5 New Ideas !!

SHRM13 has wrapped up and it was honestly the best National SHRM Conference I’ve attended.  The vibe was cool and people seemed to be at ease and engaged at the same time.  Just prior to the Conference kicking off, my good friend, Mark Stelzner, put a challenge out on Facebook to see if anyone could come away from the event with 5 new ideas.

I loved the challenge and responded immediately.  Now, let’s get the “there are no new ideas” cynicism out of the way.  This may be inherently true, but you have to remember that the HR universe is a gigantic bell curve !!  The conference had folks from those new to the field to CHRO’s.  The idea of “new” is really dependent upon the individual and not whether you think it’s new or not.

Too often we read blogs and think everyone’s heard that before !!  I think you need to rethink that because as much as we’d like to think we carry a broad swath of our profession, we are reaching a truly engaged minority.  That is very cool, but we aren’t going as deep as we can.  This was reflected in the myriad of people who flocked to the transactional HR sessions because I’m sure it was important to their role.  I went to others that reflected mine.  That’s not being critical – that’s being practical.

Lightbulb PlantsNow to the five new ideas !! (at least to me)

#1 – HR needs to be integrated throughout business not just “know” the business.

There were a billion sessions who broke Matt Stollak’s rule of saying “seat at the table,” but they weren’t encouraging it, they were noting that this wasn’t enough (and in actually never has been).  The C-Suite expects HR to be woven throughout the organization – not just show up at Executive meetings.

 #2 – Giving shouldn’t just be done by writing a check.

Listening to Blake Mycoskie was so refreshing !!  To see someone from Gen Y who is truly reflective of a success story of his generation was cool.  During his presentation he showed how a company can be profitable and giving simultaneously.  Also, the expectation that his employees are all in on the efforts of Toms gives folks a great model of living a culture vs. trying to program it.

#3 – No one is as dumb as all of us.

Other than being incredibly inspirational, listening to Mark Kelly speak was very grounding.  He noted that this saying was on the wall at NASA after the Challenger tragedy.  It warns us that group-think is more dangerous than an individual idea.  Too often HR jumps into a group decision in order to tag along in organizations.  Be wary of this and truly review all ideas that come down the pike.

#4 – We’re all in sales.

Daniel Pink was phenomenal !!  His ideas that “we’re all in sales” isn’t particularly new. But he noted that few truly practice this approach.  For HR to be integrated (see #1), you need to sell what you’re company does.  In fact, Jennifer McClure noted in her session that she wanted to see Businesspeople who practice HR vs. HR people who happen to know the business.

#5 – Surround yourself with leaders.

Jen McClure provided a completely different ending to her phenomenal session when she encouraged people to surround themselves and get connected to people who are leaders in HR.  This wasn’t just the same old – follow people who are well known.  It was a stronger approach to get truly connected to HR practitioners who show they are leading in the field.  The folks she listed are givers.  They make sure to give first to all those that connect with them.

#6 – HR people want to connect with others, but they don’t know how.

(Bonus Idea) 15,000+ folks wandered through the halls of McCormick Place for SHRM13, and I tried my best to encounter and meet as many as I could.  There was a sense that people wanted to meet others, but they didn’t seem willing to step out and make that happen.  At each session I attended, I introduced myself to all those around me and asked their state, city, role, etc. and then listened to their story.  I also did this on the elevator, escalator, hallways, HRCI Hideaway, Blogger’s Lounge and SHRM Volunteers Leaders lounge.  This isn’t to brag.  It’s to give you an idea of the vastness of the number of HR folks who aren’t being reached.  True, they’re attending and getting their credits, but their sphere of connectivity was limited in general.  There are many, like me, who were trying to meet folks and change this paradigm, but it’s still an uphill opportunity that is exhilarating !!

Whew !!  This post is almost as long as the Conference.  I didn’t even talk about the great SHRM Kickball game, the incredible vendor hall and the unforgettable SHRM Tweetup !!  Another day.

In the end, the whole thing rocked !!  I came home even more geeked than when I went.  Seeing old friends, making new ones and being a part of the future of HR is energizing. Stay tuned !!!

 

An Opportunity you Can Kick In !!

One week from now I get the chance to attend the SHRM National Conference in Chicago !!  It’s an incredible event for professional development, networking and connecting with HR pros from around the globe !!

It’s also an opportunity to make a difference.  I dig being active and visible in Social Media.  I have to be very honest and clear about that because too often HR people who aren’t active think that what we do is out of reach or not feasible for them.  What difference does it make to just be out “in the space” ??

What people lose sight of is that the folks who are active in Social Media aren’t just talking (or typing) heads.  They’re very real and folks who push the boundaries and take action.  That’s why I love to be included with this crew !!

No Kid Hungry LogoThis year a group of us are getting together at SHRM13 to play kickball !!  (That’s great Steve – what does that have to do with anything ??)  Good question.  You see, we’re playing for charity to raise money and awareness for No Kid Hungry.  They’re a phenomenal organization who’s making a real difference in ending hunger for children in America.

You have an opportunity to help us out in our efforts even though you might not be playing.  We’re taking donations until we play next Sunday night.  You can do by clicking on this link that goes to our  fundraising page – SHRM 13 Kickball.

The thought of a bunch of adults reaching back to our childhood to have a friendly game from all of our memories gets me geeked !!  We should never lose that time when we freely played, used our imaginations and thought there were no boundaries that we would ever face.

It’s humbling that I get to be involved in such a cool service and outreach effort.  I hope you can take this opportunity to connect, give and take action as well.  Your donation will help children eat – something we often take for granted.

For those of you on Twitter – for every Tweet on Tuesday using the hashtag #SHRMKickball there are two sponsors who will donate $1.00 per tweet up to $1,000 !!  That is sweet !!

People ask me if HR can ever make a difference – Here’s a chance to show you can !!

Make sure you check out No Kid Hungry going forward as well.  This may be something that your employees families are facing, and you don’t even know it.  To get you in the “mood” I leave you with a song that talks about “opportunities” with that HR tie.  Enjoy and thanks for considering this !!

Better as a Whole !!

It seems like I’ve been in HR since the dawn of time.  Not really, but as a point of reference – there were no HR majors in college when I went and it was called “Personnel.”

Even though it’s been a long and exciting trip, I find that I get more and more excited the longer I’m in the field.  I read a troubling post lately from an Anonymous HR pro in the UK that my good friend Michael Carty posted called “Sincerely Yours, Deeply Disengaged.”  It is an all too familiar tale of how an HR pro is discouraged in how their company looks at and devalues HR. (You really should read this post and add your comments.)

It sounds like this HR pro feels isolated and on their own which is too often the case.  I’m amazed that HR people, who are in an occupation that calls for them to be among people, tend to be the most disconnected professionals out there.  This isn’t healthy !!  It leads to the factors noted in the post above and ultimately in a person who is discouraged about Human Resources who will, in all likelihood, leave the profession.

There are healthy ways to protect yourself from disengagement and discouragement !! One key component to being healthy in HR is to surround yourself with great peers and folks you can learn from.  People often tout the notion of “continuous learning” but few take the time to do it.  I see more and more people longing for connections, but not knowing how to make that leap.

Better TogetherI’m very fortunate in many ways.  I’ve always enjoyed being connected to people.  It’s genuinely deep in my DNA.  This isn’t unique, but there is a factor that is.  Great connections are intentional.  And being intentional makes us better together as a whole.

I’ve always believed in modeling the behavior you expect in others.  So, I’m involved in a community that keeps me grounded, encouraged and also gives me the opportunity to learn.  I’m a blogger as part of the Performance I Create team.  It’s a very diverse mix of HR practitioners, and I truly dig that.  Each member offers different perspectives, views and takes based on who they are and how they practice HR in their corner of the HR universe.  I love reading their work on their individual blogs and on the PIC site.

These folks – Jay Kuhns, Chris Ponder, Melissa Fairman, Tiffany Kuehl, Chris Fields, Sarah Williams, Justin Harris and Dave Ryan – are truly my “Everyday People.”  I encourage you to connect with each of them individually and as a whole team.

This isn’t just to highlight one group of HR pros vs. another.  I want to truly see you branch out and connect across the field.  There are countless amazing HR pros who will make the time and effort to see you learn, grow and succeed !!

Remember – we’re stronger together.  Make it happen !!

Image courtesy of tfisherart.com

Thanks Mom !!

Yesterday we had the chance to thank all of those fortunate to be mothers.  It is incredible to see the outpouring for moms, and every bit of it is perfect !!  I hope you took time to thank the moms in your life yesterday because they deserve your thanks EVERY day !!

Honestly, this is a huge work issue as well.  Please note one thing here . . . I think ALL moms work !! The mothers who are able to be at-home-moms work hard every day with their families, communities and kids.  Don’t ever think that this isn’t valuable.  It’s an incredible gift that they give with immeasurable value.

For those great moms who also have a job outside of the home, I think we need to give you more validity and attention.  It’s an amazing testament to you as a professional to be able to do all that you do in the workplace !!  You see, I have a marvelous example to draw from – my mom.

thank-you-momMy father passed away when I was 4 and my brother was 2 back in 1968.  So, my mom became a “single” mom as a widow during a time when that was much more of an exception than today.  We have an amazing extended family who pitched in to watch my brother and I during the day so she could work an entry level administrative position as well as take college courses to become a teacher.  She earned her degree from Bowling Green State University and began teaching in the vocational school system.  She taught future administrative assistants who were predominantly women.  So, she modeled her success to those who would go on to have careers of their own.

Now, I know everyone says their mom is the best.  I’d have to chime in with that as well but with a twist.  My mom has influenced and encouraged hundreds and hundreds of young women to pursue a skill and impact workplaces.  She has seen them grow into incredible adults, been to their weddings, held their children and seen many of her student’s children graduate.

Before she retired after 30+ years of teaching, she received her Master’s Degree, remarried a phenomenal man, and started her career as world’s best grandmother.  She continues to put forth a witness of grace, joy and encouragement to all that she encounters.

So, today, I’d like to say THANK YOU !!  Thanks to my mom and to all the moms who are out there in homes and in the workplace.  You make the world a better place because of who you are and all you do !!

HR is a Rock Ballet !!

If you didn’t know this about me . . . I am a music freak !!  Each week I write a song parody about HR in the HR Net. I try to post on Twitter each day using the #HRMusicShare tag to see what other music HR pros are enjoying.  Just started sharing music with UK HR friends about what music we are listening to during our work commute using @CommuteMusic with a theme each week !!  And, then I make sure to have music constantly playing in the car, at my office, or on my laptop.

I know I have issues, but I’m good with it !!

However, this weekend, I mixed absolutely all of my HR geekedness when I saw Peter Frampton play live with the Cincinnati Ballet performing in front of him and his band !!

Frampton Ballet

It was sublime.  Seriously, it was simply amazing to hear music I grew up with interpreted through dance.  Frampton was so moved by this combination that the 2nd act was made up of completely new music that he composed just for this three performance event !!

As the notes of Black Hole Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Do You Feel Like We Do wafted into the air and over the crowd of the Aronoff Center, I thought about the unlikely mix of rock n’ roll with the artistry of ballet.  The creative director for the ballet wrote in the program how difficult it was to convince Frampton to do this and for the ballet community to embrace a completely different medium.

It’s honestly like mixing HR into business !!  For years, HR has focused on getting a “seat at the table” which is a silly venture honestly.  Great HR is strategic daily in what it does and how it approaches the practice of HR throughout an organization.  This isn’t about getting acknowledgement to sit in an Executive Level meeting.

Try this instead . . .

Fully integrating HR throughout an organization is a much healthier, and sustainable, approach.  Bringing the constant angst, struggle of people in all their flawed glory (rock music) with the beautiful flow of business (ballet) is more natural than you think !!

Most people say they have to “go to” or “come to” HR inferring that HR exists outside the normal movements of business in an organization.  I look at it this way – if you’re department has people in it, then you have HR all around you !!  So, quit trying to play on a stage where people have to come see your concert.  Bring your concert to them !!

Just like the ballet I witnessed this weekend, this works.  This week, strap on your guitar, plug in your amp and crank it up.  The ballet is waiting for you !!

Image courtesy of Cincinnati Ballet

When Kids Grow Up . . .

This past weekend I led our Troop Advancement Outing.  As the Scoutmaster, it’s my one outing where I am officially “in charge.”  That term is used very loosely because the boys plan everything.  I only make sure that the outing is focused on helping the new kids work on things that help them advance in rank.

It seems that every campout I run for the Advancement Outing has a unique weather element to it !!  This year we had below freezing temperatures, rain and sleet. Yipee !!  You have to love Ohio in April !!  The amazing thing about this weather anomaly was that the boys didn’t even flinch an eye.  Sure, it was cold, but they were camping and that was good enough for them.

During this full weekend, the older Scouts taught the new Scouts how to build fires, wield axes, identify plants and animals as well as basic First Aid.  One requirement we always include is a five mile hike.  I always go with the kids because I love doing the activies with them !!  The hike rocked !!!  We saw evidence of deer, raccoons and beavers.  We saw plants and trees we’d never seen before and the highlight of the hike was the break we took.  We stopped at a creek and I told the boys they could spend 15 minutes creeking.  They literally jumped off the bridge and straight into the freezing water !!  They searched for crayfish, fossils, caves, etc.  The energy level skyrocketed !!

Later, our First Aid walk was truly epic !!  The boys walk through the woods and come upon various injured people and they have to identify the problem and a solution to how to help them.  My amazing son led this and came up with Attack of the Insane Doll !!  So, each injured scout along the route had been attacked by a stuffed childhood toy and left the boys punctured, blistered, burned, rabid and broken – with a compound fracture.  The boys who acted out the walk were spectacular and the make-up and props were of Hollywood quality.

So, what does this have to do with HR or the workplace ??  Everything !!

You know what happens to kids when grow up ??  They become our employees !!

So, the bright-eyed and creative kids who jump into a freezing creek and get muddy and soaked may be CEO’s !!  The victims of the insane doll may be engineers, factory workers or managers.

However, when they grow up and come to WORK we have to do our duty to suck their souls out to make sure they “perform” and don’t bring their whole self to work.  We have standards to uphold for goodness sake.

Also, if employees actually did bring their entire being to work, what would happen ??  The sad thing is that we don’t know.  People put on their work face to make sure that things get done and order is ensured.  Also sad !!

Blur the LineWe have a great opportunity in HR to eradicate this and get the kid factor back into our workplaces.  When I think of culture, I want to see people who are engaged, genuine and playful.  I’m fortunate to be at a company that not only allows that – it expects it.

So, this week be a kid.  You know you want to and the other kids around you are just waiting for someone to break out and make it FUN versus it being WORK.  The creek’s waiting . . . just watch out for that doll !!

Geeked !!

If you know me at all, you’ve heard the word “geeked” !!  My wife would even say that I use the word a little too much.  I can’t help in though.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be the opening keynote at the SCIHRA Conference.  We had a great time, and a true highlight for me was when an attendee came up to me after the presentation and said, “Wow, it was great to hear HR in a positive and fun way !!”  I thanked her, but then thought that it was telling if someone had to come to an event to get HR pros geeked about what we do.

I couldn’t let this pass so I asked her how she saw HR. (Get ready . . .)

“Well, most everyone we read or hear from is either negative, snarky or sarcastic.  It’s hard to be motivated when so few are encouraging.  You took the things we do everyday and brought passion and humor.  It was great to laugh !! ”  Ouch !!!  I thanked her again and it made me think.

GeekedYou see, being geeked to me isn’t just being “positive.”  It’s really a choice of how to approach life – not just HR.

Trust me, I know what it’s like to be in a blue funk, have a frustrating day, or be negative.  To take a different approach to life takes a ton of effort and a commitment to being intentional.

Being geeked isn’t always taken very well by others either.  Unfortunately, most people start every day with a heavy sigh and a negative thought about what’s not done.  Then, it usually gets darker from there.

I’m sure there will be folks who read this and think that being geeked is some “act” or just being naive and a utopian.  Someone who’s dodging reality.  Not true in the least.

People relish the chance to have someone with them who’s excited about who they are, what they do and what’s happening in their lives. It’s an incredible feeling to see folks come to life when you get them all geeked up !!

You see, there are tons of blogs, books and articles on people bringing their “whole self” to work.  I get that, but few practice it.  If you try this approach, you might get to see your whole self emerge.  That would be awesome !!

So, this week pick something and go for it.  Get geeked and tell others about it.  Post it on Twitter or Facebook.  Send it in an e-mail.  Take a picture.  Whatever works for you, do it.  Trust me, you’ll love your day just a bit more when you do !!

I’ll be looking for the great things you’re doing.  Need to go now and see the next new thing.  You know I’ll probably be . . .

What box ??

Creative people are dangerous !!  At least, that’s how it feels.  You see the word “creative” is bantered about in blogs, articles and books.  There are several “step” plans to help people be more creative, but it seems to take some superhuman effort.

Why is that?

What is so scary about being creative?  Is it that when we hear the word we give it a massive scale like painting the Sistine Chapel?  Or, is it thought to be too scattered, unfocused, blue sky, etc.?

Being creative in HR is necessary.  It’s not something that is even an option really because great HR is in the midst of humans.  If you don’t have a creative approach in how to work with, for and around people, then HR is going to be massively frustrating !!  It doesn’t have to be, but I think that the general malaise and jadedness that fills the vast majority of the social space communicates that HR is rough.

I have to disagree !!  I recently had a great conversation with a friend who said, “Man, you (and a few others) always seem to be positive.  And, you’ve been in HR a long time, but it still seems fresh every time I hear you talk about it.”

Outside the boxThere’s a reason for this.  I call it the “what box?” approach.  This isn’t another rally cry for you to be outside a box.  It’s not allowing yourself to have a “box” at all.  Is that possible?  It is.  Let me share why . . .

I think that the fact of structure and processes still allow for vast amounts of breadth, depth and creativity !!  I don’t see them as the enemy or opposite of creativity at all.  We need to have vision, direction, focus and structure.  People feel comfortable and can perform exceedingly well when they know what the parameters are for them.  It clears up ambiguity which is what we all truly long for.

When it comes to approach, however, that’s where you can truly differentiate yourself and not conform to any particular box.  Great HR can jump from box to box to box and still be wildly effective.  In fact, by meeting people in their comfort zone, you can connect, communicate and create in amazing ways.

I follow a great book that was given to me by a friend who came to an HR Roundtable.  He said the coolest thing to me when he said, “I read this book and thought of you.”  It’s called Orbiting the Giant Hairball. It’s a personal tale of being creative at Hallmark Cards. He had to fight to be creative in a company who is supposed to be creative in order to make it’s products !!  It’s a fascinating and practical read.

You only have to dive into the hairball (box) when it’s needed.  If you don’t need to be in it, then you can orbit and create.  So, HR where do you find yourself ??  Are you stuck in your own box, or in the boxes of what others expect HR to be ??

This week, get rid of it.  Get to the point where you can say . . . what box ??

Photo credit – Outside the Box, Inc.

Dissolve the layers !!

The field of HR is vast.  I dig that.  You can seek a career in HR and going in many different ways.  Not many other fields can do that.  The ironic thing about this breadth though is that we don’t embrace it.  In fact, we do our best to have massive barriers built between the different areas so that each one can place its stake in its respective ground.

Here’s an example . . . vendors.

HR people don’t like vendors.  Vendors, in turn, don’t like HR people.  However, we need each other in order to do our job well.  But, instead of embracing each other and seeing each other as resources, we tend to tell each group to stay in their camp.

Another one . . . Sr. HR Executives.

I know I’m heading into treacherous water in calling this out.  But, when did Sr. HR pros forget that they weren’t always Senior ??  Is there an apex in our profession where we can avoid those “below us” because we don’t deal in the transactional work that lower level HR people have to address?

DissolveI don’t get it and I refuse to.  I have a different approach that I’d like us all to consider.  Let’s dissolve the layers that separate our profession and work together as talented parts of an amazing whole !!  I’m not asking us to become an HR commune.  I’m asking us to truly be strategic and understand that each part of our profession brings a strength and value to what we bring to the business community.

Last week I spoke at a very small HR chapter along which had four students from a SHRM Student chapter.  An a “Sr. HR professional,” I could have taken the stance that I wasn’t with those “of my kind” and that this was a waste of time.  Or, I could see it as an opportunity to meet great new HR folks that I didn’t know and maybe, just maybe, one of those students could meet someone that remembered how hard it was to start in HR and give them my time and attention.

So, let’s rally together !!  Vendors, recruiters, OD, Training, Consultants, Generalists, Comp & Bens folks, HR Admins, HR Analysts and Executives.  Together we make up HR.  Let’s quit trying to splinter our field.  Let’s be the example of how together we are a vital, relevant and strategic business entity !!

Grace

When someone wrongs you, how do you react?  Are you angry, vindictive, ready to pounce?  For most of us, the answer is “it depends.”  We’ll take a breath and then decide the best course of action.

However, when it comes to employees, we often forget to breathe first.  We jump to the nearest set of policies and then comb through them to see what level of discipline needs to be metered out.  It amazes me as an HR person that when employees slip up, the reaction is usually swift, harsh and doesn’t take anything into consideration – really.

Our systems of progressive discipline and layers of breaking Rule 1.0.1, Subsection A litter our field with little regard of how these actions affect the person who broke said rule.  We act as if they are the most disloyal, uncaring and detrimental person who EVER worked for the company !!

Here’s a question for you . . . ever make a mistake or break a rule at work?

Did the appropriate action take place?  Were you written up, counseled, suspended or fired?  What if you were in this situation?  How should the Company treat you ??

GraceIt’s time for a different approach to HR.  Please take note that this path is much more difficult, painful and intentional.  However, it works !!

Grace.

Before launching into the employee handbook, remember that your decision and actions are actually affecting another person’s life.  That may be their life at work, or their life in general.  I don’t think that as HR professionals, we ever think about the person we’re addressing.  Our system is more important because we feel we are acting justly and, in doing so, we’re protecting the Company.

I’m not saying that discipline and termination aren’t warranted at work.  However, I use a yard stick which says that these only occur based on an employee’s behavior and actions.  Even with that benchmark, I still review each case and take into account all of the factors as well as the person who’s about to be disciplined.  I want them to come out of any conversation understanding the situation, its context and how we move forward from there.

Now, so you don’t think I’m being Utopian or an idealist, understand that I practice this personally inside work and outside of work.  It’s not a popular position because most people want a pound of flesh when they are wronged.  I’ll hold out until the last moment that I can before making difficult decisions because I believe in people, even in the darkest situations.

You see, I make mistakes and I have disappointed others – even those closest to me.  How can I expect grace from others if I am not willing to be graceful myself?  Also, how will others show grace if it isn’t given to them?

I know this works.  And, I have reassurance as well because I’ve seen the results.  It’s like U2 says in their phenomenal song – Grace from All That You Can’t Leave Behind – “Grace finds goodness in everything.”  Try it and see !!