The State of the HR Union – the GenX Response !!

My co-facilitator at #HRevolution 2011, Jason Lauritsen, and I have been talking between blogs and invite those of you who read us to jump in !!  It’s so much more fun when you get off the sidelines and into the fray !!

Jason posed the question – What is the State of the HR Union?

I had to have a “party” response in order for it to ring true to those responses you see to the National State of the Union addresses.  However, my response will not be canned or spun . . .

HR is in a state of flux honestly.  People are tending to “maintain” versus lead in organizations and that type of approach hinders our profession and lends itself to the critical articles and blog posts that tear at its foundation.  When HR is risk averse, it suffers.  We are so handcuffed with the fear of liability, that we miss the chance to do what is natural for us – keep the human factor in the workplace.

HR has the chance to alter the landscape of the business environment if they would do one simple thing – turn words into action !!

HR can’t continue to be the “them” in conversations within the workplace.  We have the unique position in representing both management and staff.  We must be decisive in that role and not ambiguous.  Again, action – not words.

If HR doesn’t act, it becomes irrelevant.  Now, for those of you who are the purveyors of the incessant catch phrases of our profession (ROI, synergy, analytics, etc.) – cut it out.  This isn’t about talking about being businesspeople, it’s about BEING businesspeople !!

I for one love where HR stands right now because there are countless opportunities where practitioners are making a difference.  Companies who not only value HR, but expect them to be integrated in their businesses.

The question is – Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to commit, or just settle for contributing?

The thing I’ve enjoyed about getting to know  Jason is that we share passion for HR that isn’t a trite, shallow, rah-rah passion.  It’s practitioners who dig HR and want it to succeed.  So what’s next in our conversation?   One question, my friend . . .

Have we buried passion for HR in systems and methodology in order to appear to be relevant in the business world?

“MANDATORY” HR DISCLAIMER: The GenX party of HR practitioners would like to state that the views shared above were from our representative Steve Browne.  They do not fully represent the entire party. (hee, hee)

Quit looking for the Silver Bullet !!

Recently, I had the opportunity to be the opening speaker at the Northern Ohio HR Conference (NOHRC). It was a great time and I appreciate people slogging through the 4 inches of snow to make it out for a day full of quality professional development !!

I’m not sure what the attendees expected from my presentation, but one thing that didn’t happen (and never will) was that I didn’t give anyone a “silver bullet.”  I didn’t do this because I don’t think they exist.

Conference attendees keep looking for “best practices” and ways to copy what successful HR efforts have already been done.  I struggle with this because I follow the tenet I heard from Dave Ulrich (paraphrasing) – Best practices are always behind. HR should be creating NEXT practices !!

It’s a great philosophy to follow because I truly think that HR can, and should, move things forward both in the profession and in their organizations.  To do that you have to do two things: (1) Create the future and (2) Act !!

The time of “let’s see what happens” and “I want my seat at the Table” are gone.  In order for HR to remain relevant and sustainable, it has to create and act in order to be integrated within organizations.

Don’t say it can’t be done either !!  Companies and Sr. Management are looking for HR to be integrated.  They don’t need administrative death traps that only look at what is compliant or not.

So, what can we do?  How can we help the profession and practitioners see that there are so many ways to help HR move forward ??

Well, Jason Lauritsen and I are going to facilitate a session at HRevolution 2011 at the end of April which will attempt to gather the thoughts of a great group of HR pros to see what they think and how WE (that means ALL HR professionals) can move HR forward.

I have a feeling that many “bullets” will be shared and I can’t wait !!  I already have my Kevlar fitted.  Jason and I want to see HR move ahead.  How about you ??

We’re Just Playin’ !!

When it comes to training and OD, HR tends to take things to extremes.  We hire the best consultants, make sure we follow the newest trend of training noveau, and the more “HRey” it is, the better we feel justfied of our existence.

Okay, that’s a little extreme in itself.  But, the point is this – we try too hard when it comes to training exercises !!

I was made aware of this tendency at a recent retreat we had.  I was excited to be involved in training our great folks.  My topic was “Communication” and Operations told me I could be over the top to make sure we had fun.  I was a little skeptical about this honestly. I don’t mind going over the top whenever I do presentations to HR chapters, conferences or even other businesses, but I wasn’t sure how I would be accepted.

The Ops leaders threw another curve at me when they said they were going to kick off the day with something “fun.”   My abject fear of the Lifeboat Exercise was racing through my mind (when you’re given just one item and then you determine who should survive).  Just what was fun going to be?

When the day of the event came up, we met at a very cool place called Blue Ocean Facilities . Spread out all over the room were board games. Everything from Clue to Apples to Apples. (my personal fave)  The Ops Leaders then pulled out the classic OD training technique of numbering us off from 1 to 6.  Then the radical instructions came – “Okay, now we’ll go by numbers, pick a board game as a group and go play it.”

That was it.  Go play the game. One GM even started by saying “So, what’s the real meaning here that you’re looking for?” Isn’t that sad that we’re conditioned to expect some hidden agenda even before we started?

No agenda. We just played board games for the first 1 1/2 hours of the day.  It was a riot !! BTW – my team picked Apples to Apples and we howled and laughed the entire time. When we finished one round, we had the option to change, but my group stayed with it to laugh even more.

Playing a game set the stage for the rest of a VERY successful day where we did take time to learn about better communication as well as improving our guest’s experience.

Here’s something I’d like all of HR to remember . . .

When we were kids the world was limitless. We could imagine anything from simple household items and change the world with our imagination.  We also played constantly. Everything was a game !!

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

So, keep things simple.  Play a game !! It’s the best “training” you’ll ever do !!

And the Mentor goes to . . .

On Sunday night, much of the United States will watch some, if not all, of the Oscars, and we will talk about the stars.  We’ll talk about how they dress, who they’re with, what party they go to, etc. etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge movie fan !!  I love to see almost any movie and there are some great choices this year. But, have you noticed something?  The key awards where the stars win are given the best spots, the most time to gush during an acceptance speech and we expect them to be memorable.  However, the people who are behind the scenes like the screenwriters, make-up, score and others are clipped short even though they have reached the same pinnacle.  We just don’t WANT to see them.  It’s sad.  To make a movie you need hundreds of people and yet few ever get credit.

It’s a lot like mentors.  Great mentors are people who are there for you throughout your career either to move you ahead, stop you from falling into a career-ending ravine, or just to listen.  Mentors are something that is essential for every person in today’s business climate of constant change.  You need an anchor !!

Let me tell you about my mentor.  His name is Fred Eck and he is the current HR Manager for Atlas Roofing.  He’ll probably kill me for making this much about him, but you have to hear about how a great mentor does this naturally.

Fred has held almost every SHRM leadership position there is at the chapter, State and Regional level.  In fact, he’s the Program Chair for me this year for the 2011 Ohio HR Conference, and I couldn’t think of a better person to be in this critical role to our conference’s success !!

I talk to Fred two to three times a week just to check in, talk about life and get a piece of wisdom – which he always has.  We are inseperable at Conferences or SHRM meetings.

Now, if you look for Fred online, you’ll find him on Linked In and I even convinced him to join Twitter, but you won’t see a lot of Tweets from him (yet). You see Fred is like that great screewriter or the the cameraman who captures the perfect scene.  He’s not the visible person up front who gets all the accolades, but you couldn’t do the movie without him. He’s taught me several things, but one pearl of wisdom has set the stage for me.

“You can’t be a mentor – without having a mentor.”

I am a mentor now too to a few people.  I won’t tell you who they are because that is not necessary.  I want them to grow to be future businesspeople who will make anything I ever get to do seem minor.

So often lately, I get the feeling that we keep focusing on the HR voices who are edgy, visible, contrary and larger-than-life. I think they are doing great work, but I don’t want us to forget the thousands who are behind the scenes making this happen.

So the Mentor goes to . . . Fred Eck !!  I’m going to sit back now and listen to his acceptance speech no matter how long it goes !!

Image courtesy of There from Here Blog

WIFO – A New Approach

It’s time for HR to quit trying to focus on the “me” side of HR and look at focusing on others. This approach isn’t happening today and imagine if it did !!

Have you been to HR seminars where they emphasize the WIFM effect of employees?  You know, “what’s in it for me?” There are entire marketing efforts and focuses that try to figure this out from a consumer’s perspective.  I get it.  I’m attracted to things that meet my preferences and styles, but I’m sure they don’t fit anyone else’s choices.

We’re all unique as people.  HR struggles with this.  How can we provide the “what’s in it for me” factor if everyone is different?  It’s impossible !!! Or, is it ??

I think it’s time for HR to try the WIFO approach – What’s in it for others?  If we’d do this, we’d be more successful in the end in meeting the needs of most – not all.

Using the WIFO approach, you can really put people first.  HR needs to understand that without people, we’re nothing but a giant bureaucratic machine that people see in negative connotations.  We have to put others first – all the time !!  This may not seem fair, but it really works.

More often than not, HR departments approach the least common denominator when it comes to policies, programs and initiatives.  We have a small sample of employees who either make the most noise, or cause the most problems and Wah-lah !! – something new magically appears that we now impose on everyone.

You have to ask yourself, “When I go talk to employees, am I talking about a situation, or am I focusing on them as a person first?”  Is it more important to get resolution, or understand what’s happening to them as a person? Try it. Focus on your employees as people first.

I think we don’t think of others first because people rarely think about us as people.  Why don’t we change that? If you would take the time this week to e-mail, call or visit an HR peer and just ask them how they’re doing, how do you think the profession would change?  I think it’d be amazing !!  Intentionally reaching out to others to model what we could do for our organizations.

People are difficult, challenging, amazing, creative, unpredictable and that’s a great reason to be in HR !!  You and I need to remember . . . we’re people too.

If I were you, I’d be on the lookout for a call . . .

Whole Lotta Love (for HR) !!

Too often people are tearing down HR vs. building it up. This needs to change now. If we did this, can you imagine what workplaces would be like?

When you think of Valentine’s Day, the first band that comes to mind is . . . Led Zeppelin of course !! 

These rock giants defined an all-out, unabashed approach to their music and they renewed the world of rock post-Beatles.  I’m a GIANT Zep fan and when I hear any song from them I just get jacked up (even their ballads.)

Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a tribute to Led Zeppelin.  Instead, it’s a call for HR to be as all-in every time they approach their jobs and the field in general.  When I go to chapter meetings, roundtables, conferences or read the endless blogs that trash HR, I hear more voices joining in tearing down HR vs. building it up.

When was this ever a good approach to changing anything?  Seriously.  If we think, “Let’s all show why HR falls short, isn’t strategic and can’t get out of its way in the business world – then things are sure to change !!”

I was talking to Jason Lauritsen recently.  He’s a fellow HR practitioner and we were sharing that we want to take 2011, and beyond, to lift HR up and not tear it down.  It’s not to say that people can’t be critical, but give solutions not just gripes.  Also, we agreed that the human perspective of what we do can’t be buried in the HR/Corporate speak of metrics, ROI, synergy, etc.  Really, people don’t talk like that.

Jason and I have different approaches to HR with one common theme – PASSION !!

Passion is a word that isn’t supposed to be set aside for one day in February when everyone is “supposed to be” passionate because a card told you to.  We can’t expect employees to be engaged if we’re not passionate about them !!  It’s past time for HR to be passionate about what we do, how we influence people’s lives and how our work and perspective assist companies to move forward.  Mediocrity isn’t an option.  It never was.

The time is now to show a Whole Lotta Love for HR !!  What do you say? Are you in?

Image courtesy of Etsy

What if . . .

What if HR took lessons from the Super Bowl and treated employees differently?

Like most of America, I was planted on my couch soaking in the spectacle that we loving call the Super Bowl on Sunday.  I saw some of the ridiculously long pre-game, anticipated the commercials and critiqued them, loved the back and forth play between the Steelers and Packers,  and watched in awe as the Black Eyed Peas performed the halftime extravaganza.  Hours of my day spent watching an event that honestly did little but entertain me – at times.

Sitting in my office on Monday, I began to wonder some comparisons between HR and the time/effort given to the Super Bowl.

What if  . . . HR was as excited and focused on cheering on their employees as fans are of their teams in the Super Bowl?

What if . . . HR loosened their grip on rules and let people freely express themselves like they do when they go to a football game? Face paint and all !!

What if . . . HR had a strategy that had employees playing like a team and understood that ALL of the members of the team were expected to contribute?

What if . . . HR coached the company’s employees based on their strengths and put them in roles that allowed them to excel and even win?

What if . . . HR itself expected the best in people and sought to make sure that they had all of the equipment, training and facilities in order to be their best everyday they came to work??

What if . . . HR took that approach that it’s a “championship” field to be in instead of looking for ways to tear itself down?

What if . . . HR knew that even if it comes into an organization as an underdog, that it can rally the staff to grow, compete and add value to the company?

Last Friday, one of our Team Members had a birthday.  Big deal, huh? You see, at my company when it’s your birthday, you bring in snacks to share with the office.  People usually bring in sweets, but Friday was different.  As I walked upstairs I smelled grills. The “snack” for this person’s birthday was that he made everyone in the office a fresh omelet to order !!  Seriously !!  It was phenomenal.

Here was someone who did something unpredictable, unconventional and unparalleled. He is a great Team Member from Finance that you’d never expect to do this.

He was a great example of “what if . . .”  So, HR, look at things in a new way.  See the greatness that works around you everyday.

Do you know what would happen if you did this ??  What if . . .

No apologies

It’s time for HR people to quit complaining about knowing each other. Instead, we should be doing all we can to get to know our connections as real people.

Disclaimer – (all good HR people know how to do these . . .)

The following post may seem like name dropping, but it’s not.  It’s about the value of getting to know the people we choose to follow and be connected to.  If that makes me a “clique” former – so be it !!

Now for the post:

Last week the coolest thing happened !!  I received a DM on Twitter from Bryan Wempen asking me what my day looked like. I was a little confused by this since Bryan is normally in Tulsa, OK and I’m in Cincinnati, OH, but I responded.  Turns out he was in town and wanted to see if we could get together. To say I was GEEKED would not give this enough credence !!

Bryan is someone I met through Twitter and also through his incredible blog radio show, Drive Thru HR, which he co-hosts daily with another friend – William Tincup.  We went to our Boudinot location for LaRosa’s and had some great conversations over great pizza !!  I learned more about him, his family and great stories about career, college, etc.

You see, Bryan was inadvertently helping me reach a goal I set for myself for 2011.  I want to meet as many of the people I’m connected to as possible in real life !!  I think this really matters.

I think HR people in the Social Media space are struggling with “what’s next?” when it comes to where things are going.  The piece that’s missing is that we long to really know each other.

Coming up in the next few months, I get to go to the Northern Ohio HR Conference to present and catch up with Joe Gerstandt as well as 100’s of other attendees who may/may not be involved with Social Media.  Also, in April I’m going to HRevolution 2011 and couldn’t be excited enough to meet others that I read about, learn from and communicate with.

There’s more to come in 2011 including the Ohio HR Conference in September where I’m fortunate enough to be this year’s chair !!

I feel that too many HR people keep their heads down when they go to great events like these and worry too much about HRCI credits, where to sit in the room and if the person sitting next to you is going to “bother” you by tweeting instead of listening to the speaker.

Time for this to stop !!

The GREATEST resource at these events are the people sitting next to you, the people in the exhibitor halls and the people milling through the halls !!

So, no apologies.  I plan to meet ALL of you – and I can’t wait !!

What Do You Expect ??

This post asks HR what their focus is when it comes to their employees. Do they dread seeing them, or do they think they’re amazing?

When you think of your employees, what comes to mind?

Do you have positive thoughts?  Are you fondly reminded of how amazing the folks are at your company ??

What do you expect?  Seriously.  Have you taken the time to reflect on how your focus is as an HR practitioner when you go into work each day?  Are you looking forward to working with the people around you, or do you dread it?

If I asked you this in person, I’m sure I’d hear a positive response because you’d feel a little awkward because we’re only supposed to talk about surface level things to keep things within a social norm.  It may be the way you truly feel, and I hope it is.

However, when I keep my ear to the ground and listen to other HR pros, I hear more negative things than positive things.  I hear people grousing about the difficult person who did this, or the person who takes ALL  of my time, etc.

Don’t you think your employees see that in you?  Don’t you think that they’ve come to expect HR to be the department who brings the bad news?  Not very encouraging is it?

I think that we’ve made the rock prophet Don Henley’s words come true from his vintage song “Dirty Laundry” on his debut album I Can’t Stand Still.

“Dirty little secrets
     Dirty little lies 
 We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie 
     We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry”

I know that sounds harsh, but when I listen to HR people they tend to talk about the 10% of people who cause them the most problems instead of focusing on the 90% of people who are GREAT !!

I love HR Horror Stories as much as the next person, and I could add my share of them – believe me.  However, it’s time to change the tide.

People will see HR as a positive force in organizations when, and only when, HR is positive itself !!

So, what do you expect ?? Let me know.

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Take a Stand !!

This post encourages HR to take aspects of Martin Luther King, Jr. and apply his efforts to their work today in organizations.

This past weekend I traveled to the heart of Amish country in Ohio to beautiful Berlin, Ohio for the Classic in the Country  basketball tournament.  It was a full weekend of great high school varsity girls basketball !!

The “unique” aspect of this tournament vs. others is that when the girls come out to the court before the game begins something other than the National Anthem occurred.  (Fear not, they play the Anthem at the beginning of each day.)  The announcer asked everyone to stand and then they played a quote from a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech.  It was incredibly moving – and relevant !!

You see, my daughter only knows of Dr. King from History class or a textbook.  Now that we are recognizing the 25th anniversary of the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it made me reflective as well because Dr. King did things that we in HR should be doing as well . . .

Recognize Injustice !!

Too often HR sees things that happen in companies and seeks the middle ground vs. addressing things directly.  You see, if you ask Management, HR represents them.  If you ask employees, they’d say HR represents . . . Management.  The fact is that we represent all employees and we are obligated to look at all people practices that aren’t in the best interest of employees and get rid of them.  I’m not talking about obvious egregious or illegal behavior.  That’s a no-brainer.  I’m talking about policies (that we often generate) that do no good to the company.  Honestly, most of our polices are created to address a few people’s poor behavior that we should be addressing directly any way !!

Take a stand !!

Do you like being ambiguous and wishy-washy?  I don’t and I hope that as HR practitioners, you don’t either.  It’s tough to take stands on things but companies expect us to make decisions and not practice conflict avoidance.  People are tough.  There’s no doubt about that.  However, if you learn how to frame your approach and deal intentionally with people, you’ll be amazed at how effective an HR professional you’ll be !!

Be the one person !!

Too often people are waiting for someone to act.  When HR is passive bad things happen more often than not and you become the person who’s always “putting out fires.”  We desparately want someone to take action.

That needs to be YOU !!

Dr. King took action when it wasn’t popular, when it involved incredible risk, and it represented those who weren’t in power.  I want to be that kind of HR person all the time.

How about you ???

Image courtesy of WriteSpirit.net