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 !!

My Christmas Wish !!

One of the best things about Christmas time is that people come together.  Whether it be families or friends, people make time out of their hectic lives to be with each other.  I know that I’m looking forward to our family’s “Big Christmas” where all of my
Aunts, Uncles and cousins gather in tiny Luckey, Ohio at the American Legion Hall.

We’ve been gathering as a family for over 50 years now and it is something that I treasure.  When all of us are in the same room, it is quite like a company.  Four generations are gathered, and the interests, skills and talents are all very diverse.  There are white collar, blue collar, small business, corporate, urban and rural representations.

Christmas WishThe key to all of it is that we have the common bond of being family.  This brings me to my “Christmas Wish.”

Our profession of HR is like my family.  We come from all generations, from all walks of life, from all types of industries and from all areas of Human Resources.  The gigantic difference is that we aren’t all together.  I honestly don’t understand that !!  There isn’t a good reason for us to be separated, isolated or divergent !!

So, help me by being a part of this wish.  I have this crazy, hairy goal to truly connect all HR pros from around the globe.  You may ask why someone would even desire something like this.

I see it this way . . .

We are only better if we’re together.  We can learn from each other.  We can come together on issues to make the workplace better for both employers and employees.  We can make our professional associations stronger and relevant.  Instead of rallying against them, let’s work together to make them better !!

With technology especially, we can be more and more connected.  I cherish the times to see and meet HR pros in real life because then the connection really takes on a new life of its own.

We can’t keep trying to improve HR being isolated.  It has never worked, and it won’t work in the future.  I also hear from friends who are stating that even HR blogs are lacking “new” ideas, or things that are fresh.

Let’s take our cue from my favorite Christmas song ever because of who did the duet.  It’s the Little Drummer Boy sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie.  It happened on a 70’s Christmas special and I remember watching it live with my family.  My Dad asked who the “freak” was and I said, “Dad, you know that’s Bing Crosby !!”  After running away from him, we both sat down to listen and it was beautiful.

Here’s my challenge . . . Join in !!

Threre are great new efforts by Charlie Judy on HR Fishbowl and Paul Smith on Welcome to the Occupation for HR folks to share their voices. There are also great collaborative groups you can learn from like: XPertHR, Women of HR, Fistful of Talent, Performance I Create, The EO List and Talent Culture.

Instead of nodding at this post and saying that you’re in or supporting this effort to be more intentional and connect with other HR pros, write a comment on the blog to let me know it.

Seriously.  Step out (including you uber social folks who RT, but rarely comment) and join in.  If this was on Facebook, people would rally.  This takes a bit more of an effort.  Join in.  Be intentional and starting now and through 2013 – connect !!!

Take the Detour !!

As I traveled to my nephew’s high school graduation this weekend, I was forewarned that the main highway to my brother’s house was closed for a 20-mile stretch in Tennessee.  Being from Ohio, and not knowing the sundry back roads of Tennessee, I was a bit concerned.  You see, we got a late start and we would be getting to the road closure at night.  Yes, I have a GPS, but you know as well as I do that they look for the shortest route to their destination and don’t like when you wander off course.

On top of having to leave the main highway, my brother advised me to follow the detour of the wide load trucks and not the flow of traffic.  I asked him why, and he said that it would be quicker.  Others coming to the graduation who had arrived earlier took the flow of traffic option and it took up to 2 hours to go those 20 miles.

My wife asked if we should trust my brother’s advice.  Being someone who doesn’t tend to follow the flow very often, I said, “Sure, let’s see where the road takes us.”

It turns out that it was a much quicker route.  However, during the detour our car was sandwiched between two semis barrelling through mountainous roads with little to no lighting.  Also, whoever designed the roads must have loved the art of massive and quick changing curves versus having straight stretches of road.  It was challenging, harrowing and exhilarating !!

My brother was right and our trek was much quicker than what the others had to suffer through.  I was glad to have taken his advice and also the route that I wasn’t “supposed” to take.

It made me think of HR (of course).  You see, we are a part of the most risk averse profession around.  It shouldn’t be that way, but it tends to be.  Whenever we are pressed with a decision, we tend to take the “flow of traffic.”  It’s a shame because there are a multitude of other routes availabe, we just need to try them !!

You see, the route I took gave the same result as the others who also had to leave the main road.  However, I was only one car among many trucks !!  I had to have faith that my intuition would pay off.

This week, take the detour a different way than what you normally do.  Be creative !!  See where the road leads and what outcomes occur.  It’s worth the risk !!

Get Your Hands Dirty !!

This weekend my wife asked me to start sprucing up the house for the impending graduation gathering for my daughter in three months.  I needed the nudge because I was dreading the work ahead.  I love being outside, but this level of yardwork was going to be massive !!

One task was to realign the wall I constructed several years ago around our front landscaping.  There are 150+ pavers that span the front of the bed.  Now, this wall has needed attention for some time, and I would see that one or two pavers were out of line, and I’d get them back into the wall with minimum effort.  However, when I looked at the work in front of me it was more like an orthodontist facing a challenging set of crooked teeth.

The chore almost put me in the ground.  To repair the wall and get it where it should be took over four hours of digging, removing roots, being covered in mud and replacing about 1,000 worms who were wondering why they home was being “remodeled.”

I had to get my hands dirty and fully throw myself into the project in order to see a better end result.  As I sit here typing, I’m exhausted and yet invigorated !!  This simple project reminded me that we all need to reexamine how we do HR.

  • How many times do we see systems that need our attention, and we do a quick fix or update just to give it a little more life, when it needs a true overhaul?
  • How often do we sit behind our desk and shoot off an e-mail when we could go and see someone face-to-face to see what their situation entails first hand?
  • How often are we critical of how others handle HR situations, when we could be more integrated with them to help them succeed?
  • How often do we look for “best practices” when we should be creating “next practices” ourselves?

This list could go on and on.  So, the opportunity before us is pretty simple.  We need to get our hands dirty.  This week take a look at the “wall” that you see every day and see if it can be torn down, reconfigured and brought back to life.  It’s worth the work !!

Try a new flavor !!

You may know this, or you may not, but I work in HR for a restaurant company – LaRosa’s, Inc.  It’s a pizzeria that is truly an iconic company !!  We’ve been in business since 1954 and we’re doing well.  To be in business that long and stay relevant, you have to have some staples mixed in with new innovations to keep things fresh.

What does this have to do with HR ??  – EVERYTHING !!

Just recently, we began adding the new Coke Freestyle machine at our locations.  It allows you to get a drink in over 100+ options.  (My favorite is raspberry Coke Zero).  When the machines go into a store, there is a lot of buzz and experimentation.  We also do our best to let you know of new options and flavors for you to enhance your dining experience.

With over 100 choices, you’d think that people would jump right in and try every flavor they could.  Even if it was only to eliminate the ones they didn’t quite like for the ones they do.  Amazingly, many people venture out to drink . . . Coke and Diet Coke.

This isn’t “right” or “wrong,” it’s just that people are used to the norms in their lives and change is more difficult than we think.  All this machine is doing is offering something you already like (a soda or pop) with new alternatives.  Doesn’t seem like a big jump, but it truly is.

When I hear HR folks tout that they are “change agents,” I get concerned.  I’ve met very few HR folks who are comfortable with change, which is the same as our employees.  Change is difficult, but what we’ve missed along the way is that “change” occurs daily whether we want it to or not.

HR tends to think change happens in broad strokes or inventive initiatives.  In reality change occurs most of the time in small, incremental bits.  This tends to be much more sustainable than making huge strides.

So, where are you in this change continuum?  Are you someone who drives change?  Are you someone who shepherds change as it goes along?  Or, are you someone who cleans up after changes happen?

I propose that you be on the leading edge of change in your area, your profession and at your company.  HR has the ability to be innovative, creative and sustainable.  However, we need to understand that change is a vital part of what we do.  Businesses change and we need to be there in stride with them.

So, this week try a new flavor !!  Step out a bit from what you normally do and try something new.  Make “change” a regular part of who you are and what you do in HR !!  I think you’ll like it !!



You can count on me !!

You may, or may not know, that I am an incredible music freak !!  I can’t get enough of it and this Thanksgiving weekend a true classic popped into my head – Count on Me by Jefferson Starship.

When my extended family gathers for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, we call it BIG Thanksgiving or BIG Christmas because there are so many family members that attend.  Before we eat and open with a prayer, we count off – literally.  We have had a few family members pass away over the years, but we never stray from this tradition.

So, it begins 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . etc. until we get around the oval. (It’s never a circle because there are too many folks.)  This year we had 35 and it’s been as high as 60.  Included are aunts, uncles, cousins, their kids, and starting this year the newest generation has it’s first engaged couple.

I know that you need to be careful about what you do/don’t share on-line, but I’m 47 years old and completely cool with that.  If you met me you’d say I’m at least 28, so age is not the focus here. My family has been getting together intentionally between 50 to 60 years because I have aunts, uncles and cousins older than I am.

Think about that.  Being together, intentionally, for 5 to 6 decades and NEVER missing a holiday.  We’re not unique in this and I’m sure there are families who have met for centuries, but the point of the gathering is this . . . we COUNT on each other to be there all the time.

It’s a great example for you personally as well as an HR professional.  You NEED to be counted on, and others NEED to count on you !!  Too many employees are out on their own within a company and they need someone they can rely on.  Remember, you aren’t their for Management, nor are you there for employees.  You’re there for EVERYONE !!

Is that how you approach HR?  Have you even stepped back to look lately?  Just think how HR would be viewed in organizations if people knew they could be counted on !!

This week, start something new and reach out to someone in our profession and get connected. Be someone that others can count on !!

What are you afraid of HR ??

When people ask me what profession I’m in, I don’t hesitate to proudly say, “HR !!  You know, Human Resources.”  Even when the response is, “Oh, sorry,” I’m not bothered in the least !!  Really, I’m not kidding.  Being in HR excites me and I wouldn’t trade it for any other profession (some of which truly do scare me !!)

One of the primary things that scares most folks I know in HR is that they aren’t quite sure where they fit in, or where the profession is going.  When your view on HR is “unknown”, I can understand why there might be some apprehension.

Too often people are paralyzed by fear and it makes them cautious, conventional and stuck.  These attributes aren’t attractive in any profession and especially HR.  So what can we do, if anything?

Glad you asked.  I don’t know if you’re connected to the good folks at Focus.com, but you should change that and get connected to them.  Recently, they published a survey that was given to HR practitioners entitled, Focus Research Study: 2011 Crowdsourced HR Survey.  It’s brilliant !!  You really need to click on this link, download the .pdf and see what people had to say.  It covers Trends in HR, the use of Social Media in HR and views on HR’s position in the organization.

I try to participate in all HR related surveys because I want to make sure to have a voice in things and also see what others are saying.  I can honestly say that this has been the most effective survey on HR that I’ve seen in quite some time.  It is reflective, critical and realistic.

You also need to read this to alleviate your fears.  Instead of wondering “what’s happening in HR?,” you can take these results in and see for yourself what your peers are saying. A special shout out to Charlie Judy and Caty Kobe who are working to keep HR relevant through work at Focus !!

So, on this Halloween change your outlook from being an HR Zombie to someone who’s no longer afraid and is excited to proclaim that you too are in HR !!

Rehumanize Yourself !!

As my iPod continued on its endless shuffle at work, Rehumanize Yourself by The Police came on, and I found myself hitting repeat several times.  The song tells of people in “everyday” jobs who are reminded to humanize themselves because their work doesn’t really mean much.  Who knew that this song still has significance 30 years later?

I’m not writing about employees who seem to slog through the daily grind, I’m talking about HR practitioners !!

The job that HR does these days ranges from the ideal to the mundane.  It’s hard to find a sweet spot to truly excel in HR within organizations due to a myriad of reasons.  I’m not trying to define what may be ideal for some and mundane for others.  Where I’d like us to focus is this . . . humans are more important than systems !!

Systems are needed and provide great structure and definition.  Without them people make things up because they really want to do a good job. But without definition, they’ll make it up to fill time and make sure they are “busy.”  These folks are the sloggers.  They come in every day, knock out a job and then go back to what truly interests them.  Their jobs are a necessary evil to pay the bills.  Oh, yeah, I’m still talking about HR people.

No one said that HR had to be mundane !!  In fact, great HR is far from it.  However, it means getting outside the systems we create and enforce to the real heart of our businesses – the humans.

Where are you on the spectrum?  I get it that you can be creative in making new systems and that you can be broad in the “things” side of what HR has to offer.  But I’d challenge you in that those things impact people.

At the recent OHSHRM Conference, I challenged the attendees to be positive the whole time at the conference.  Sounds odd that you’d even have to say that doesn’t it?  But, I felt it was needed because I hear so many people stuck in what they’re NOT doing vs. what they do so well !!  I only heard positive things from people because they knew a different expectation was set for them.

In organizations, HR has to set that expectation themselves !!  So, this week be positive and encourage others to see what amazing things are truly happening all around you that you’ve been missing.  Make sure to  . . . rehumanize yourself !!

 Image courtesy of Dan White Jr.’s blog


Do you care ??

I recently read a great post by my friend Jay Kuhns on his MUST read blog – No Excuses HR where he talked about unmet expectations.  I find his work to be so thought provoking and it made me wonder something . . .

Do we care about what matters to our employees?

I keep seeing posts on how to “fix” HR and yet few of them ever mention employees.  We use phrases like “talent” “human capital” “assets” and I could go on and on.  I followed much of #SHRM11 on-line and it was fascinating to see what was talked about !!  It looked like a great Conference and that is great to see.  But, again, I noticed that we talked about our profession, social media, legal updates and many of the same themes we see at all conferences.  What’s missing ??  . . . Employees.

We continue to spend so much time on systems, culture, transactional items and compliance which all affect people, but do you spend time wondering what matters to them?

Let me give you an example . . .

I’m sure everyone has a “bucket list” that they’d like to complete before they no longer have a chance to do that.  Next Tuesday, I get to check something off the list when I get to see U2 in concert in Chicago with three of my lifelong best friends.

I can’t wait !!  I’ve been a major U2 freak ever since they came out as a group in the mid-70’s.  I have all of their music (including bootlegs) and have read about them in books, blogs, articles, etc. Now, you may not be a U2 fan, and it may not matter to you.  I get that.  Not everyone should like the same things.

As HR professionals, though, do you find out what matters to your employees?  Or, does that take too much time?  I find myself more and more learning about the lives and bucket list items of those I work with because it has so much value.  It may not be my interest, or what I would choose to do, but it matters to them.

I think if HR people spent more time with their employees vs. worrying about their own identity within the organization – HR would blossom into what it is called – HUMAN Resources.

So, my challenge to all of us in this phenomenal profession is this – take the time to know those around you.  Don’t get mired in systems and other things that make you feel “busy” while ignoring the best thing around you – people.

Have a great holiday weekend !! I’m going to be with thousands of new people jammin’ with Bono and the boys !!! Peace to all.

Time . . . flowing like a river

Growing up I distinctly remember Alan Parsons Project and their classic ballad Time.  The lyrics that start the song say:

“Time flowing like a river, Time beckoning me; Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever; But time keeps flowing like a river to the sea.”

I was reminded of this ballad this weekend when I went on a college visit with my amazing daughter to my Alma Mater, the wonderful Ohio University.  To say I was geeked would not be a good enough word !!  I wanted to show her everything that I remembered.  The classrooms, College Green, West Green, the Convocation Center – just everything.  As I pulled in I was captured in my memories, but some things looked different.  I shouldn’t have been surprised having graduated back in 1986, things would have to change, but it still surprised me.

The architecture was the same.  The beauty of the mature trees was still there, but there were new things.  Really cool things like the amazing Baker University Center. The new features on campus really did make it better and, even though is altered my memory of the past, I liked the new additions and even wished that some of them had been around when I went to OU.

Oddly enough, it reminded me of work places today and how HR likes to hold onto the past.  We are notorious for it.  We come up with an amazing Performance Review system that we did back in 1986 and we wonder why people think it’s stale today.  You can pick almost any area of HR and it seems that practitioners lag in moving things forward.  What we don’t realize is that the business environment will change around us whether we want it to or not.

So, we can embrace the new environment, or better yet, we can stay on the leading edge and create it !!  Time will keep flowing either way.

This college visit opened my eyes to two things – (1) My family gets to enter a new and exciting stage with our oldest child entering a new phase of her own and (2) the past is great, but the future is so much brighter !!

She hasn’t chosen her college yet, but she has enough Bobcat paraphernalia to give her a daily hint . . .  Oh, yes, one other thing.  I did manage to pick up some new tye-dye because some things from my OU past still are current !!