You’ve Got a Friend . . .

The incomparable James Taylor had many hits while I was growing up, but one that has always stuck with me is You’ve Got a Friend.”   This ballad hit home this week because I lost a dear friend, Penina Sachs, to cancer.  Penina quietly battled for five years before passing.

Penina was someone who “got it” when it came to being a friend.  She and I served together when I was the President of the Greater Cincinnati HR Assocation (GCHRA).  There were so many things that defined Penina that drew me to her as a friend.  She was candid, forthright, determined and she wanted to move the profession of HR forward.  Through her tireless volunteer efforts she did just that.  She was someone who embraced social media and was active in the forums.  She was also someone who saw the future by being an attendee at the first HRevolution.

Penina was never one for pretense and some found that difficult.  So many people spend hours and hours trying to “be somebody” vs. just being comfortable in their own skin.  That was never the case for Penina.

Her passing leads me to throw this out there for the HR social community to think about.

The reason I valued Penina was that we were truly friends.  Not on-line followers, lurkers, Linked In connections, or Facebook “friends.”  We were connected on-line, but more importantly in real life.  I know that it’s not possible to be connected with everyone we know in person, but I want to challenge those connected to me.  When I see someone who has 50,000+ followers on Twitter, I’m skeptical.  Sure, you have the numbers, but do they just want to be seen with you and not know you?  Where’s the value in that?

When people boast of numbers, numbers, numbers – I just wonder if you even know people’s names?  The influencer lists are based on SEO’s and metrics, but is that truly influence?

I don’t want to influence, I want to leave a legacy.  I want to be an imprint on others and I want them to imprint me.  Penina did that.  I will value her legacy of support and adventure in our ever evolving field.

So, if you are kind enough to read this blog or are connected with me in other forums know that I’m serious about this.  I want to know you enough that you leave an imprint on my life.  It’s just like James Taylor sang . . .

“You just call out my name and you know wherever I am – I’ll come running to see you again . . . You’ve got a friend.”

I’ll miss you Penina !!

Image courtesy of Word Collector

Look Past the Avatar !!!

“Steve !!! Man, you’re tall !!”

“Wow !! You’re a lot taller than I thought you’d be !!”

“Steve !! Great to meet you finally.  Man, you’re tall !!”

And so it was as I entered the hotel lobby for my first HRevolution.  I took it in stride that I towered over my peers physically because I’m used to being tall.  NOTE: There were other tall HR folks at HRevolution, but we were the significant minority !!

Right after I was “sized up” the next thing I heard for 48 straight hours was laughter.  Tons and tons of exhuberant laughter.  You see, the difference to me for this event wasn’t whether it was a “Conference” or and “UnConference” – it was that I got to meet friends in person.  I wasn’t surprised by how engaged everyone was, or how friendly everyone was at all.  In fact, I expected it.

It was so refreshing to not feel any pretense or jockeying for attention when you enter a new environment.  I’ve always been a person who just is who he is – and now I was at a conference with 130 others who were incredibly genuine, unique, funny and short. (hee, hee)  I loved the fact that you could be intentional with other HR folks and it was welcomed, not shunned.  It’s hard to find the words I’m looking for here. I feel closure I guess.  Closure to meet and get to further know people that I truly care for.

I would list a link for EVERYONE that attended because I don’t want to miss anyone.  It was that cool !!  It was humbling to be a presenter.  It was great to hear the thoughts and ideas of others.  And, most of all I love the fact that HR people were willing to challenge, confront and explore different approaches to HR.  It was so non-traditional that I secretly hoped every HR conference I attended would be free enough to be this candid.  Ahhhh, to dream !!

At our session, Jason Lauritsen and I challenged everyone to see what they would do to improve HR.  Here’s my response . . .

I’m not going to let HR people live behind their avatar anymore !!

So HR beware.  I’m going to be intentional with you just like we were with each other at HRevolution.  No apologies. It’s time for us to remember that we’re humans first.  Believe it and don’t forget . . . I’m tall !!

Do you Communicate or Connect ??

At a recent Leadership Team meeting at work, one of our Board of Advisors asked us – “As a company, do you communicate or connect?”

It was a fascinating question and we did some good work around it because the answers around the table ranged from ones that felt “communication was a strength” of ours to “we communicate in volume !!”

In looking at HR, especially when you take in all that is out in this “space,” I would tend to think that volume takes the lead.  This doesn’t mean that there is junk out here.  It just means that there is a ton of information to read, absorb, respond to, or ignore.

Often with so much volume, we tend to take in little because we want to be good stewards of what we read, and people have various capacities when it comes to communication.

What would happen if we chose instead to “connect” ??  What if our efforts regarding HR were more like the classic Conjuntion Junction from Schoolhouse Rock ??

Next week Jason Lauritsen and I are fortunate to be presenting at HRevolution2011 in Atlanta.  Our session is called “If HR stinks, what are YOU doing about it ??”  If you’re out on Twitter at all, it’s blowing up with tweets from HRevolution attendees who can’t wait to get to the event, want to see this speaker or that speaker, but most of all they want to see EACH OTHER !!

You see they want to CONNECT!!  Now, this camaraderie shouldn’t be limited to one conference or to a certain group of people.  HR has to take the step to break out of the shadows, intentionally connect with others and move the field forward.  This isn’t a call for one forum or one association or one event versus another.  However, it IS a call to get connected !!

I hope two things happen when I get to go to HRevolution.  (1) That I take time to connect with as many folks as possible and get to know them behind their “voice in the space” and (2) that our session makes that step from just communicating more about what HR should do – and move it to what I can do (and YOU can do as well) to continue to make HR a thriving, challenging, intriguing and relevant profession !!

Be forewarned . . . I plan to connect with as many HR people as I can !!

Is HR in Trouble . . . or just misguided ??

The post that my compatriot and friend Jason Lauritsen put out this week was very timely and thought provoking because he makes some extremely salient points as to why HR is in trouble.  Also, one of the HRevolution co-founders and friend, Trish McFarlane gave a great response on HR Ringleader !!  Now, I’d like to chime in as well . . .

It’s really interesting to me that folks in HR, especially the one’s in this “space,” continue to want to capture HR in certain view points, compartments and methods.  I get that.  It helps people understand things if there is more clarity.  Jason’s point that HR has to influence senior leadership is spot on.  HR without great senior leadership will flounder aimlessly in an organization.  Trish’s point that we should knock compliance out and be seamless about it – also spot on.  One of the most stinging criticisms I heard from senior management in the past is that HR doesn’t know its own field. Ouch !!

 I happen to think that an answer to this situation is honestly simpler than this.  HR lacks consistency.  In our struggle to be everything for everybody, we not only lose any sense of identity, we lack a credible voice.

I just got back from a trip to San Francisco where I met with two great ends of the HR spectrum – lunch on the wharf with Mark Stelzner and coffee withBecky Denniston and Caty Kobe from Focus.com . Mark and I share a lot of common approach to HR and I’ve wanted to connect with him. To spend a great lunch together was a highlight of my trip.  Becky and Caty are “new” to the business world compared to this author and they were fascinating !!  Truly represent a bright future for all of us !!

Because, you see, both of our conversations came back to one topic . . . people.

We talked about the people in our lives, our work, people I encountered during my adventuresome 14 hour plane ride across the country.  The common language of talking about people brought us together.

I don’t mean to sound like a simpleton.  I just believe that HR is in trouble because it continues to focus on everything BUT people !!

In the Sly & the Family Stone classic Everyday People it says:
“I am no better and neither are you
We’re all the same whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
Still can’t figure out the bag I’m in
Cause I am everyday people.”
 
Senior leaders and those who practice compliance – everyday people.  In HR we continue to think systems will make a difference if we just find the right one.  Won’t happen.  People are messy, complex, unique and fabulous.  HR is in trouble if it continues to look past humans in its effort to seem viable in organizations.  When I get to attend HRevolution in a few weeks – I am going to be genuinely excited – but not because I get to meet great “thought leaders,” but because I get to meet Jason and Trish (along with 100+ other great folks).  Get to learn about them, their families,their favorite rock bands/songs (critical).  I get to meet them as people.   I don’t want HR to be any other way . . . .

Have you laughed lately ??

Well, have you ??  Today’s white water rapid pace of constant information, technology and drive are a fact.  We say we want to escape it, but few really do.  This constant push leads to things like job dissatisfaction, stress, tension and makes people uptight.

How is that good for the workplace ??

I love to laugh.  Those that know me can attest that laughter is a daily part of my life – intentionally.  I know there are things that are challenges, and things that we don’t like about work.  But, does that mean you have to succumb to that way of thinking in order to succeed?

HR people are the toughest crowd when it comes to laughter because we don’t do it enough.  We think that if we’re not taken “seriously,” then we won’t get a “seat at the table” or some other catch phrase that we cling on to.  Honestly, it makes me laugh to even think about how people make themselves miserable and call it a career.

For the past eight years I’ve written a song each week that makes fun of HR.  Seriously.  I run an old-fashioned, pre-social media Internet message board that reaches a ton of people with an e-mail.  And, to start off each weekly update I write a song that pokes fun at the profession I adore.  Last week I chose I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats.  It’s not a song that many probably know, but it’s really a classic !!

My version was “I Don’t Like Paydays.”  I’ll send you a copy later if you’d like to join the HR Net. (covered at the end of the post).

Each week I love writing a song.  I giggle, count syllables and spend time on Rhymezone to make sure the songs match the tempo, pace and lyrics of the original.

After I send out the weekly message I will inevitably get e-mails back from people who say things like this:

” Unsubsribe !! I just don’t get this and your songs !!”

“I’ve never heard of this song and I don’t have time for this !!”

The emphasis is there every time.  It makes me sad that something as simple as an e-mail can ruin our day today.  I would bet that the people that discard things that make them stretch a little also laugh little.

I’m not saying you have to like my songs.  I just want HR to step back, laugh and not take itself so seriously.  People learn more when they laugh.  They remember situations and they develop stronger relationships.

So, as you start your Monday, try something different HR . . . laugh . . . laugh a lot !!

(Side Note: If you want to get the HR Net, then e-mail me.  I’m at sbrowne@larosas.com – It’s a fun resource that is meant to connect HR folks so that we can do even greater things in our profession. Just know you’ll get a song and a broader musical awareness as part of this.)

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 . . .