A Daily Mantra !!

This past week we celebrated a Team Member’s 30th anniversary !!  This is a rarity in any organization these days.  She truly is beloved.  When we sent out the notice that we were going to recognize her, many people, including several Executives and Senior Leaders, cleared their schedules to make sure they were present.

Our recognition program is very personalized.  We meet our Team Members during their shift and at their location. We finally learned that recognition needs to be focused on the employee and not the HR program or benevolence of the company !!  This simple shift has made recognition meaningful for all involved.

What made this occasion so great was the impact that this Team Member has had.  EVERY person who came to say congratulations had worked with her including the CEO and the President of the company !!  She has literally touched the lives of an incredible number of people who passed her to take on loftier roles in the organization.

When everyone gathered, there were loads of hugs, laughs and stories shared.  She had at least one story about everyone who came.  Here’s mine . . .

She is truly unique and salty !!  When I started in my role, my first interaction with her was because she had hung signs in the kitchen that said, “Make sure to put away your mother*$#*%ing glasses !!” She heard that HR wanted to talk to her and she was ready for me.  I told her that I’d like to take the signs down, and asked her why she felt the need to say these things.  She didn’t miss a beat. “Do you see all the glasses sitting around ??”  There was never any ill will or intent in her approach.

No one has ever felt threatened or hurt by her coarse language.  When I talked to her I got to know her better and she got to know me as well.  I make sure to drop by and see her every once in awhile and she says, “Hey, Steve, I haven’t put up any f*#$ng signs lately.”  And, we howl !!  We’ve both learned from each other over the years.

The whole time we were recognizing Louise, it was very emotional.  We shed tears, laughed until it hurt and reveled in the stories from her 30 years with us.  It was fantastic !!

Laughing Ha HaAs we were wrapping up, the President of the company shared this . . . “Recently, I read that to have a full life people should laugh out loud, cry out loud and touch someone else’s life every day – and Louise that describes you perfectly !!”  You can guess that tears flowed freely.

I think it’s something that all of us as humans can take on as our mantra.  This isn’t just an “HR” thing.  You see I believe that our workplaces are full of people like Louise.  It’s just that so many people continue to think that HR’s focus is on the negative. I hate when I hear people trying to learn from HR horror stories because that’s when idiotic policies, procedures and programs come to life.

I could have jumped her when I saw her signs.  I could have written up a tenured employee because she was using harsh language.  I could have overreacted and jumped to conclusions, created a massive anti-cursing policy with 5 levels of progressive discipline. Or, I could talk to her and hear her side of things.

I’m so glad I took the last approach.

I made sure I was Louise’s last hug.  It was warm, caring and I told her how much she meant to me and to the lives of so many.  She pulled back and said, “Thank You.  Now get out of here you . . . “

What’s Your Approach ??

At times Human Resources feels like it moves at an amazingly fast pace !!  There may be some peaks and valleys, but each day is more likely a blur.  I know many folks who have to double-check their Outlook calendars just to remind them what day it is.

With things moving so quickly all the time, there is the possibility that the field we should love becomes the job that is more drudgery than joy.  If you don’t think this is true, go to an HR Conference and listen to the conversations in the crowds.  Most of them are not positive and are laced with unending frustration.

There’s a way out of this constant drain of negativity.  It does, however, take a huge intentional effort which many aren’t willing to do.  It’s not “hard” but it is different from the norm.

It’s all about your approach . . .

ApproachYour approach to your life.  Your approach to HR.  Your approach towards your employees.  And, your approach towards others around you.

Let me share an example that just happened.  We are entering the SHRM Conference season.  There are phenomenal regional and State events that you should check out and attend.  I just attended and spoke at the 48th Annual Northern Ohio HR Conference (NOHRC) in Cleveland.  It’s a great event full of great programs, business partners and, most importantly, HR pros.

Often when folks go to Conferences, they are much more focused and concerned with which sessions have Strategic Credit, where are the best seats, who should they go see and what is going to happen . . . every . . . single . . . minute.  They willingly walk past every other attendee to get to their session without even greeting each other.  The session is FAR MORE important than the other attendees.

Having experienced this more often than I like, I opened my session by asking all of the people who came to take 30 seconds and meet the people around them. The energy level in the room jumped !!  People started smiling and they shook off the full day of sessions and activities.  Their minds were clear, they were ready for something different and we launched.

I shared with everybody my observation that we struggle with HR because of how we approach it.  Just like the conference setting, we are so much more concerned and focused on systems, policies and procedures than we are the people who work with us.  People who come to work and want to do great work, be recognized for it by person-to-person feedback and also want to see their company succeed !!

The other example I shared at my session was that when I attend an HR conference, I spend my time almost primarily seeking out friends, meeting new people and getting connected to them.  I also attend sessions, but usually to meet others.  When people go to conferences with me they better get used to delays because I will get, and give, countless hugs, handshakes and hellos.

You see, PEOPLE are my approach !!

This isn’t an admonishment, it’s an opportunity.  People make us who we are as a profession and it’s the most fulfilling approach I know.  So, this week, drop one system.  Ignore one policy.  Skip one procedure.

But . . . approach EVERY person with a new view !!  I guarantee you’ll love it !!

Image courtesy of Dragyn Studios

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation(s) !!

Something has been bothering me for some time now.  When did we realize that we have generations in the workplace?  Haven’t we ALWAYS had people from various generations in the workplace?

It truly is disappointing that we have taken to labeling people due to when they happen to have been born.  For instance, technically by my birth year, I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomers.  I more strongly identify with Generation X personally. But, I would have to say that, I have a touch of Millennial and whatever the newest generation is being called in me as well.

My Generation 45Any time I hear someone in HR bemoan the perceived weaknesses and challenges of a generation in HR presentations or on blogs, I hear The Who and their epic song, My Generation.

Roger Daltrey belts out ” People try to put us down . . . Just because we get around . . . Things they do look awful c-c-cold . . . Hope I die before I get old.”

The lyrics are indicative of how I think EVERY generation feels when they are shoved into a stereotype so that others can “deal” with them.  Tell me how this enhances a workplace?

I give a presentation where I bring out a vinyl album, a cassette tape, a CD and my iPod – all of the Beatles White album. (Didn’t ignore the immortal 8-Track, just didn’t have one anymore)  I ask a younger person to tell me what the LP is and the answers range from frisbee, to plate, to tray. It’s fun to see how things have changed.  What hasn’t changed though is the message !!  You see each form of music is just what each generation used to capture it, but the songs are still magnificent in each medium.  The same is true about people.  It’s just that WE need to look at it differently !!

It saddens me that HR even considers labeling people when we fiercely fight to not do this in every other aspect of our job.  I know Boomers who are more hip than Millennials and Gen X’ers that should have grown up at the turn of the 20th century.

Let’s do this instead . . .

We should value the diverse experience, culture, background and age of everyone we work with.  Learn who they are as people first versus categorizing them into some box that we think makes it convenient.  Quit assuming the worst of people and accentuate their strengths instead !!  People who know that you value who they are will automatically be engaged because the focus is on THEM and not their generation.

We work with a tapestry of extremely diverse people who bring an incredible breadth and depth of humanity to work everyday.  Any time that HR narrows this, we only lose out.  Refuse to be narrow !! Go against the norm and dive into the myriad of generations around you.

Sochi, the Media and HR !!

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing, and I have to tell you that I’m a fan.  It’s a chance for the entire world to come together for a common purpose through sports.  I’m not a skier, skater, bobsledder, luger or curler.  Although, I think being on the US Curling Team would rock !!

With all of the pomp and circumstance, bright colors and international community comes an unfortunate dark side.  It is truly almost unbearable to listen to the blathering commentators.  During the opening ceremony, one of the visual special effects where snowflakes were supposed to transform into the five Olympic rings failed.  It caused a global uproar and Twitter exploded !!  In fact there’s an account on Twitter that focuses on the things in Sochi which are “wrong.”

The negativity doesn’t stop with the talking heads of NBC in their studios, during the Today Show or the Evening News.  It continues during EACH event !!  We’ve never been a country who admires that other countries actually send athletes who also compete alongside us.  The coverage is so U.S.-centric that we only get to see an extremely small portion of the actual competition even though it’s hours and hours of TV coverage.  Then, during the coverage, the analysts talk about all of the errors people make instead of focusing on how amazing it is that this athlete is representing an entire country !!

I get sick of it.  Ironically, it reminds me of how the majority of HR is focused.  Entire company cultures go to work each day to focus on “what’s wrong” with work and especially with their employees.  I know I’ve been guilty of this because it’s so much easier to be negative vs. being positive !!  It has to stop.

Happy face amongst sad faces.Just think what would happen if your culture refused to be negative !!  I understand that there are challenges in every workplace.  But those are opportunities, not obstacles.  HR should make it there mantra that ALL systems that touch, or affect, people in the organization should be intended to encourage, develop or address folks where they are.

If someone is lacking a skill, then take the time to teach them what they need.  If someone is struggling with a person/boss/management, talk to them directly without having the approach of “making a case.”  If there are differences between people or departments, be the glue who connects the dots and show how to integrate people’s strengths instead of harping on people’s differences.

I could fill an entire post on these types of if/then statements.  The key is that we need to be more like Sage Kotsenburg who won the Olympics 1st gold medal of the games and the first in his inaugural event.  He was stoked about his performance and his press conference is a great mixture of awe, excitement and “dudeness.”

He only focuses on what he was able to do and how cool it was to do it !!  If we in HR, were like this and could be positive and excited about what we did, just think of the possibilities !!  Turn off the negative and see what happens.  I think you’ll be geeked !!

Some People . . .

” . . . are worth melting for.” – Olaf

My wife and I went to see Disney’s Frozen this weekend.  It is magnificent !!  If you take nothing else away from reading this post – go see this movie !! One of the best characters, and a real show stealer, is Olaf the snowman.  He is hilarious and beautifully naive and caring.

Olaf MeltingDuring a key scene, he does his best to keep Anna warm in front of a fire even though he begins to melt.  She is worried that he will be harmed when he breaks out the line that “some people are worth melting for.”  Yes, I was crying and I’m good with that !!

It made me think of those around me in my life that are in this category.  I’m very fortunate to say that there are several.  I’m very thankful that I’m surrounded with people who I value and would do almost anything for.  I hope that you have people in your life that you would “melt for” too.

In HR, I think we lose sight of this because our focus is often on those that may be challenging or frustrating.  We tend to slink back behind procedures, policies and processes because those things aren’t emotional, unpredictable and ever-changing.

If you don’t look at others as someone you would “melt for,” you may want to evaluate why you’re in HR.  That may seem harsh or extreme, but I don’t think so.  Olaf doesn’t see what he’s doing as a sacrifice, or something out of the ordinary.  In fact, it’s natural because he cares for Anna – which should be our focus on everyone we come into contact with.

This is also tough in today’s social environment because the majority of what is being written, retweeted, and shared is self-focused.  People beg and seek to see their name and their work publicized.  I struggle with this to be honest.  I love seeing the work of others !!  I learn from others and, in many cases, I’ve reached out to get to know the authors personally and not just treat them as some avatar that is unapproachable.

I’d really love to see this change on the social forums and in the workplace.  I think that if we had the approach that we would be willing to deeply connect with others, naturally, we’d find that the “community” everyone writes about would exist as a tangible, viable force.  This group would innately move companies, professions, associations and lives forward.

So, can you do this?  Will you join me?  Is this feasible, or utopian?  In the end, I choose to be like Olaf and put myself out there for others because there are some people truly worth melting for !!

Image courtesy of Walt Disney World for Grown Ups

Thank You.

My post title is missing its normal, and grammatically incorrect, double exclamation points ( !! ) for a reason this week.  I had the most amazing experience and just had to share it with you !! (oops, there they are)

In my role at LaRosa’s, I get to do some pretty amazing things as an HR professional.  My job is broad, deep and strategic.  It’s also very hands on.  You see our goal at LaRosa’s is to Reach Out and Make Smiles in all we do with our guests and our Team Members. We started this “radical” new recognition program this year, and this week I was floored by how amazing something so simple can be.

You see, we recognize people on their anniversary whenever they hit a 5-year interval. That may seem like a long timeframe for a restaurant business, but this year alone we’ve recognized a delivery driver who’s been with us 15 years, a server who’s been with us 20 years and even a Shipping Supervisor at our manufacturing plant who’s been with us 40 years !! The tenure at our company is phenomenal.  In fact, I’ll have been with the company 7 years this November and I’m a “newbie” !!

The radical part of our program is that I meet with the Team Member on their shift when they work.  You see we’re open 7 days a week and are open from 11:00am to 11:00pm. Our team members may work weekend nights only – and that’s fantastic !! We used to make all folks who celebrated an anniversary come to a big dinner once a year.  The event was nice, but we made people fit our schedule instead of us meeting theirs. This simple shift has made all the difference in the world !!

This week proved that more than ever !! A person celebrating a 5-year anniversary receives a gift card, a note from our owners and two Smiley faced cookies to thank them for helping us Reach Out and Make Smiles. (We add-on balloons and trays of cookies for folks who hit 10 years or higher.)  I was taking the gift bag out to see Richie for his 5-year anniversary.

When I arrived at our pizzeria, the manager greeted me and I said, “I’m here to see Richie.”  He said, “I know. He’s right over there.”  A young man was standing with his back to me folding small pizza boxes.  I called out his name, but he didn’t acknowledge me or turn around. Then a gentleman standing next to Richie in a flannel shirt, glasses and gray hair pulled into a pony tail that went down to the middle of his back reached out his hand and said, “Hi there.  I’m Richie’s Dad.”  I noticed that Richie was “talking” to himself but wasn’t very coherent.  His Dad gently touched his arm and said, “Richie, someone’s here to see you.” Richie turned around and looked straight through me without really seeing me.  He kept talking.

Richie has profound autism.  I didn’t know that before going out to the store.  Here’s a young man who’s been coming to work for us for 5-years to fold pizza boxes.  I beamed !! “Richie, I wanted to thank you for your time with us at LaRosa’s !! What you do is so great and here’s a little something for you.” I reached into the bag and pulled out the cookies. “Now, these are for you and not for your Dad. (hoping for a laugh – nothing). Please know that you help us Reach Out and Make Smiles.”  His Dad then gently grabbed Richie’s arm and he said, “Tell Steve thank you Richie.”

THANK YOU on speech bubble price labelsHe stopped his chatter, looked at me clearly and quietly said, “Thank You.” He immediately started his chatter again and went back to his boxes because he loves his job !! His Dad broke through one more time and asked Richie to stop for a second and take a picture with me.  We stood together and I put my arm around him.  His Dad said, “Smile !!” Richie had another moment of clarity, smiled, the picture snapped, and back to work he went.

We keep thinking that everything in recognition has to be on a grand scale when that’s just not the case.  HR works incessantly to craft these incredible programs with thousands of dollars and numerous gift levels without ever thinking about getting to people directly.

Try this instead.  Meet people where THEY are and when THEY work !!  Thank them for what THEY do for your company.  It was a lesson we overlooked for too long.  But now, we get to see genuine recognition the way it was always meant to be !!

Stop the Just a’s !!

Not sure if you know this, but my life during the day is being the head of HR for LaRosa’s !!  We’re a regional pizzeria that is a true Cincinnati tradition.  I’m very fortunate to work for a known brand, and our pizza is honestly the best on the planet !!

The role I have is very strategic and is expected to be.  I get the chance to work with our 1,200+ Team Members over 15 pizzerias, a manufacturing plant where we make our incredible dough, a call center and our corporate office.  This isn’t a bio or a “look what I do” post.  It’s a reminder.

You see, I hear a phrase in my company that occurs in every company around the world.  It’s a phrase that relegates people and doesn’t show the value they truly bring to work every . . . single . . . day.  Whenever you hear someone say, “Well, they’re just a (insert position here)”

If you ever say this, or hear it said by someone else, you should correct the person who says it and tell them to cut it out.  There isn’t one position in an organization that is more critical than another.  All employees play a role and it is critical that we see the value of what they do.  For example . . .  If the phenomenal cooks in our restaurants don’t do their best, it has an adverse affect on the guest’s experience and possibly the company.  They aren’t “just” cooks.  They are the first chance to make a person’s visit to our location the best meal they’ve had !!

I think most people reading this will be cool with addressing the “just a’s” of other roles in our companies.  Now . . . let’s talk peer-to-peer.

HR pros need to quit saying, and acting, that we’re “just” in HR !!  Seriously.  There is no other position, or field, that is so critical of itself.  We continue to belittle what we do and it makes absolutely no sense.

Yoda QuoteI think we need to position ourselves differently by our actions and our behavior by being Businesspeople who practice HR.  We need to see ourselves as being integrated throughout our company, and make the steps to do this on a regular basis.  This isn’t a “try” position.  It’s a “do” commitment !!

I’ve had some people be skeptical about my enthusiasm about how much HR rocks !!  It doesn’t dissuade me in the least.  In fact, it makes me want to try even harder to get our field out of the mode of being a 2nd class position in organizations.

This week DO something about this.  (1) Stop allowing others to sell your employees short. (2) Value and elevate the great people who make your company successful !! and (3) Don’t ever, ever, ever say you’re “just” in HR again !!

Image courtesy of Inspiration Boost

Listen to the Deep Tracks !!

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately.  If you don’t know this about me, I’m a huge music freak !!  I have music playing constantly in the car, in my office and when I’m working around the house.  I’m not very particular when it comes to styles of music either.  I prefer to keep the iPod on shuffle so that there is a constant mix flowing around me.

The reason I’ve felt nostalgic is that I grew up in the era of Album Rock.  You looked forward to the full LP from an artist vs. anticipating the next hit single. This isn’t a rant against Pop Music.  There have always been artists who are more known for their hits more than their body of work and there always will be. Unfortunately (in my opinion), the pendulum has swayed back to the hit single now instead of enjoying an artist’s full album.

Vinyl RulesI love vinyl records.  Everything about vinyl is great.  The look of the record.  The size of the album.  Knowing that you have to turn the record over in order to hear all the songs.  And, yes, I love the scratches, pops and snaps that emanate from the speakers while the songs play.  When you hear the first crackle as the needle drops and you don’t hear any notes for a few seconds, it’s bliss !!  Enough reminiscing . . .

The true joy of vinyl is that you are almost forced to listen to an entire side of an album.  It’s really difficult to skip a song, so you make time to listen to all of it.  That’s when it happens.  You discover a gem of a song by an artist you enjoy.  If you were given the chance to pick and choose songs, you’d probably only listen to the hits from the set.  But now you find that the deep tracks of the LP are actually better, more creative and show the depth of the artist.  Granted, there are some misses, but not that often.

In the workplace, we tend to pay attention to the employees who put out “hits” and are very visible, and we ignore the steady folks who are those “deep tracks.”  HR needs to play the part of the stereo arm and guide management to pay attention to the “whole album” vs. being enamored with the employee who may be a “one-hit wonder” !!  HR has the chance to take the hitmakers and show them how to develop their body of work into classic albums as well.

I know there a tons of comparisons to music in this post, but seriously, look at your systems HR.  They reward the people who have your attention at a particular moment.  This is true of performance management systems, compensation systems and how you promote people.  We need to be more focused on development so that we can enjoy all of the contributions people make.

I can tell you this, I’d much rather have a stack of vinyl to work with all the time instead of a quick single from iTunes from someone I may never hear from again.  This week dust off your vinyl, drop the needle and enjoy Track 8, Side 1.  It will be great !!

Get Real HR !!

As you start the work week, what’s the first thing you are thinking about?  Are you geeked up to go into the next challenge or opportunity? Or, instead, are you fretting about the inordinate amount of drama you have to wade through?  I’ll bet you’re putting on your waders right now !!

Drama in the workplace is commonplace.  In fact, some HR people ONLY exist because they thrive on it, or they feel that HR’s role is to quell the drama.  People don’t fit into nice little boxes even though we try our hardest to make that happen.  There’s a huge difference though between a person’s diversity (of thought, ideas, approach, insight) and drama !!  We need diversity.  We don’t need drama !!

Reality Based LeadershipThis was perfectly captured in Cy Wakeman’s book, Reality Based Leadership.  I know it’s been out for a few years, but some things in HR and Leadership are never “dated.”  This is one of those resources !!

Cy lends a mix of her own personal experience as a leader in the Healthcare arena with her interactions with some of her client companies.  The examples are tangible and when you read them you can almost always see yourself either involved in a similar situation, or know folks in your company who are struggling with the same things.

What seems to be obvious and simple when you read it is completely different than how most of us practice in our workplaces.  I agree with Cy in her take on how much of our daily work in HR is addressing drama.  It’s honestly tiring and unnecessary.  It was extremely refreshing to read about how this is prevalent in companies everywhere.  It was also encouraging to see a method to address the drama and . . . get real !!

Get RealIt’s amazing to me that employees ask for you to be “real” with them, but what they really mean is that they want things to be seen and addressed their way – whether that’s real or not.

When we are faced with these situations in HR, we more often than not, strive to get to a neutral standing in order to squelch any conflict.  This isn’t getting real, it’s pretending that you’re Switzerland.  In the end, you may feel that things are settled, but the turmoil that is still continuing behind your back is usually bigger than the situation was in the first place.

I really dig Cy’s approach and have been practicing much of what she outlines in her book.  Employees truly appreciate you being straightforward with them and cutting through the mists of ambiguity.  It’s doesn’t mean you have to be a bulldozer.  It means you have the chance to be genuine – which ALWAYS works !!

I’m not going to highlight the key points or chapters in the book because I think resources truly become a resource when YOU read them yourself !!  This great book will stay active with me and on my desk as a quick reference and reminder of its value.  I highly recommend that you get a copy and have one for yourself !!  I promise you that it will give you great context on how you can get real in HR and love what you do !!

Remember when ??

Recently, LaRosa’s, opened a new location called Eastgate.  I’m fortunate to be the Executive Director of HR for this iconic Cincinnati company, and we had a pivotal role in this store opening.  HR interviewed every new potential Team Member because we were looking to add 70+ folks to this much larger pizzeria !!

You may think that this isn’t such a unique story.  I mean, EVERY HR person does recruiting !! That’s not always true.  I haven’t had to interview for over five years.  It’s great to be in a role that is highly strategic, but it felt fantastic to be back in the field to meet potential new employees.  We interviewed the candidates on-site and in booths in our restaurant.  Again, not unique, but it was for us because typically the hiring is done by the Manager in his/her pizzeria.

So, why was this experience cool ??  Interviewing is just a “natural” skill in HR.  There’s nothing special about it.  Ahh, that’s where you’re wrong !!

You see, the great new people we were talking to were going to be filling an incredible role !!  They are the front line connection to our guests who eat at our locations.  Getting the best people is key for outstanding guest experience !!  Every hire counts.  Every one.

Hired 2Also, I forgot an incredible experience that I should have never taken for granted.  The cool thing about a store opening is that we interviewed people, and then offered them a job right on the spot if they were going to join our team.  To see a person get a job is a gift.  Not giving them a job, but seeing their reaction.  Often, we are a person’s first job ever.  We also had people who were looking for new opportunities or a chance to work for our great company.  In every case, the joy of their reaction was spectacular !!

This new beginning should never be overlooked or seen as something mundane.  When you hire someone, you change their lives !!  Often in HR, we become numb to the great things we get to do that alter people’s lives and careers.  Don’t overlook it.  It matters.  If you don’t think so, ask a jobseeker.

Take a new approach to what you do HR.  Look at it as how it impacts and affect’s humans.  Trust me, you will never be jaded again !!  It will always give you that new sensation !!