Beyond the Exam !!

In a few weeks, I’m attending the SHRM Volunteer Leader Summit in Washington, DC.  I get to attend as one of the Membership Advisory Council (MAC) members.  I love volunteering in this capacity, and I just found out that I will be the MAC for the North Central Region again for 2015 !!  Very geeked about that !!

While I’m there, I’ll get a chance to take the tutorial and get the new SHRM-SCP certification.  I’m eager to see how this goes and add it as a certification along with my SPHR which I earned from HRCI.

As the new SHRM Certification comes to life, I’m seeing another wave of people making arguments for one certification versus another.  The discussions aren’t productive, in my opinion, because people are asking people to choose a side and discredit the other.

Here’s the side I choose.  I choose to be on the side of Human Resources.

My certifications are important to me.  I know how difficult it was to earn my SPHR and I value it – and will continue to.  People continue to focus on the exam, but certification is far more than that !!  The exam was important and a gateway to more opportunities.  The next step is on each of us personally.

Moving ForwardAs HR professionals, our focus needs to be on continuous professional development and moving HR forward.  To do this, each of us need to own our certification from each body we receive them from. These certifications don’t belong to SHRM or HRCI.  They belong to us !!

Secondly, we need to educate ourselves and choose why we belong and give our time towards any organization.  If you are a member of SHRM, ask yourself why you do this and if it adds value.  If you want to get certifications from SHRM, HRCI, or other bodies, ask yourself why you’re doing that and if it also adds value.

Stand up and own who you are as an HR professional !!  Don’t get caught up in the arguments.  Set a new norm of being excited about what HR does and what it will do in the future !!

You see, I’m very intentional.  I became certified because I chose to.  I joined a local SHRM chapter and took on a leadership role because I chose to.  The other roles I’ve been fortunate to hold are because I wanted to keep moving ahead in leadership to bring the HR community together at the local, regional, State and National level.

I continue to move beyond the exam and I want you to as well.  The present and future of HR excites me to no end !!  Rise above the discontentment and move forward.  It’s what we need to do now and make it our practice going forward !!


The Campaign for HR !!

We’re getting closer and closer to another election season.  Even though this is a “light” year for elections locally, that doesn’t stop the candidates who are running for office from filling the airwaves with commercials. And, true to form, there are few candidates who say what they’re going to do.  Instead, they spend millions of dollars to smear their opponent.  People must feel it works because it gets worse the closer you are to the actual election day.

To me it seems similar to what I see from other bloggers in the “space” when they write about Human Resources.  People feel that if they continue to tear down HR, it will somehow get better.  I don’t follow the numbers and metrics of posts, including my own, but negativity must sell.  When I see posts that focus on division and separatism I get concerned.  Why would people want to work in a field that only wallows in things that are wrong?

I had toyed with the idea of seeking political office in the past and I determined back then that if I would ever run, I would only be positive. I think people should make choices on what you can bring and not focus on one and another’s faults.  Therefore, I am launching a campaign in support of HR !!

think, do, be positiveWhen is comes to HR, I am literally ALL in !!  It’s been my career of choice and I try to be active and visible through volunteer work, social media and speaking at events.  I only see HR growing and becoming more and more relevant in my organization and in many organizations across the globe.  There are creative and innovative people who are changing their approaches and their cultures to have workplaces where people can perform their best and move their organizations forward.

Here are the planks of my platform to share to make this campaign come to life !!

Be Others Focused

We are in the one profession that is built with a focus on other people.  Think of what a great opportunity that is !!  Seriously, you have a chance to work with people on purpose.  It’s built into your job and it needs to be the base of your thinking and approach every day.

Be Certified 

I refuse to continue to argue on one certification versus another.  Certification should be our ticket to moving ourselves, and the field, ahead.  The key to being certified is more than passing a test.  Having a professional certification gives you credibility and gives you the base on which to be a continuous learner and seek professional development.  We need to know HR to practice HR.  Take the time to get your letters and then build on your education from there going forward.

Be Connected

HR on its own is career suicide.  You will struggle if you aren’t connected to great people, great resources and great events.  Every time I read something, I look to learn from the author and their perspective.  When I find resources that help me do HR better, I share them with others.  Most importantly, when I go to events, I make sure to meet others to build my network in order to connect others.  We’re only better when we’re together as a profession.

So, can I count on your support ??  Will you join me in moving HR forward in a positive way ??  I would love to have you join in and stem the tide of negativity.  I know we can do it and am geeked to see what happens !!

I’m Steve Browne, candidate for the Campaign for HR, and I support this message !!

It’s How You Look At It !!

This past week we lost a comic genius in Robin Williams.  It’s sad that he passed because he always seemed to bring joy through his work.  I’m one of those who “grew up” with Williams from his stand-up comedy, through Mork & Mindy and all of his movies.

I enjoyed his comedy because he looked at things from a slightly different perspective.  His views were frenetic and never predictable !!  I think that’s one reason that people loved watching him because you never knew what what coming.  I think most would agree that they loved watching Williams and his madness, but they would not be comfortable practicing it themselves.

Different viewHaving a different perspective on things is never popular.  The pressure to stay within the norms of interactions, conversations and actions is huge.  If you are an outlier, then people tend to look at you as a disruptive force instead of something inviting.

HR needs to learn from Robin Williams in a couple of ways.  The first is that we should be the group that brings the different perspective to situations.  We have the opportunity to represent both the employee and the leadership in organizations.  Too often we are seen as representing management only.  We need to be the voice of both sides and that takes some moxie to stand up and not be aligned to the Company only.

Secondly, we can breathe life into our role and our organizations like Williams did for us.  Today, people don’t enjoy coming to work.  It’s well documented and publicized to the point that you wonder if anyone enjoys work anymore.  We can be the overwhelmingly positive model through HR.  Each company has it’s struggles and obstacles, but it’s how you approach things.

One of my favorite Williams’ movies was Good Morning, Vietnam.  In it, his character takes the horror of the situation people were involved in and looks at it differently.  The humor he brought gave the troops a little light despite the situation they were in.  I know what we do on a daily basis doesn’t compare to that type of extreme environment, but bringing a positive viewpoint to what we do is sorely needed !!

This week take the step to start having a different perspective in what you do, how you do it and allow others to bring in different viewpoints as well.  Also, make sure you’re taking time to laugh and bring a positive perspective to HR and the employees you get to serve.



Being Heard !!

I just returned from #SHRM14 in Orlando.  This was the best experience I’ve personally had at a SHRM Annual Conference.  I got in a bit earlier than the masses because I was there as part of the Membership Advisory Council (MAC) of SHRM.  One of the facets of this role is that we meet with the SHRM Board of Directors as well as the board of the SHRM Foundation.

Our job is to share the feedback, concerns, ideas and pulse of the SHRM Members.  It’s really an extremely cool volunteer position to hold because it’s like practicing HR for your Association.  We listen to our members and then share with Senior Leaders directly.

I knew that we’d have this opportunity and the other four great ladies I serve with had met with the Boards last year.  There was some anxiety because I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’m a huge believer in experiential learning and this was going to be a great experience.

What I found was not only reassuring, but gave me confidence in an organization that I sincerely believe in because we were heard !!  When we met with both bodies they listened to what the SHRM members had shared with us, especially about the new SHRM Certification.  The feedback we shared was candid, emotional and forthright.  It was even described as “unvarnished.”

HR Business Case StepsThere was a key distinction about how we approached this opportunity.  You see, we made the business case for the feedback and broke it into the areas that fit all of the comments we received.  I happened to go to a session led by Jennifer McClure later during the actual conference where she shared the steps to consider when making an HR business case to Senior Management.  It looks like we followed the steps well because we gave recommendations for the Board to consider around the next steps of the SHRM Certification evolution.

I want to clear something up that I heard at the Conference as well.  I understand that people may not feel the SHRM Board hears people, but I know that not to be true.  This is, and will continue to be, a highly emotional issue.  The Board Members heard that directly and when we discussed the issue, it was on both a tangible and strategic level.

In the end, we took the first step.

I truly think that is how this work should continue.  People are demanding absolutes which is too narrow of an approach.  Details need to come – and they will.  Communication needs to be better and consistent – and it will be.  People need to stay engaged in the process as it rolls out – and they will.

You have to know that I am not someone who is trying to only tout SHRM.  This situation allowed the MAC to practice HR.  We listened to our constituents and then brought that data to our leaders wrapped in potential solutions and recommendations.  We acted as a bridge to not only bring things together, but to move them forward.

For those that know me, I am one of the most fiercely passionate HR pros you’ll encounter.  The great folks I serve with are also fiercely passionate business people.  We always yearn to be heard and taken seriously as HR professionals.  I can tell you that it happens because we experienced it firsthand.

I’m geeked about the level of involvement I experienced and also in working with the leadership of SHRM while being connected to its volunteers.  We have hit some bumps and shed some tears.  We have raised our voices . . . and we are being heard !!

All MAC’d Up !!

Sitting in an airport terminal gives you a chance to jot down your thoughts if you build in a bit of time.  I’m trying to contain my excitement as I get ready to board my flight to SHRM14 in Orlando !!  The actual conference doesn’t kick-off until Sunday, but I’m fortunate to head down early as a SHRM volunteer and member of the Membership Advisory Council (MAC).

The MAC is made up of five volunteer leaders who work with five regions of ten states each throughout the US.  I am the 2014 Rep for the North Central Region which is basically the upper midwest section of the country.  The MAC meets with SHRM State Directors and volunteers throughout the country and listens to their feedback, concerns and suggestions.  We get to take their great input directly to the SHRM Board of Directors as well as other SHRM staff.  It’s an incredible opportunity that had a very intentional beginning . . .

You see, I have been a SHRM member for many years now.  However, when I began getting involved as a volunteer I was someone who commented on the sidelines about all the things that were “wrong” with the association and my local chapter.  I was facilitating a monthly HR Roundtable in the late 90’s and was being more and more vocal about my disdain.  Now, you have to know, that I had yet to go to a chapter meeting or SHRM event in person.  It was just easier to join the negative throng because people seem to get jazzed about it.

Get InvolvedOne month after a Roundtable, a very engaged member of the Greater Cincinnati HR Association (GCHRA) confronted me.  In fact, she pinned me against the wall !!  Now, I’m a fairly tall person and this person was not.  It didn’t deter her in the least.  She said, “Hey Steve, I’m tired of you taking shots at what we do.  You aren’t even involved yourself.  In my opinion, you need to either get involved or shut up !!”

I was flabbergasted. This is not stereotypical behavior for an HR person.  I admired her fervor though and took her up on her challenge.  I decided to run for Vice-President of the chapter even though I’d never been to a meeting.  I won.  From that time I’ve been fortunate to be the Chapter President, State Conference Director for Ohio and State Council Director.  I also still run the HR Roundtable each month and am entering my 15th year of being the facilitator.

I wanted to share this because I keep seeing other HR pros who sit on the sidelines and aren’t connected in their field.  You may pay your membership dues, but that only gives you access to a website and a myriad of white papers.  The National Conference is now upon us and you have a chance to act.  So, consider this me pinning you to the wall.

When you go to SHRM14 – get fully immersed in everything that the conference has to offer.  Be intentional in choosing your sessions and get great information that will help you be better in your role within your organization.  Go into it seeking the nugget that will transform your approach to HR.  Don’t just attend.  Be active !!

Hit the Exhibit Hall, the SHRM Bookstore, the various events happening every night and take in all that you can !!  Most importantly connected with the other HR pros who will be at the event.  You can develop meaningful, professional relationships that could last your entire career.  You will be surrounded by people.  Be different and engage others instead of rushing from one event to the next.

When that volunteer pinned me to the wall years ago, she lit a fire in me that only continues to grow !!  I know that SHRM has its faults and can do things better, just as most organizations do.  However, I can only make a difference by being involved.  I hope this gives you the spark you need to get involved in HR where you are !!  If you get connected to other folks, join a chapter, start an HR blog, etc. you’re taking that next step.

I honestly can’t wait to see each and every person who is going to SHRM14 !!  I’ll be the one on fire who will be geeked to meet you !!  See you there !!

I Need a Hero !!

We drove to the theater with great anticipation hoping to get tickets in time for the 7:45pm showing of the brand new Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The great ticket seller at the box office confused us when he said, “7:45 ?? The next show is at 7:15pm.”  We were early, but that meant we couldn’t get dinner before we went to see the show.  We decided to stay and head in to the theater.  The staff had us stand against the wall and form a line because the prior showing hadn’t ended.  We were an hour early.

As we stood there, the line to get in grew . . . and grew . . . and grew.  I didn’t remember a line forming before a movie like this since I saw the various Star Wars movies as a teenager. Everyone was patient, but you could feel the energy building and building as we got closer to the showtime.  The line was opened, and my son and I walked in and got the perfect seats for us.  The entire venue was filled in the next 10 minutes.

I didn’t know if others had a tradition like I do with my teenage son.  You see, every superhero movie that comes out means that we will be there to watch it.  I think we’ve made every Marvel, DC Comics, and smaller brand movies that have been released.  It is a shared experience that I truly cherish !!

It was a great movie !!  (You really should see it !!)  I loved it because Captain America is “odd” compared to most superheroes and most people in general.  You see, he’s completely selfless.  He is 100% others focused.  I love this attribute about him and want to encourage this in others as well.

By the incredible turnout at the movie, I can surmise that people find this attribute attractive as well.  We don’t see it often enough.  We live in a society, and work in companies, that are more self-focused than others-focused.  It seemed that people are looking for a “hero” of some sort.

Business HeroI’m not going to get into the definition of what a “hero” is because most heroes are active behind the scenes doing things that others never notice.  You see, I believe you can be heroic by being there for others and meeting their needs.  It doesn’t have to be something magnificent, but it does need to be something tangible.

So often in HR, and in articles about culture, we focus on making sure to identify the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) factor.  What if YOU were what’s in it for others?  What if YOU chose to reach out and be there to meet the need of someone else in work, life or the community?

What would happen if YOU helped someone else AND expected nothing in return?  I think the world would be an amazing place !!  I know that it’s unlikely that many people will read this and try this, but I believe that the “Captain America” effect can happen in your life and in the lives of others.

So, this week shed your ego.  Open your eyes and see who could use a hero.  Then step up and act.  You’ll be glad you did !!


By now you’re aware that we’ve entered a New Year.  The flurry of posts that flood blogs encouraging resolutions, new attitudes, new approaches, etc. have died down.  I love to see the positive launch into a new year because I think people are eager to start clean and move forward.

A new start is true for companies as well as it is for individuals.  Going into 2014, our company is taking an approach that most don’t – and I dig it.  Instead of piling on layers and layers of more goals and objectives, we’re stripping things down and asking people to focus.  In fact, it’s becoming so engrained in who we are that the CEO is sitting down individually with his leadership team to review what they’re focusing on each month throughout the year.

This intentional move is a bit uncomfortable because it takes “accountability” away from being something that you hope will happen to something that is EXPECTED to happen !!  I had my first meeting with the CEO, and it was so cool to see not only the individual approach to a collective whole, but that HR is supposed to be involved and have focus as much as all of the business units of the company.

So, what am I focusing on ??  The answer may seem obvious, but it’s . . . . people.

Focus 3This is a bigger challenge than you think.  Most companies thrive and build on processes and things in spite of people.  We all claim that people are our most valued asset, but the reality is that companies focus on revenue.  That’s not wrong in the least.  The question is do you work through your employees to allow them to truly perform, or do you just make sure things “get done” regardless of who’s handling the work.

The other aspect of this focus that is challenging is – people are typically focused on themselves and not others.  People are selfish.  They want to make sure they’re taken care of first and that their needs are being addressed.  This isn’t “wrong”, it’s human nature.

I want to see HR be a contrarian force in this challenge and be focused intentionally on others first.

This throws people (even people in HR).  Why would you put others first?  What if they take advantage of you?  What if they disappoint you?  What if they aren’t committed to this approach and it affects you?

All those things may come true (and probably will).  That shouldn’t dissuade us at all.  If HR truly puts others ahead of themselves, then actual cultural change will take root and blossom.  This isn’t some theory, it’s fact.  It’s just incredibly hard because it requires an incremental approach that evolves over time . . . and never stops.

I’m geeked about being able to practice this focus at my workplace.  I’ve been trying to do it all of my life.  To be able to have it permeate through a company’s culture is extraordinary and exciting !!

How about you?  Can you adopt this focus yourself?  Think about it.  What would happen to you in your life and in your HR role if others came first?  I think you’d like the result !!



More Folks I Learn From !!

In November, I started to share some folks I learn from and wanted to continue that effort as we enter a new year.  I hope that one of the things ALL of us do as we move into 2014 is that we strive to continually learn.  We can’t afford to be stagnant in any way.  I hope that these recommendations spark an interest for you to check out someone new and see if what they say helps you think of HR in a different way.  I value what they do and who they are !!  Let’s get started . . .

John WhitakerJohn Whitaker (@HR_Hardball on Twitter) is a force !!  Being from Texas, that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  When I first talked to him he said he was giving me a nickname because he gives everyone a nickname.  In fact, he goes by “Whit” and not John himself.  Whit brings it every time he strikes a keyboard to write a post.  He is a featured contributor to Fistful of Talent (an incredible HR compilation blog of great HR voices by the way !!), and his own blog, HR Hardball, flat rocks !!  I know that John also does presentations as HR events which stretch the everyday practitioner to look at the profession from different angles.  We all need folks who can bend our brains a bit.  Whit does this effectively and is a treat to take in !!

Gemma ReucroftLet’s now go over to the UK for Gemma Reucroft (@HR_Gem on Twitter).  Gem brings a grounded sensibility to HR, but doesn’t “settle” for the norms.  In fact, she challenges norms every time she posts.  As a fellow HR practitioner, she isn’t just espousing things HR folks “ought” to do, she’s practicing what she writes about.  I love that she keeps things simple and stripped down.  It makes her work very accessible and applicable to what you do in HR.  Her blog – hrgem: Thoughts on HR, work and doing good people stuff – captures who she is and her approach to our field. I have her blog highlighted in my Feedly list and eagerly wait to see what she has to share.  Make sure you connect with her !!

Mary FaulknerBack to the states and to beautiful Colorado !!  That’s where you can find Mary Faulkner (@mfaulkner43 on Twitter).  I met Mary at the SHRM National Conference in Chicago this year, and found out what a brilliant leadership, training and OD professional she is.  I have found it hard to connect with many OD folks because for many of us, it’s wrapped up in our HR generalist roles.  Mary is solid and her blog, Surviving Leadership, is one of the most straightforward blogs around.  She is just “breaking onto the scene” in social media, but you wouldn’t know that.  Her content is fabulous and is something I take to heart when looking at the leadership and OD efforts at work.

Make sure to connect with Whit, Gemma and Mary !!  You’ll be glad you have new outlets for resources in your work.  Be on the lookout for more folks I learn from.  There are a ton and I hope that there will only be more and more throughout the year !!



Keep Your Head Up !!

This past week I went to the SHRM Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.  It’s one of my favorite events because the SHRM local Chapter and State volunteer leaders come together to network, learn and share great ideas on how to get HR pros connected, engaged and involved.

The past few years I’ve started the week by advocating in front of the Senate and the House of Representatives on legislative issues that affect business, employees and HR.  I broke away from our larger Ohio group to support one of our other Ohio SHRM volunteers because she had never advocated before, and I wanted it to be a great experience for her.  As we were walking over to the Congressman’s office, she said the most poignant thing.

“You know I can’t believe I’m here.  Most of the time in my role I find myself with my head down doing my HR job.  I need to keep my head up more to see all that is around me.  I would miss great things like this if I didn’t try to be more aware.”

We had a great session with the Congressman’s staff and shared our position on the issues.  When we were done, she wanted to go over to the Senate offices as well to see them.  As we entered the building, I noticed several cameras up on the 2nd floor of the rotunda we had just entered.  I said, “Let’s go see what’s happening !!”  So, we walked up confidently and saw a press table outside the Kennedy Caucus Room and it was packed with people.  The folks at the table asked if we’d like to go in, and we jumped at the chance not knowing what we would find.

RFK AwardIn the room we stumbled into history . . . literally !!  We were able to see the 30th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award being given to Egyptian Human Rights attorney – Ragia Omran.  The event was emceed by Soledad O’Brien and we heard RFK’s daughter, Kerry, speak about Ms. Omran’s accomplishments and the actual award was given by Ethel Kennedy – RFK’s wife !!  It was amazing that by “keeping our head up” and taking a risk to see if we could be involved, we saw something we NEVER would have seen if we were just stuck on following the patterns that were set before us.

This experience was just another example of how I feel HR should be ALL the time !!  Too often we are criticized because we think that by keeping a narrow focus we are diligent.  The fact is that by being narrow we can miss what’s happening with the people even though we’re cranking out the tasks laid before us.

There has to be a mix of these two worlds.  You can, and should, be diligent in your HR practice.  However, your perspective should be as broad as possible because the great people you work with may have the insight, input, or knowledge you need.  You can’t keep your head down any longer !!

The rest of the week was even MORE eventful than our experience in the Senate !!  I’m even more geeked and energized about HR, my profession, my volunteer role and SHRM than I ever have been !!

I hope you join me as we look to the horizon to see what’s next.  It will be awesome, I’m sure !!

Do You Teach or Demand ??

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go camping with my Scouts again.  It’s always a great time that inevitably involves rain !!  I’m used to that and so are the scouts.  It’s truly fascinating to watch the interaction that happens during an outing because the adults aren’t in charge of any facet of what happens.

The scouts plan the outing, plan the meals, pack the gear in the trailer, set-up camp and also plan all of the activities that happen throughout the weekend.  The reason it’s so fascinating to watch is to see which style of leadership the boys choose to employ.  Adults want to step in to fix and correct things, and that’s where I come in to remind the adults that we’re basically on the outing to ensure safety and that the boys carry out their plans.

Here’s a simple example . . .

At EVERY campout we play Euchre !! If you don’t know what Euchre is, it’s basically the card game of kings.  Seriously !!  The boys can’t wait until some down time to get cards out and start playing.  They play each other and relish the chance to take on the adults.  Euchre is not an easy game to learn.  It has some twists that don’t seem logical.  Hence, the nuances of a game.  All great games make you think and react.  We play for hours at a time and set up tournaments.

Euchre HandIf a scout doesn’t know how to play, you have to teach them.  For people who are seasoned Euchre players, teaching someone is tedious.  You want the new player to “get it” but it takes time and several games to learn.  Once a new player understands the game, they take off !!  They can literally play the game, and enjoy it, for life.

It’s amazing to watch a new scout struggle to learn and understand, but most everyone is understanding.  However, once a scout starts playing for one or two outings, they become extremely frustrated and intolerant of those who don’t know the game’s rules or how to play well.  They completely forget that they just learned how to play Euchre just a few short months ago.

You can take this example to almost every facet of an outing.  The kids either teach each other how to do skills and are patient during the process, or they demand that people just catch on to what they’re supposed to do.  If they don’t do the task well or right, the boys just want to skip working with others and will even avoid them or work around them.

Sound like work ??  Sound like HR ??

I think it’s exactly like the interactions we have at work. In fact, at work the “demand” approach is what is followed the vast majority of the time.  HR needs to recognize this and destroy it.  When I see HR that is built on compliance, discipline, writing people up, “building a case”, and policies that only measure what goes wrong, I see the demand approach in full bloom.  HR isn’t the only department that uses the demand method, but it IS the department that can eliminate it.

Teaching people how to perform and giving them expectations of outcomes and the ability to use their skills is what we should strive for in any workplace !!  When we do it, they’ve learned something they can enjoy and “play” for life.  We have to recognize when Managers and Supervisors fall into the demand mindset and “teach” them as well.  It’s time-consuming and incremental, but worth every single moment.

So, HR, step up !!  Refuse to be like the norm in our field who use the demand system and parameters to feel they’re practicing great HR.  Be a teacher instead !!

And, if you need to learn Euchre, let me know.  I know some pretty good teachers !!