A Bright Future !!

“How old are you? Seriously, what’s your age?”

Pretty straightforward isn’t it? If that’s how I introduced myself, how would you react? I bet you’d be “offended” or put off because you would wonder why that had any bearing whatsoever on our meeting. The next thought in your head would be wondering why in the world I would start a conversation in such a rude way. You’d wonder if I was judging you or making assumptions about you as a person just because of a number. That’s assuming that you’d even answer me.

Seems pretty outlandish doesn’t it? However, we continue to do this as HR professionals and think nothing of it. In fact, we have conference sessions, books and blogs about how to “deal” with these young whipper snappers disrupting OUR workforce !! (Insert the “Get off my lawn” with the obligatory fist shaking motion here . . .)

Every HR conference has a “Working with Millenials” speech that you can get credit for. Sadly, the room will be packed because we’re so mystified by such a difficult challenge. Ironically, the presenter most likely won’t be a millenial. It will be someone older complaining about how different these folks are from us. Sad. Just freaking sad.

How did the profession that espouses diversity and inclusion become the profession that delineates employees based on their age? Who said this was a good idea? And, why in the world would you pay anyone as a speaker on consultant to come in and teach you how to “DEAL” with people who are different than you? One other quick fact, the next generation after the millenials is already entering the workplace. I can’t wait until the next phase of generation separation starts happening !!

I hope you can tell this ticks me off. It’s disappointing on so many levels and it has to stop. Here’s how . . . embrace the folks who will replace us !!

My future and yours !!

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to have HR students from Ohio University visit me as part of a field trip. They visited four employers from different types of industries to learn about the companies and how HR was practiced. I was geeked to have them come learn about LaRosa’s, Inc. You see, I am a proud OU Bobcat alumni !! I mentioned that I graduated from college before the internet existed. There were audible gasps.

We had a phenomenal time together !! They were eager, engaged and hilarious. We spent the whole afternoon together, and I let them ask me anything they wanted to know. They asked pointed questions about how I viewed/practiced HR and what workplaces were “really” like.

Not once did the students hold my age against me as a barrier. I didn’t treat them any differently than any person I encounter on a daily basis. It never came up. Nor, should it.

I encouraged the students to take a serious look at the cultures of the companies they were visiting as a benchmark for what workplaces are like. I told them a truth that I know which is people will stay or leave a company because of it’s culture. I also wanted them to ask their future prospective employers to describe how they view HR and the role it plays in their organizations. I told them to listen to the response because it would reflect the company’s culture and would be the best measure of whether they should join that company or not.

We closed the day in a very cool, and humbling, way. I was able to give them a copy of my book and when I signed the copies I put “OU ’86” under my name. One of the students said “Like 1986 ?? Whoa !!” I laughed. I loved that they thought I was ancient.

The future of HR is bright because of students like these !! I take any opportunity I can to meet with and speak to students because I believe that they need to hear from business people who won’t treat them differently. Instead, you engage them as talented, wonderful future employees.

This week, stop the generation separation. I mean it. We’re better than that. Let’s make our present as bright as our future !!

All the Verts !!

This past week has been an interesting week of interactions. They ranged from conversations in my office to various connections on-line in social media forums. I tend to take in as much as possible on a regular basis because I enjoy all of the contact. Yes, I am an extrovert. In fact, when I’ve taken assessments that measure this, I’m off the chart. That isn’t always a good thing.

I only mention that because my extroversion is only one small facet of who I am. We tend to take our “vert” and use it to lead in describing us as people. This is solid because it’s a fact. However, we often use it as a label to explain what we’re not instead of highlighting who we are. Knowing who we are is essential because self-awareness, in my opinion, is the baseline of healthy relationships, interactions and even leadership !!

One of the unexpected interactions this week was from my friend Paul LaLonde. He just started a new blog called the HR Philosopher and he described how we met each other in person at last year’s SHRM Annual Conference. I love that he described me as “a giant man with a booming voice and a tie-dye shirt” because it makes me smile. He also shared how he stepped out of his comfort zone to be intentional that we met. I love this because I’m the opposite. If I see you in a room, I want to meet you.

The reality of your “vert” is that it drives how you process thought, how you tend to communicate and how you approach meeting others and the relationships you develop. Your vert is your lead in. That is spectacular and not a hindrance. Respecting that people land all across the scale of extroversion and introversion is imperative because we start interactions based on who we are and regardless of who the other person is. I would challenge you to not charge, or creep, into interactions. Feel things out. See if there is receptivity in initiating contact. It’s safer for all the verts to do this.

The other unexpected connection I made this week was listening to a podcast. I love listening to the HR Social Hour 1/2 Hour Podcast because it features fellow HR practitioners. You get to learn about them more as people including how they arrived in the field of HR, their varied experiences and some personal faves in movies, TV and music. This week’s episode featured Natasha Desjardins, an HR pro in the non-profit sector in Washington, D.C. She lit up the microphone with excitement and passion which was an instant draw for me personally.

She shared an incredibly profound statement which she stated is a personal philosophy that she has adopted which is an African proverb – “I am because WE are.” She described it so well stating that who she is as a person is because of all of the great variety of people in her life that are connected to her. She never said, “Because I’m an ______vert . . . We are __________verts.” Her joy about how she is intentionally connected to others was spectacular to hear. Honestly, I clapped in my car when the episode ended.

This week enjoy the interactions with everyone you encounter because of who they are and not because of some label !! We are far more than our “verts”, but we are also who we are because of them. Connect on purpose my friends. Show others how amazing the whole you really is !!

(P.S. – Start by connecting with Paul and subscribing to his blog and listen to Natasha on the podcast. You’ll be glad you did !!)

Spoons !!

You may not have know this, but I grew up in small town Ohio. My extended family started out primarily as farmers. A few of my cousins still farm, but the majority of us have ventured into different occupations. We gather every other year for either “Big Thanksgiving” or “Big Christmas.” We do our best to bring together our remaining parents, aunts, uncles and cousins with their children. We’ve been doing this long enough that we’re starting to see great grandchildren !!

It’s a great time because we meet around an incredible potluck meal (always too much food) and activities. One unique thing to note in this day and age is no television, tablets or phones. We put technology away because we enjoy being with each other !! (Odd, I know.) There are many things to do that you can choose from such as a craft project or two, board games and especially card games !!

Spoons Card GameMy son LIVES to play Spoons with his cousins. It is a full contact sport in my family and he recruits as many of the crowd as he can to participate. I’ve played once or twice, but you better be dedicated because it’s raucous and energetic. For those of us who want something more sedate there’s the game of Euchre. We play 4-handed, 5-handed and even 6-handed games !!

If you don’t want to play games or make a Christmas ornament (this year’s craft), you are sure to find a thoughtful conversation about life, work, family, faith or politics. The key to all of these activities is that NO ONE is left out. Not one person. It would be unheard of for someone to be isolated. I honestly don’t know what my family would do if someone wanted to be alone.

When I get together with this incredible group of people, I am re-energized and fulfilled. You never leave with empty batteries. What if this was a model for our workplaces?

I find that people leave work each day more exhausted than rejuvenated. They either drag themselves out to their cars, or they can’t wait to leave and get to their lives. It can be disheartening. However, it doesn’t have to be what we experience.

If HR would be geeked about what they do and who they work with, we’d have a start in the right direction. My son doesn’t care about the card game. He wants to be with his cousins and share an experience that is sure to be uplifting and memorable. I want to be like him and get people to have their work also be significant and meaningful. Even the most “simple” interaction could be fun !!

Also, making sure everyone is connected where they can contribute is key to a viable organization. Allowing someone to be isolated while at work only hurts you. Step in and find out why they are disconnected. See if you can get them plugged in. Have many avenues for this to occur. Try not to be set in your ways and be willing to explore new ways for people to latch on.

This week step back and see what you can do personally to make sure work is fun. You never know, that game of Spoons may be right in front of you !! Just take the time to invite people to play !!