go to purchase something at the hardware store to work on a home project, or you go grab a pizza at a restaurant – say “Thank You” to the people who are working today.  It is deserved and will go a long way into making our workplaces better each time someone takes the time to do it.  Have a great holiday !!

 

How do you start the week ??

This past week my two fantastic kids went BACK to school !!  My wife and I are truly blessed with two great kids.  Our daughter is now a Senior and our son is a Freshman at Lakota East High School.  What was so intriguing about their return to school is that when you asked them about the impending school year, they would both huff, sigh and drop their shoulders and say, “Yeah, we have to go BACK to school.”

Now, I know they’re both anxious about what the new year will bring and I’m sure they look forward to seeing old friends, and possibly making new ones.  They also will do amazing things this year that they don’t even know exist yet.  However, they look at the drudgery of the end of summer and the regiment of school.

It made me think . . . Isn’t this the same thing that the vast majority of workforces do each week?

Seriously.  How many of you reading this on Monday morning said, “Ugh, I have to go BACK to work !!”

Even if our weekend was absolutely horrific, we feel it has more value than going back to our jobs.  Now, I understand that there are tons of bosses, workplaces and cultures that aren’t going to make the “Best Places to Work” list soon.  However, you’re working.  Think of those, maybe even in your family, who aren’t working.

Your attitude is the difference when you either go BACK to work, or go TO work. Sure you will face challenges, but isn’t it cool that you have challenges to face?  Sure, people will disappoint you and let you down, but couldn’t you do the same?

In order for workplace culture to excel and be truly “engaging,” then it starts with each individual and their approach.  It isn’t someone else’s responsibility to make Monday great – it’s yours !!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I make sure that the weekly entry from this blog comes out on Monday.  Do you know why I do that?  I’m not into SEO rankings or other quantitative metrics to determine my reach.

I want you to have a great start to the week !!  Really.  I may never meet those of you kind enough to read this blog, but I’ve chosen to be encouraging because it’s needed in all of our lives.

So, I’m off TO work.  Can’t wait to see what the next week brings.  I’m sure it will be an adventure !!

What do you see ??

Lately, I’ve been coming across a syndrome that isn’t distinct to any company or civic organization, but it is prevalent in all of them.  What is this syndrome?  It’s the “forest through the trees” syndrome !!

So often we churn and churn over the smallest issue in order to make sure it’s either taken care of or “fixed,” while we miss the world going on around us.  I don’t think this is distinct to HR, but we really do well at it !!

I try to stay connected to a myriad of HR and business folks from all types of industries on a regular basis. It amazes me that when we get to talking about work, I NEVER hear about the amazing people that work for their company, only the problems.  You hear descriptors like “everyone” feels this way, or that an HR issue affects “everybody.”  However, when you dig into it some more, it is usually a few folks that take up the majority of our time. So, is the problem those few people?  Or, is it us?  Do we relish the chance to go after the problem instead of having to focus on the majority?

It seems that we like the comfort zone of going after the problems because I think we feel that it justifies our positions.  Let me ask you this though . . . How does it feel to always muck around in the dark underbelly of the Company?  Doesn’t it get old?

I think it does.  In fact, this past weekend I went camping again with my scouts from Troop 941.  We were outside the entire weekend for our “Sporting Outing” which was a great way for the adults and kids to play team games together ranging from soccer to Ultimate Frisbee to kickball (with the regulation red ball I may add !!)  I went with a group of the boys on an 18-hole disc golf course which took us six hours to complete !! Vicious and invigorating at the same time.

After the weekend, I’m sore, sun burned and I think I have poison ivy in at least five places on my legs.  Now, the “tree” way to look at this is to focus on my run down body. But the “forest” way I truly live is that I wouldn’t trade an ache or itch for the memories of laughter, competition and camaraderie.

So HR, which is it?  Are you a “tree” or a “forest” in your organization?  Step back, reflect and then . . . change (if you need to).

The forest rocks !!  I can’t wait to find you there !!

My Hometown . . .

This post challenges HR to get back to truly knowing the employees of the company and not continue to let employees just show up for work.

For those of you who know me – I’m a music freak !!

For those of you who don’t know me – I’m a music freak !! 

One of my favorite artists is Bruce Springsteen and his classic album “Born in the U.S.A.” came out when I was in college and about to leave my hometown.  The last track on side two of the album (yes, album) was “My Hometown” and it hit me hard because even though I was going to leave my hometown soon, it brought up so many great memories.

You see, I hail from the booming metropolis (Village actually) of Ada, Ohio.  Ada has a population of just over 5,000 people.  It is technically the “center of the universe” if you didn’t know that because you can go anywhere from Ada , and if you travel around the whole world, you have to go through Ada.

That may not be a scientific fact, but it seemed like the center of the universe to me.  You see, in Ada, you know EVERYONE and EVERYONE knows you.  My school was K-12 in one building and my graduating class was an amazing 73 people !!  I loved every moment of my time in Ada because I learned the value of truly knowing people.

In Ada, it mattered to know everyone’s name and something about them because you were bound to see them somewhere around town and it was much better to have a conversation than just say, “Hey !!” (our version of “Hi!”)

Lately, this has been playing on me because in today’s organizations, we are more concerned with getting stuff done whether the people who are doing those things matter or not.  HR is a major culprit in not addressing this fault in company cultures.  We should be the ONE area that won’t stand idly by to have yet another employee ignored.

We spend so much time making sure people just show up and that is more important than seeing who they are, what they’re like and what they truly want to offer the company.

No more.

It’s time to use a little of that hometown experience at my workplace and at workplaces around the country.  Get to know your people.  You’ll be astonished at how incredible they really are !!

What do you think?  Is this too Utopian ?? Or, is it just overdue and we’ve forgotten how important this is ??  Let me know your thoughts.