The Next Generation !!

I’m a nerd and always have been. I’m very cool with who I am. I’m a big fan of all things science fiction and fantasy. One of my faves is Star Trek. It’s quite amazing to think that a campy TV series that lasted only 3 seasons has become part of our culture for over 50 years now. The original series has evolved to an animated series, three successful spin-off series and multiple movies. They all paint an adventurous, balanced, humorous and diverse universe that coexists in the future.

Now for the present day . . .

This past week I was fortunate to speak at the Northern Ohio HR Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I always enjoy the opportunity to present to my fellow HR peers. This conference (which is one of my faves) was even more meaningful because I was able to take my son with me. As I mentioned last week, he’s home on spring break from Ohio University. And, nothing screams spring break fun more than attending an HR conference !! He had never seen me give a presentation before and I was geeked to have him there. I also wanted him to see other HR pros and get a feel of how to interact and network with others.

While I was presenting, I made the statement that I hate that HR continues to separate the next generation by name. The whole “millenial movement” is not good. When did it ever make sense for our profession to segment and isolate a group of people because of their age? There are many who are trying to make a living by separating us, and there’s no room for it.

Ironically, on the drive up to the conference, Josh and I talked about how he disliked being labeled, generalized and isolated as a millenial. He said, “People know nothing about me and yet I’m put in a category. Also Dad, if we’re so bad as a generation isn’t that on you as our parents?” I could have stopped the car and hugged him. He gets it and I dig that about him.

At the conference, I conducted a 1/2 day workshop and spoke at a concurrent session. It was enthralling and exhausting to teach for five hours. After both sessions, I had younger people (you know THOSE M’s) who came up to me to thank me for dismantling this separation of an entire generation. To a person they told me how disappointing and challenging it is when they see countless blogs, books and workshops that are meant for others to learn and understand how to “deal with” and work with them as individuals and as a whole.

Back to Josh (and the folks from other generations) . . .

The folks at the conference ate him up and made him feel welcomed. They connected with him and he was able to meet other young professionals who were excited to meet another person considering HR.

And jump forward to the future . . .

Star Trek got it right. Every new edition of the franchise builds on the one before it and they honor and respect those that laid the ground work. There is never one iteration that states that the “new” version needs separate attention because those that went before just didn’t get them. Actually, there are several references to original characters and how people learned from their strengths, struggles and leadership.

We need to be more like Star Trek in how we look at the next generation that is going to rule, lead and transform our workplace. I’m geeked about who they are, what they believe and feel that they will be more successful than we’ve ever been.

In order to do that, I want to be like the original Star Trek cast who laid the foundation of inclusion, curiosity and the yearn to see what’s next. I want all of those who follow me in the workforce to bring others along and lift them up. The future’s bright because of these new folks. Let’s let them shine !!

Vinyl Rules !!

Recently, a very cool thing happened with my son who is about to turn 19. It was an early Saturday morning and he asked, “Hey, Dad can we go to the record store and look at some vinyl ??”

I had to step back and savor this moment. I’ve noted before that I’m a consumer of music. It is something that moves me emotionally and keeps me moving every day. So, when my son asked if we could go browse a record store (yes, they still exist), I was geeked to say the least !! We jumped into the car and made our way to Shake It Records and made sure we were there when the door opened.

Walking in you are immersed with music in images, posters, CD’s old concert shirts and, of course, vinyl. You actually walk downstairs to see rows and rows of vinyl – both new and used. It is like walking into a time capsule. Not surprisingly, the shop is packed and you are almost shoulder to shoulder with others checking out albums. It was also cool to see that there were other dads who were there with their kids.

Just as the record shops I remember, you could pull out the used albums and put them on a turntable to listen to them before you bought them. My son asked what to look for and how to tell if a record is “good” or not. He also asked my opinion on the choices he was making. Most of the music he ended up choosing was from my generation !! He picked some recent bands as well to make a rather eclectic set.

As we checked out, I mentioned to the shop owner that this was his first vinyl and he was taking it to college. The owner was geeked (he really was), and he said, “Wait here just one second.” He disappeared downstairs and came back up with a crate for the albums. He said, “Here, you need something to start your collection and this one is tall enough so the vinyl sits down below the edge of the albums. By the way, great choices on the tunes. Good mix.” My son was pumped to receive the affirmation.

Vinyl CrateAs soon as we got home, he disappeared into our basement and opened his new albums, put them on his turntable and cranked it. Bohemian Rhapsody never sounded so pure !! He was down there for hours and I taught him how to move the needle to one song and how to enjoy a full side. The chance to share this experience was awesome !!

It made me contemplate looking at work differently. No, this isn’t a “generations”  post. We tend to break down work into pieces and compartments that may, or may not, come together. It is ironic to me that we look at how to keep projects and people in their place. Collaboration has to be a concentrated effort instead of a natural occurrence.

What if we looked at the work we did as a “shared experience” instead ?? What if HR took the parts and pieces that either seem scattered or disjointed and acted as a connector to allow these experiences to happen?

I get tired of people who continue to splinter HR and the workplace into factions and differences. It may give them a niche to highlight what they focus on, but I find it to be contrary to how organizations can, and should, run.

The shared experience I had with my son brought us closer together and we’re now able to continue to enjoy a common bond for years to come. Having those common threads identified and established in the workplace would continue to make HR relevant and essential.

This week look for the vinyl that is all around you and see what kind of great music you can make with all of the beautiful snaps and pops !! I promise that you’ll hear songs better than you have before !!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes !!

This past week the Browne household went through a massive change !! We dropped our son, and second child, off at college. He is now blazing his own path at my alma mater Ohio University. I am geeked that he’s a Bobcat now. In fact, he even chose to live in my old dorm and dorm room !! (Note: He did this all on his own without suggestions from his Dad who bleeds green and white.)

The move went very smoothly and was pretty emotionless . . .

When it was time to go, I thought he’d say Goodbye in his room and move on. He wanted to walk my wife and I out to the car, and then it hit. My 6’3″ gentle giant hugged my wife first and the tears started flowing. He then turned to me, and we hugged so hard I thought I’d burst. As we were both crying, I told him that I loved him. Our embrace ended and he headed towards James Hall and we started on our way back home misty eyed.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for my son. I’m sure he’ll have great adventures and grow as an adult just as his older sister did when she started her college path three years ago. Another change which occurred was that my wife and I became empty nesters. We hadn’t been alone in the house for the past 20 years !! This is exciting but also a bit unnerving. Our story is no different than every family. Transitions happen every day.

The thought that came to mind during this change was how this affected me at work. Why does this even matter to what I do? I think it’s everything. I think the family changes/transitions that occur in our lives are the REAL generational issue we face.

The recent trend about amplifying generational differences just makes me crazy !! Let me ask you this. When have there been generations in the workplace? And, secondarily, when has one generation ever thought that the generation that followed was odd, didn’t work as hard, or had poor habits? The answer to both is that these facts and feelings have always been a factor in the workplace !!

Life EventsThe area where we have missed in truly working with different generations is to help them through the life events we all face. Times such as the birth of a child or grandchild. Or, when there’s someone going off to kindergarten, elementary school, high school or college. Marriages, deaths, divorces, health issues, the care of elderly parents, the loss of a pet, etc. These events are where HR can, and should, make a difference with both their presence and their understanding.

We have tried to take all of this changes and force them into some form of leave system that’s tracked and accounted for. We try to keep a tight rein on these systems to make sure that people comply versus allowing them to fully experience these life events.

We should know our people for who they are and what’s going on in their lives. This shouldn’t be a hassle, or feel like it’s a waste of time. These personal connections are the most meaningful connections you could make !! Great HR happens when you have a personal knowledge of what’s going on in the lives of your employees. You can celebrate with them, empathize with them and care for them. This is something missing in our workplaces and is sorely needed.

It’s time to change how we see the life events of our people. Let’s walk alongside them and experience the ch-ch-ch-ch-changes that happen naturally !!

The Future Looks Bright !!

This past week I had a very cool experience !! I was one of the judges for the SHRM Student Case Study competition. I sat with two other great HR pros from the area as we heard graduate students from various schools give their take on an HR scenario. It was very cool to hear their approaches which ranged from a traditional HR viewpoint to some that were extremely creative.

I was so geeked to see so many students come in and share. It helped to continue to dispel the stereotype that the most recent generation is so “different” and just doesn’t “get it” like other generations. I wasn’t surprised because this isn’t new. There have always been generations in the workplace. The stigma that has been assigned to younger people is from older generations. We have fallen into the same trap that we said we would never fall into when older generations made broad generalizations about us. We hated it, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing the same thing.

I think we need to have a serious change of heart and be the generation that encourages and lifts up the newest folks. Let me ask you a question . . .

Do you remember when you got into HR?

Most people don’t start in HR, they fall into it. I’m one of those outliers who has been in HR for my entire career (on purpose). When I started though, I was pretty much on my own. I taught myself what I thought was correct, but to be honest, my efforts had to be limited because I didn’t look outside of what was within my reach. I must have missed areas. I did what I had to, but I could have done better.

I didn’t know having someone who was also in HR as a mentor was needed. The truth is, I didn’t think someone like that even existed. I was wrong on this account as well. When I finally reached out and connected with other HR pros, I found some great people who are still mentoring me to this day several years later.

Now, back to these students.

We can be the ones who reach out to them now to be their connections and mentors. They don’t have to “earn their stripes” in order to struggle as they enter HR. We can be the ones to share our experiences with them and make sure that they are not left to try and figure out this industry on their own.

Bright FutureWe have the chance to help shape not only the future of these great young people, but we can help shape the future of our profession !!

Wouldn’t it be great to help these kids who are interested in joining our field have a great experience coming into HR? How would they see our generation, and how would we see theirs, if we did more to build each other up instead of trying to focus on generational differences?

The future of HR is bright !! I was able to see this first hand. I plan to reach out to these students and connect with them now and going forward. I’d love to see them succeed now and become the leaders of HR to come. I want to break the cycle and not be the stereotype of my generation. Will you be willing to join me? I hope you will !!

 

It’s okay to ask “Why ??”

My wife and I are fortunate to have two amazing kids !!  They do well in school, are active in our church and our community.  I’m proud to say that.  For those of you who have kids, or if you’ve even been a kid, you know that kids ask one question infinitely.  “Why ??!!”

It doesn’t matter if things are crystal clear and there’s no reason for this question, it happens anyway.  More often than not, I just want them to do what I say and have some faith that I am not leading them down some dark path with my request to clean their room.

Recently, I heard a presentation where the speaker pulled back my eyelids on this question that often seems so annoying.  He explained that people in the workplace ask “Why” because they’re seeking context, not to annoy.  They want to understand the reasoning for decisions.  Seems to be a great trait actually.  I actually agree with him and when I sat back to think about it, I ask “why” all the time.  So, why do I get annoyed when others do it?

I think it goes back to the feeling that we’d like people just to do what we say when we say it.  If we have to spend time explaining things, then that means we’ve lost time doing something else that “matters.”

It’s time for all of our eyelids to be pulled back in HR.  If we’re not asking why for context, and even to challenge, then we can’t expect the status quo to ever move.  Just going along with everything doesn’t show well and we shouldn’t settle and sit back.  Also, we can foster a culture where it’s not only safe for employees to ask “why,” but it’s encouraged !!

If we continue to promote that we want a learning environment that focuses on development, then we must allow people to ask “why.”  What are we afraid of if we did this?  If employees felt safe, and inquired about their work, wouldn’t there be a greater chance of an enriched workforce?  How cool would that be?

So, start a new behavior today and allow people to ask that infinite question. This time when it’s asked, answer them.  Give them context and see what happens.  I think you’ll enjoy the results !!