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 !!

Everyone needs a Homer !!

This past week was tough, and something that no one in HR looks forward to.  One of my co-workers passed away.  His name was Homer.

Homer was amazing !!  He was the first person I saw everyday as I came into the office.  He greeted me with a smile and a warm handshake.  We exchanged jokes, laughed about life and talked about the day, our families and our work.  He loved working for LaRosa’s, and it wasn’t something to “say”, it was what he believed.  His pride in his work showed.

By the way, Homer cleaned the parking lot of the Corporate Office and also two of our nearby restaurants . . . and he was 79.

Homer was a great loving husband, father and veteran.  Also, he was my friend.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a trend in HR and in the blogosphere to group folks together so that we can better “address” or “handle” their generation.  I’m concerned by this because I think it waters down the spectacular fact of our diversity as individuals.  When I was born can be proven, but who I am as a person is an individual characteristic.  I think HR suffers when we try to group people into different categories so they can be more homogeneous.  It may seem “easier,” but it devalues what each person brings to work each and every day.

I’ve said it before, but I truly feel that HR should be practiced person-by-person.  Our employees deserve our focus, attention and care.  If you ever hope to be a diverse organization, then you need to really look at how HR is practiced in your place.  If everyone fits into a giant herd, or a “generation”, then you need to make an adjustment.

This week our company lost a dear individual who impacted the lives of many.  He did this intentionally and unabashedly.  I hope to carry on his example so that others can see how amazing each person who touches our lives really is.  I deeply miss him already.

Look around you this coming week at work.  Is there a Homer at your place?  There should be.

So Much Room to Move !!

Rain for hours.  Mud everywhere. Solemn flag retirement.  Scavenger hunt.  Tons of Euchre games.  Food that is flat amazing.  Big word Saturday (you got credit if you used big words during your conversations). Flames shooting from a lantern, and everyone points and says, “Mr. Browne – look !!  Cool !!”

As I type this week’s post, I’ll be honest, I’m exhausted.  I just returned from a weekend of scouting with the great boys and adults of Troop 941. It’s our annual “advancement outing” where we get our new scouts started along their way, and the older scouts also work on things to advance in their ranks. It seems that every Advancement Outing is filled with challenging weather and unexpected surprises.  This one was no different !!

One of the things I truly love about Scouting is that the focus is to let the boys learn, fail, learn again, teach and then move forward.  The hope is that they get the spark to someday reach Eagle Scout.

It’s interesting because the Troop is a microcosm (big word) of the workplace.  Every boy is different and has quirks that make them truly standout.  As adult leaders, we do our best to guide them to making the decisions that will allow them to truly develop.  We are constantly fighting the urge to jump in and fix it all because we learn that our greatest trial is . . . patience.

The beauty of the system is that the boys can do so many things in so many ways to reach their goals.  This drives some adults (and boys) crazy because they feel that tight structure will lend a successful end for one and all.  Some kids don’t even see the structure (which warms my heart !!)

In the workplace, we in HR use policies as our “structure” and we do our best to enforce, cajole and discipline everyone who falls outside of them.  We think we’re doing our job, but not really.  I think policies are broader than most.  They should be parameters that allow people room to move and perform.  They should never be vehicles for control than can never be fully reached and will most certainly not allow people to be consistent.

We need to be like the scouts who look at eminent danger and say, ” Oooh, cool !!”  I learn something every time I get to go and lay under the stars and the rain and the mud.  Amid all that, you only hear playing, laughter and memories being made.  It’s a great “workplace.”  Maybe we’d all enjoy what we did a bit better if we loosened the reigns and allowed people room to move !!

We’re Everywhere !!

I just returned from an incredible conference in San Antonio, Texas for the HR/TD group of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).  This was my second time with this group of HR professionals and I have to say that, as a whole, they are some of the most welcoming folks I’ve met in our field !!

I never take it lightly when I get the opportunity to speak in front of any group – especially peers in my field.  I know the challenges they face in their organizations, how others outside of HR view the field and that working with people can be tough.  However, I also know that they have the ability to be amazing in what they do and where they work !!

It was truly fascinating to be inside an HR group within an industry.  Because, you see, most of us don’t even know these great HR pros exist !!

The majority of people in HR have a very narrow focus.  You can read all you want about being “broad,” but most people have either a comfort zone or a personal capacity where they keep their HR community pretty close.  Be honest, we tend to look for HR “voices” either in Social Media or through SHRM National, or local chapters.  These are all great avenues to connect with HR people, but it’s not the only place we exist.  The fact is . . . HR people are everywhere !!

Since that is the case and HR people are everywhere, what keeps us from connecting?  Let me throw this out to you . . .

We’re surrounded by people every day, and we lose site that there would be an advantage to get to connect with other great HR pros.  The “negative” voices rear their ugly head like – “They’ll probably want something from me.”  “What if they’re creepy?”  “I really don’t have time for more people in my already busy life.”

We’ve bought into the myth that our current relationships can provide all we need to be effective HR folks.  In fact, some companies HR people NEVER leave the confines of their own organization because they’re gigantic and they feel they have all the resources they need internally.

Don’t buy it !!  I can give you countless stories of great HR people I continue to meet, interact with, and connect to others.  I’m glad this faction of the HR world asked me to venture to Texas.  I told them that I was writing about them and hope to see more of them get connected in the greater HR universe.

My hope is you do this as well !!  This week, step out.  Meet one new HR connection.  I guarantee it will only improve what you do and how you look at HR !!

It’s Opening Day !!

This week I participated in a true Cincinnati tradition !!  My family and I went to Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds.  It was truly a spectacle to behold !! Everyone was smiling, laughing and anxious for the start of a new baseball season.  The smell of bratwurst, pizza, beer, popcorn and peanuts filled the air.

People didn’t want to miss any second of the festivities.  The Reds have always valued this tradition since they were the first Major League team ever.  Fans are loyal and educated about the storied past as well as being encouraged about the current team.  They know stats, performance indicators and have strong opinions about their favorite players.

All eyes were glued to the field when they paid honor to wounded veterans who had proudly served our country.  Next was the unveiling of a gigantic American flag that covered the outfield as an enormous plane flew over the stadium at the perfect moment amid roaring cheers !!  The ceremonial first pitch followed and then we moved onto the game.  You could hear all types of conversations going on all around you, and every “ooh” and “ahh” of the plays on the field was palpable.

Seeing this event was truly a treat for my family and me.  It also made me think . . .

42,000+ people were filled with awe, joy and hope for baseball players that don’t even know they exist.  We go to work everyday with a team of people we need to have succeed more than any sports team ever will.

So, what if we treated the beginning of the day like Opening Day at work?  We were geeked to see everyone !!  We cheered their performance on and wanted to see them bring their best in all they did !!  We knew that each person had a role that made the team thrive and we built on it, encouraged it and gave them the equipment to “knock it out of the park.”

As you start this work week, you can have that Opening Day feel !!  What do you say?

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 !!

 

 

A Sort of Homecoming . . .

This past weekend I was at the SHRM Regional Council Summit.  It sounds like a very formal name, but it’s not that kind of event.  It’s where the State HR Council Directors get together to get updates from SHRM, share best practices and meet others that are in similar roles from all over the country.

I have to say that going into the weekend, I didn’t know what to expect.  However, at the end of the conference I was even more assured of how amazing HR really is !!  You see, I was able to meet friends from all over the country that I had never met.  We had much more in common than we even imagined.  I’m not talking about being SHRM volunteers.  I talking about great HR pros who are making a difference in the profession and in their companies.

I continue to be amazed that when you experience this kind of camaraderie and energy, that HR people still don’t want to be connected because it takes too much effort or time.  Trust me, being more connected to other great folks only gives me access to more resources and insight into what HR does.

Most of you know that I’m a gigantic U2 fan !!  When I was thinking of putting this together, the song A Sort of Homecoming came to mind.  It talks about a person who’s searching because they’re isolated until they come home.

When I go to events like this at the local, regional and national level, I feel like this by “coming home” to friends who I don’t get to see that often, but I know they’re always there.  I saw the same reaction from others that I met.  We WANT to be together and need to be both as people and as professionals.

I saw many folks get connected on Twitter and social media this weekend because they met others who find it successful.  I saw people share incredible resources from SHRM and their states that make HR better in every aspect from Employee Relations to Advocacy to Compliance to Culture and Professional Development.

So, this week, quit trying to do HR on your own.  Reach out and get connected !!

Try a conference, attend a local HR meeting, or send an e-mail to Link In or join Twitter.  You are part of an amazing community who wants to be connected to YOU !!  Take the step and make that happen.

 

Blogs, Blogs Everywhere There’s Blogs !!

The amazing Five Man Electrical Band left their indelible mark on musical history with their one-hit classic – Signs.  The lead singer is struggling with signs all around him telling him “do this, don’t do that,” and it struck a chord with me.

You could say the same today with blogging.  Everyone is encouraged to get their voice out there, and to do it through a personalized blog.  Don’t get me wrong, I love blogs and my Google Reader is packed with amazing work from people I respect both in HR and in business in general.

What has been puzzling me lately is  . . . what do YOU, the reader, want to read?

You can read one post on a site that encourages you to do things one way, and another will come out a week later completely opposite of what you just read.  How can someone cut through the “noise” of what’s being written?  Or, should you cut through it?

I’ve been guilty of tweeting and retweeting blogs as much as anyone else.  However, I don’t cast out the “Hey, read this” button until I’ve read the post myself.  I have my faves and some get my attention every time they post.  The filter I use before sharing it though is that I take in that person’s perspective and do my best to learn something from it.

So, what do you like to see?  I’m not going to embed a survey for this.  I’d like you to leave comments.  List what you like from topics, themes, etc.  You can even list your favorite blogs and bloggers.  I’m open.

As an HR pro, you should be active in learning more and taking in what’s new.  I encourage you to read several blogs from the areas that interest you.  You never want to be stale.

So, lay a comment out here on the site and let me know.  I’d like to make sure that you’re not just being “told” things from my blog.  I know my friends would like to hear what you have to say too !!

Connecting the Dots !!

Most people start the New Year with resolutions that quickly fade or fail leaving people with a feeling of sluggishness.  Sweet !!

I want to offer an alternative and that is to make 2012 intentional !!  Let’s start with a story . . .

I went to SHRM Leadership this past fall with other SHRM State and Chapter leaders and directors.  Many people spent time with folks from their own state or region because they’re familiar with each other and it is a great time to get away.  I, on the other hand, spent much of my time meeting great folks from Illinois, Florida, Alaska, Kansas, SHRM staff, etc.  I couldn’t get enough of meeting HR folks from other areas to see how we connect.  To me, this was the best way to spend time because there are so many amazing HR pros all over that do great things.  I had to see what they were doing.

So, I’d like to throw out this challenge (and opportunity) to all of you in the HR community – In 2012, start connecting the dots !!

I know that the whole “social media” thing can be overwhelming and noisy.  However, I find there are  folks developing and sharing great content that you can use in many facets of our work.  We need to stop thinking that isolation works for us as a profession and do what we can to be more connected.

Now, I’m not sure what that looks like for you, but let me list some suggestions:

  • If you’re someone who reads blogs – take a step and leave a comment.  Bloggers love to hear from folks who read their work.  If you feel compelled, then comment.
  • If you haven’t been to a local HR forum, then go to one.  Try them out and see where you can connect in person with other great HR folks !!
  • If you haven’t been to a conference or Unconference, then make plans to go to one this year.  You’ll find incredible people, just like you, connecting and learning more to advance the profession.
  • If you haven’t met folks in person, then take the steps to do that !!  One of the true highlights I had in 2011 was meeting social media HR folks in person.  It has led to incredible personal and professional relationships.
  • If you’ve just been service oriented in HR at work, change that and be intentional !!  Organizations expect HR to be dynamic, relevant and integrated.  Take the steps to make that happen !!

It’s just a start, but I hope that you take the next step to be more intentional.  I’ve already been making plans to meet more great HR folks in person and I’m using the same list for myself.  It’s time to take action !!  Will you join me ??