Spice It Up !!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being the closing keynote of the Wisconsin SHRM State HR Conference !! This was a bucket list item for me because I always love the chance to be among my HR peers, and this time I was able to send them forth with encouragement as they headed back to their companies.

My wife traveled with me, and we took some time to explore the Wisconsin countryside. We also stopped to visit one of our dear friends in Milwaukee. This visit was especially awesome because our friend unexpectedly lost her husband in a car accident 16 months ago. We have been in touch, but hadn’t seen each other since his funeral. It was a touching moment as we pulled into the driveway and exchanged warm embraces and some tears.

We spent a few hours catching up on life, family, and work because we just had to fill the gaps. Seeing each other in person is always more powerful than talking online or over the phone. We then asked our friend to show us Milwaukee. We told her that we didn’t want to specifically see the tourist attractions most people expect to see. My wife and I like to see places through the eyes of others. See the city based on what is important to them.

Our friend thought about this for a bit, and then we headed to the car. She drove us around the suburb she lived in and pointed out various landmarks including the high school her kids had attended, where she shopped, her church and a neighborhood called The Shire that had a Hobbit Hole at the front gate. (The HR Nerd in me was so geeked about the Hobbit find !!)

She kept driving for a bit and then we pulled into a retail shopping center. We weren’t sure what we were stopping to see, but she assured us we’d love the store. We walked over to Penzeys which is a store that sells spices. That’s it. Spices.

The mixture of smells enveloped you as you entered the store. On top of that, the staff greeted us warmly and was genuinely excited that we chose to stop by. One of the staff went to our friend and hugged her warmly and asked how she was, how her kids were and how she was improving each day. The encouragement seemed to drip from every square inch of this amazing store. I never knew there were so many variations of salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, vanilla, etc.

What made Penzeys amazing was that each spice had a full description written out along with suggestions on how to use the spice to bring out its fullest potential. It was noted that you only needed a small amount of spice to improve whatever cooking you were attempting. They also offered spice themed magnets, dish towels, gift boxes and other accompanying items that all had positive messages on them. I was floored by this approach.

It made me think of how HR people can be the folks who spice it up with the employees we work with. If we would be the one ingredient that could encourage and lift someone up, imagine what our workplaces would be. And, just like the store, you don’t have to use the same spice for each person. In fact, each interaction you have will require a different ingredient in order to make it come to life !!

This week instead of thinking you need to make massive movements in order for change and improvement to occur, just add a pinch of spice.

Choose

A new workweek is upon us. I’m sure it’s going to be filled with both challenges and opportunities. If you’re like most people, you probably feel that the challenges far outweigh the opportunities. That may not be the case, but it gives you the illusion that you’re going to be better at your job because you feel that solving problems is why you exist.

I think taking this position is difficult personally. If our days our chock full of a majority of challenges, then how can we see any glimmer of hope? I don’t mean to make light of the conditions of other’s lives. That would be short sighted and presumptuous.

I want to throw something out there that may seem naive, but I find it to be true. In the midst of all that is swirling around us, we have a choice on how to start our day. Every. Day. We can either make the conscious decision to be positive or not. I used to think that the choice was positive or negative, but that is too much of a generalization.

Choosing to be positive frames everything even in the middle of legitimate challenges. It’s not naive, but it is difficult. Most forces in our personal lives and our lives at work want us to focus on what’s wrong as the point where things start. That gives us a jumping off point to move away from because the less something is broken, the more we have a sense of accomplishment.

In HR we are constantly surrounded by people. People who are going through life just like we are. It’s easy to hear how people are facing their days and become sarcastic and embittered. You get tired of the unending waves of struggle. There doesn’t seem to be a viable way out. So, you get swallowed along with it.

Choosing to be positive changes the playing field because you don’t enter the encounters you have with others as something you’re obligated to solve. You may get a chance to be part of a solution, but it doesn’t have to be your only purpose. When you approach others expecting things to be positive regardless of what you come across, you put yourself in a position to be available. That, honestly, is more than most people expect when it comes to daily interactions.

I know this is a big ask, but I want to put an option out there for others. There needs to be something for you to latch on to because what you do matters. When you spend time with people you may be the one spark that turns the tide for them.

This week choose.

 

Drop the Mic !!

This past week I was fortunate to be a part of the Illinois SHRM State Conference. I was scheduled to be a speaker and was geeked to have the opportunity !! As I was sitting in the terminal before my flight from Cincinnati to Chicago, I received an email from the conference organizer. She put a question to me that was completely out of the blue. She asked if I would be the conference emcee.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting to see this request because I knew who was going to be the emcee and was at first concerned. It turns out that a work issue came up that he had to address. When I knew he was okay, I enthusiastically said that I’d step in !!

Being the emcee allows you to set the tone for the event. I was fortunate because I personally knew each of the speakers that I introduced. I also had a relationship with the Illinois SHRM volunteer leaders, and that set the stage for something I’ve always wanted to experience at an HR conference.

You see, when I go to an HR conference, I want to meet every attendee. This isn’t an exaggeration. I truly do. I know that this isn’t normal and that’s okay with me. It’s always been hard to try and reach this goal because people tend to avoid contact – even HR people. Most people have so many things going on in their personal lives as well as situations at work that they are looking for an escape. Sure, they want to learn from sessions and they’re also looking for credits towards their HR certification. But I find that few people want to genuinely meet others that they don’t already know.

I understand that I’m off the chart on the extroversion scale, and I’m good with that. What I can’t understand is why you’d pay to go to an event with peers who are potential resources and completely ignore them in order to grab a seat in a session or a plate of food in a buffet line.

So, since I had the microphone, the tone I chose to set was one that expressed the value of having personalized connections. Not one speaker that I introduced had a bio read. Instead, I shared stories about them as people and how much I learned from them and their insights. I was also able to thank Dave Ryan, the ILSHRM State Director, for his service by writing him a note full of song titles from The Eagles (one of his favorite groups.)

Then, the goal I have yearned for at an HR conference happened. I dropped the mic and was able to meander throughout the entire venue to greet everyone. With every “Hello” came a smile and a “Thank you” for them choosing to attend. I didn’t let one person get by me. Oddly enough, everyone returned both my greeting and my smile. Many also laughed and engaged with me.

You see people want to be acknowledged. People want to belong. This is especially true for those of us in HR. We spend so much time pouring into the lives of others that we often forget ourselves. I think this needs to change for ALL of HR and at EVERY HR conference.

A friend of mine on Twitter asked this week what would make HR conferences better – this is it.

From now on, take the time to look up and meet the others in your profession who came to learn just like you. Don’t settle for just attending sessions. Meet the great people you’re with as well. You’ll be glad you did !!

 

Happy John Jorgensen Day !!

One of the best things about social media is that it brings people together that would never have met without the various forums. The worldwide community of HR became markedly smaller. There are a few HR folks who I would consider “early adopters” of social media. They saw the power to connect, bring folks together and break the boundaries of geography.

One of those pioneers is John Jorgensen. John has been a long-term SHRM volunteer leader and our paths crossed at a few events. Once we connected in person and understood how social media could be leveraged to communicate and improve human resources as a whole, we were bound together.

The cool thing is that that initial bond grew and grew over time, and we became dear friends. I’ve always admired John’s dedication to volunteer leaders and I’ve learned a ton from him. We both were State Council Directors and State SHRM Conference chairs. As with all volunteer roles, those had their time and others step up into leadership. John has nurtured and grown volunteer leaders at the local and State level. He has invested his time and championed others who became leaders after he finished his terms. That is a characteristic that should happen in any organization. Great leaders find those who will lead after them.

I could go on and on sharing stories of the people that John has influenced. However, what I cherish most is our friendship. You see, in the SHRM world we all “know” each other in a friendly environment. Most of the conversations are around speakers, conferences, best practices, etc. Few people move past that to develop friendships, and that is a shame because when it occurs it’s fantastic !!

John is a very caring man who is a fierce friend. We talk to each other at least once per week during my commute home. It’s something I look forward to because we talk about everything. Sure, we talk about HR and SHRM because John cares deeply about the organization at all levels. He has always been member focused and he wants to see that be the direction and mantra for SHRM at all times.

What you probably don’t know is that John is an amazing lover of all types of rock music. He and I share a love for various groups, concerts and movies. He is a huge trivia buff, voracious reader and an expert on all things Gettysburg !! We talk about family, friends and work. He is a great brother and uncle in his family, and I was there during the passing of both of his parents. He still fondly cares for them and honors their memories.

John and I also share an affinity for Irish pubs and enjoy sharing an adult beverage. I’m so glad to take some time to highlight my friend because he deserves it. There’s a lot more to John than most know. I can honestly say that my life is better because John is a big part of it.

There are many, many people that pass in and out of our lives. When you find a dear friend, invest in them and let them invest in you. This is what John and I have together.

He will always be . . . my friend.

 

Do You Have a Minute ??

Do you remember the classic cartoon The Jetsons? I loved watching this show because it was a cool version of what people thought the future would hold. One of my favorite aspects of the cartoon was the video calls that George Jetson would make with his boss Mr. Spacely. The thought that you could make a “phone call” and see the person you were talking to was unthinkable in the past. It was some fantastic idea that you could only see from someone’s imagination.

Little did I know that a video call would become a reality !! This weekend I participated in something I could have never imagined would EVER happen in my lifetime. Let me backtrack for a second . . .

This summer at the SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago I had the opportunity to speak at two mega sessions, and it was incredible for many reasons. One of the many highlights was meeting Usman Abid from Pakistan. He came to one of my sessions and then proceeded to floor me by buying 38 copies of my book HR on Purpose !! for his entire HR team. Now, fast forward back to the present . . .

Usman sent me an email and asked if I had a minute to join him and his team for a Skype call over the weekend. He had taken my book and developed a two-day workshop based on it !! I was astonished to say the least. He came up with hashtags, themes and even shirts with double exclamation points. He also came up with this logo. The whole concept was humbling and overwhelming.

I jumped at the chance to talk to Usman and his HR team. I set up my laptop in my dining room and when the beep, beep, beep of Skype chimed, I answered and was seeing a room full of my peers on the other side of the globe. The. Other. Side. of the Globe !! It was surreal. The video call that I only knew from cartoons was now happening.

It was so fantastic to tell some stories, share some laughs and talk about a people-centric view of HR. The call lasted about fifteen minutes. I didn’t get a question, but someone did notice that I was wearing tie-dye with the #HRTribe hashtag on it. In fact, the folks in Pakistan cheered when I stood up and showed them the shirt. As we were ending our time together, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I thanked the team for the chance to be a part of their workshop through some tears.  Usman and his team said good-bye to me in Urdu which was very cool.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought that one day in my career I’d write a book. A book that would be purchased by a peer and then taken around the world. A book that would be developed into a workshop, and result in a video call between fellow HR practitioners in different global locations and time zones.

One thing to note . . . Usman’s did all of this work BEFORE anyone on his team even received their copy of the book !! They’re going to get their personalized signed copies at the end of the workshop.

I felt compelled to share this story for a couple of reasons. One – it’s amazing and overwhelming. You have no idea how much it humbles me that this has happened. Secondly, I think it’s important to remember that regardless of where we are in the world, we have common bonds as humans and as professionals.

The entire experience encourages me that there remains so much good in this world. As people, we can come together on purpose to lift each other up and do great work. Our humanity is a far greater bond than all of the distractions, anger and negativity that everyone seems to want to dwell on.

This week please remember that it only takes a minute to bring us together. I think we have the time to do that now and going forward !!

Replacement Parts

My Mom is an amazing human in almost every way !! This November she will celebrate her 80th birthday and I’m geeked to see that come along with family and friends. If you met my Mom, you wouldn’t think that she’s roamed this planet for eight decades. She is active, vibrant and a true servant leader in her community.

Just this past week, she had a hip replaced. This wasn’t due to an injury. She just needed some new parts. Her doctor has asked her for months if she was in any pain. My Mom always replied that she was “fine.” Evidently she had arthritis building up and her doctor was concerned that if she fell at some time, her hip would break and it could seriously hurt her. Thankfully, she had the procedure in time.

Seeing her go through this made me think of HR of course. How many systems, programs, policies and procedures have you created that are out dated, stale and stagnate? Do you even know? Chances are the vast majority of all of your human resources efforts need a check up. I’m sure that you are oblivious to how your systems are performing. I know I am. That may be a hard thing to admit, but it’s true. Most HR processes only get dusted off when there’s some “crisis” or policy violation. I know there are times when I ask to buy some time so I can pull up a Word document from some long forgotten file to make sure that I respond correctly.

This is not an effective way to practice HR. There are so many instances when we are reactive because we just don’t have a good reason to utilize our systems on a regular basis. I think it’s time we look at some replacement parts for what we do and how we practice.

I’m not sure what specifically needs to be replaced in your systems, but I’m sure there are ways to make things current and relevant. I’d suggest that you do some of the following steps to see what happens.

Does anyone know it exists? – We all have policies and procedures that were developed years and years ago. If you pull up one of these to review it and it says “As of . . .” and the date is over two years old, you need to see if people even know it exists. Chances are they don’t, and you didn’t either.

Is it relevant? – Our companies go through change on a daily basis (at least). I remember going through an old handbook I had written about the use of pagers. Pagers !! (If you don’t remember these technological miracles, look them up on Wikipedia). At the time, we HAD to have a policy because people spent too much time on them. Sound familiar? It was stupid then and senseless now. These gems are riddled in your documents. Trust me. Find them and get rid of them.

Can you be consistent? – This is the one piece of advice that I hope you use for anything you create in HR. It has to be able to be applied and implemented consistently. If it can’t be, then  keep working on it until it is. My rule of thumb is that any program, system, policy or procedure has to affect the majority of employees and not the exceptions. That runs contrary to how most HR products are created. You can’t be consistent when you’re systems are geared towards exceptions.

Try them out !! – The last piece of advice is based on my Mom’s surgery again. The hip she received is brand new and shiny. However, unless she can walk easily and have mobility and range of motion, it’s just shiny. So, instead of having constant launch parties for your HR efforts, try things out in focus groups or departments. Test them to see how they perform. If they need tweaked, then do that before you release it to the entire organization.

My Mom was up and walking within hours of her surgery. It was amazing to see. She’s walking better than she had been for months. She still had little pain still and I’m thankful for that. She’s going to continue to be amazing. She just needed a tune up. This week, start the tune up you need in HR as well !!

What’s Your Sandwich Board ??

I love when you’re out browsing shops in a town and you see a sandwich board. They are either telling you the specials of the day, or they have a catchy message to try to grab your attention. I have to be honest that I love the ones that are humorous, sarcastic or a bit snarky.

If a sandwich board is creative enough, it will cause you to stop and consider dropping in. You may not have planned to stop at that particular establishment, but the message on the board drew you in.

My wife and I were getting some birthday cupcakes for my son this weekend at Tres Belle Cakes and Coffee Shop. Before we entered the store, the sandwich board made me stop, smile and laugh !! We were heading to the store regardless of the sign because we had a “purpose” before us, but the sign set the mood going in.

When we went in the store I asked about the coffee they had, and we ended up walking out with a few “additional” pastries. I also saw a coffee brand new to me called Death Wish Coffee which both intrigued and concerned me at the same time. I may have to return to at least try this strong brew !!

While I was enjoying my pastry from the store, my mind began to wander and I wondered what my sandwich board says when people meet me both as a person and in my HR role. I also wondered what others see when they interact with HR. If I had to guess, most messages on people’s boards would be more self critical and reserved because most HR pros tend to be conservative and cautious.

Have you asked what others think of HR in your company? I know that many companies do this through surveys, but I’d like to challenge you to gauge how people see you through personal interactions. That is more telling than allowing someone to sit behind a survey to share with little or no context.

I hope that when people encounter me and my team our sandwich board says that we’re approachable, empathetic, understanding, human and . . . fun !! Yes, fun – It’s the “F” word that should define HR regardless of what your company is like. There’s no reason that people shouldn’t read our board based on our behavior and look forward to interacting and working with us.

This week take some time for reflection. If you had to actually post a sandwich board outside your department/office, would it invite people in? If it wouldn’t, what steps would you take to reformat not only your message, but how you practice HR?

I think that all HR pros should establish how they can market themselves with a simple message and attract people so that they want to know us, work with us and enjoy all that HR can be !! Have some fun (from now on) and create your sandwich board !!

Some Assembly Required !!

This past weekend I was helping my son get ready for his senior year at Ohio University by moving some of his big items to his new apartment off campus. I’m a proud OU alum and I’m geeked to see my son enter his final year of college, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him !!

Moving furniture has drastically changed compared to when I went to college. We would either fill a small U-Haul truck or take several cars in a caravan down the highway. We had two cars for this trip, but everything was in boxes. I mean the furniture was in boxes !! You see we went to IKEA to get a bed and a dresser.

I’m a huge fan of IKEA. How cool is it that you can get furniture that is functional and practical all in boxes? Yes, it takes some time to assemble everything, but it’s worth it. You can get every type of furniture as well from beds to sofas to dressers to shelves. One of the very unique aspects of buying furniture from IKEA is the instructions that come with the piece.

The instructions only include pictures. There are no words. None. It’s very strange because if you’ve ever assembled anything else, they seem to be covered with more words than pictures. Also, there are tons of parts involved to make even the most simple box !! As I was assembling the furniture along with my son, I couldn’t help think how these instructions correlate very much with HR.

Some assembly required – We never have a “typical” day in HR despite our best efforts to follow a set pattern or schedule. Distractions are really our norm which causes us to alter our days.

We all need direction – This is more true than we care to admit. We tend to think in terms that leaders and managers direct people. That may be the case, but employees at all levels need directions !! In the IKEA instructions they break it down as to even which way something should be turned in order for the piece to be tightened. The key is that the directions are simplified and given step by step. This is something we should emulate !!

Every step is necessary – Too often in today’s business climate, expediency is valued much more than being thorough. It’s assumed that being thorough will slow down things to a screeching halt. This just isn’t the case. When you’re working with people, you need to make sure that you take time with them and not just rush to the next item that grabs your attention.

HR is heavy !! – Have you ever lifted a box from IKEA? They are crazy heavy when you take on the whole piece and it’s unassembled. You even can get discouraged because when you experience the weight you can’t imagine the final product will every come together. Practicing HR is like this as well. We can get swallowed by the weight of what we do. However, we need to be encouraged and realize that the work that we put in will bring forth a great, completed solution.

You need tools – You can’t assemble any piece of IKEA furniture with instructions alone. You need tools. It’s a solid reminder for HR pros as well. We need to develop and equip others, not just list instructions. When people have context, they know what to do and they can perform even better. Spend more time equipping others !!

The project came together after a mere five hours. We ended up with a great bed and a dresser !! Every item was used and ended up in it’s rightful place. His apartment is going to be great.

This week step back and look at how you’re practicing HR and make sure that you give instructions that are simple, equip others with tools and take the time and patience it needs to “assemble” the people you work beside !!

 

Wonderful, Always

This past week I woke up earlier than normal because I need to do some last minute shopping and prep for a day of development for our managers. As most people tend to do, I had a list in my head of what I needed to purchase. I wanted to get into the store and avoid contact if possible so I could “get things done.”

As I was hurriedly walking to the aisle for the supplies I was seeking, a cashier caught my eyes and greeted me. “How’s your morning going so far?”

“Great !!” I replied. “How about yours?”

She said, “Wonderful, always !!”

I stopped walking. I was struck by her response. This was not your normal greeting. I smiled and made a note to remember her reply. I gathered my supplies and couldn’t wait to get to her checkout aisle. I just had to talk to her more. As I checked out, we chatted for a few minutes about the day ahead and how it was sure to be great. I thanked her and I went off to set-up my meeting . . . but my attitude had completely shifted.

Did I mention that this interaction happened at Wal-Mart at 7:00am in the morning? Yes, Wal-Mart. There was something else that occurred as I was shopping. Every employee warmly greeted each other. Every. One. And, they didn’t do they typical “drive-by” greeting with the obligatory non-engaged response of “I’m fine” or “I’m good.” It was so refreshing to see and experience !!

Let’s put things into context. The employees I was observing worked in a retail environment that gets more criticism than other retail outlets. People judge folks who shop at Wal-Mart and make offhanded, look down your nose remarks about them. However, the employees seemed more authentic and engaged than most employees I’ve seen in any workplace !!

Now, I understand that all of us have “life” going on in varying degrees of challenges and/or success. That won’t change because life moves in waves. I wish we were always on the crest of those waves, but there will always be the inevitable troughs that come as well.

I admire Carol (that is the Wal-Mart cashier I met) because regardless of what is happening in her life, she chooses to genuinely see things as “wonderful, always !!” I love that a front-line team member is positively authentic. It’s a posture that I try to take and would love to see be the truth of anyone who works in Human Resources.

This isn’t about being naive or utopian in your approach to the day. It’s proven that if you start your day, and then continue through it, with a positive mindset that most of your interactions will go well. This is true even during the most emotional and/or dark circumstances you encounter during your day.

This week be intentional and determine that you will start each day positively. Don’t just make this a resolution. Work on making it your norm.

You have to trust me that when you do this things will improve. Your work will become manageable regardless of the obstacles that will occur. When you are out with your employees, you’ll brighten their day first before they have a chance to dump another load of crud at your feet. When you’re consistently positive on purpose, you eventually shape the culture of your company and the relationships you have with others.

I hope that from now on you’re  wonderful . . . always !!

Be Upfront !!

Have you ever had to buy anything? Of course you have. It’s interesting that the process of the sale often determines whether you make a purchase or not. A great connection and interaction may land a sale, and the opposite experience will most assuredly stop it.

Over my career, I’ve had various experiences in working with vendors. I’m sure that vendors will say the same thing. We all utilize vendors in business. We wouldn’t be able to be successful on our own. I’m thankful for the people who I currently work with because their products and services add value to our company and our employees.

Recently, I’ve noticed some rather disturbing trends when it comes to the HR/vendor connection.

I’m a HUGE proponent of Linked In !! I think it’s an incredible forum to reach out and connect with people around the globe. My network includes tons of HR pros, resource partners, students, people in transition and other business professionals.

Now, more than ever, vendors are using Linked In to reach out and connect for a potential introduction and sale. This method has replaced phone calls or in person visits, and I understand that. Everything is done through technology. This isn’t the concern. The concern I have is that if I choose to connect with you on Linked In, then that assumes I instantly will consider and buy your product, platform or service. That’s a pretty big jump if you ask me !!

Along with this movement on Linked In, there’s been another effort that is equally as disturbing. We all still get far too many emails every day. Interspersed between ones that are directly work related are subscriptions to blogs, various newsletter updates and information from vendors. The disturbing difference from many potential vendors is that the emails get more and more aggressive if you choose not to respond. On top of this, I’ve also had people use language to shame me asking why I’ve missed an opportunity that is sure to improve my situation.

One person even wrote me an email with the subject line “Concern” listed. As an HR practitioner, I thought it was a possible employee issue or something with a guest. The email was from a vendor who wanted to express his “concern that I hadn’t responded yet.” I responded. It wasn’t pleasant. He apologized and stated he didn’t realize that his tone would have raised any alarms.

This has to change. We rely on each other, and we can interact positively, but we need to retain the approaches that work.

First, be upfront and honest with each other. It seems simple enough, but it isn’t happening. I understand that you are tasked with landing a sale. What I’d like you to understand is that I want to have systems that help my company and my employees on an on-going basis. This means that not everything that is being offered will be a match. It doesn’t mean that your product is poor. It just may not fit.

Second, allow me to say “No.” Again, it seems simple. It just isn’t happening. Don’t think that if I turn down your service that it’s not successful. I would encourage you to develop a networking connection and relationship regardless if a sale occurs.

Finally, build on that relationship. What vendors fail to understand is that the HR community is very close and tight knit. We know each other and reach out to discuss practices and services. So, that connection you make with one HR person may lead to a sale in a company you never considered.

I realize that not all HR people are open to meeting vendors for the sake of meeting them. There are those of us who are willing to meet. But, please note that I want to meet you as a person as well as learn what you do. You may have something that could benefit a peer I know. Many of my closest friendships are with vendors that aren’t working directly with me or my company.

I’d love to see the HR/vendor connection improve. Let’s stop all of the “throw paint against the wall” methods. Reach out to me as a person. It’s always worked, and it still will. Keep it simple and be upfront.