Category Archives: Uncategorized

HRevolution – The Future of HR

A short note about this blog – I’m sorry I don’t have the share links, blogroll, and other polite amenities on this site yet.  I am already working on a website and don’t want to move too much content; watch for it soon!   Thank you for your patience and understanding!

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Saturday afternoon the gloves came off.

The last session of the HRevolution un-conference, introduced in my previous blog, was called “The Future of HR”.  It was facilitated by the incomparable Mark Stelzner, whose admitted purpose was “to be provocative and shake the room up a bit.”  His mission was well accomplished, and the passionate discussion was described by @KristaFrancis on Twitter: Great minds *don’t* think alike and that’s a good thing.  Mark summed up the discussion on his blog, but I want to focus on this particular statement:

There was a great discussion on how people need to quit their HR jobs if they are that miserable. In other words, stop complaining and lamenting your non-strategic role and instead find a company that values your contribution.

That “call to action” has been repeated since on blogs (here ), and the HR Happy Hour blog talk radio show.

Ouch.

Why does it pain me to hear and read that people who want to make a difference should just quit their jobs and go elsewhere? Because it’s a strategy that’s far too over-simplified, and the consequences of failure are too dangerous for that simplification.  I speak from personal experience.

My Personal History

I come from a small (less than 50 employees) food processing/manufacturing plant.  My husband and his partner own the business.  When I began working there, no one knew exactly what my role was going to be.  I fell into an HR function almost immediately, because there was NO HR function there at all.  I started learning, and I made myself a HR Manager/Generalist.  I had a seat at that strategic table, usually at the head.  I made those P&Ls sing.

So why did I leave in June 2008?  Because I had a nagging feeling that there was more evolving to be done, and I couldn’t do it where I was.  There is only so far you can go in a really small company before some of the work becomes redundant, and some becomes impossible. So I quit (read: no unemployment benefits) and went looking for a company that would “value my contributions”.

It’s now November 2009 and I have yet to find that company.  Telling a recruiter or a hiring manager that I left my job because “I needed new challenges” makes them hang up on me.  Layoffs and downsizings create sympathy, self-indulgence does not.

I’m lucky – my husband still owns the company and has a job, so I still have sufficient funds to go to un-conferences and listen to people tell me to do what I’ve already done.  But suppose I was a sole breadwinner with kids to support and a mortgage to meet?  That strategy would have placed a lot of other people in jeopardy.  Is Laurie Ruettiman’s philosophy is the better one? She says, ” You get a paycheck. Be happy.”

Going Forward

By sharing that with you, I want to emphasize a point that was touched on at HRevolution but not sufficiently embraced: the enlightened HR group that we are a part of is a very tiny minority of the entire HR population.  The solutions and suggestions we propose inside of our “HR echo chamber”  will not be embraced by them  and will often be actively resisted.  We need to help others examine themselves and their roles to see how they can evolve and revolutionize, even if circumstances and paychecks keep them in their positions.  A large majority of HR pros don’t even know that people and technology exist to help them make this journey.  In other words, they don’t read our blogs.  Until a very short time ago, I was one of those people.

When Alicia Arenas asked us in a video to leave HRevolution with a commitment to spread the message, she mentioned college students and local SHRM chapters as examples of avenues to spread our enlightenment. Let’s collectively think of more, and start an outreach program, because we will not succeed without  converting others. With that in mind, I am picking up the flag of  HRevolution and making this commitment:

I will use social media, personal connections, and any other soapbox that is available to me to encourage, aid, and advise HR Pros and other business professionals to embark on a course of personal development that will expand their knowledge and engage and enlighten others.

By doing this, I hope to move past the idea that HR people should just be happy to get a paycheck.  The people I will try to reach may not be able to leave their companies, but they may be able to avoid doing everything “The Company Way.”  Viva la revolution!





HRevolution – Beginnings

I attended a strange and amazing “unconference” two days ago.  It was called HRevolution and it was a collection of HR and recruiting pros coming together to discuss social media and its intersection with their professional life.  It was the first out-of-town HR conference I had ever attended, made up mainly of bloggers (including Twitter micro-bloggers).  The ideas flew fast and furiously, and I already have several HR University lesson plans in the works based on thoughts generated at the Revolution. Those lessons will have to be spread out over several posts, but I want to start here with some introductory remarks about the Revolution in general:

  • One of the attendees at HRevolution, Frank Zupan, lives and work in Cleveland.  He eats corned beef at a deli called Slyman’s; they buy corned beef made at United Meat & Deli (UMD) in Detroit.  The corned beef is injected/pumped with pickling brine with a machine operated by Joaquin Arredondo.  Joaquin is a permanent resident alien (has a green card) – a status that I helped him obtain as the HR manager at UMD.  That circle (Frank to Joaquin to me to Frank) of connectivity wasn’t created by HRevolution or Twitter, but it was discovered there.  It makes a compelling argument for the continuing exploration of social media, and it slaps the argument that “people only connect on social media because they can’t connect in person” right in the face.
  • Laurie Ruettiman of Punk Rock HR is a true superstar of the HR blogosphere.  Ooohs and aaahs were audible when she arrived, and I am old enough to be her mother.  In fact, I discovered through conversation with her that I am older than her mother. But she, like the other Gen X and Ys present (which was most of the room), was absolutely energizing.  Boomers like me can learn a lot from these smart kids, if we will listen.
  • None of the attendees at HRevolution had met me before; they only knew who I was because of my Twitter presence. Yet almost everyone who knew who I was (because of my avatar) hugged me. It was marvelous because I really like hugging.
  • HRevolution attendees have an absolute fascination with bacon.  I have no idea what the origin of this fascination is, or why it continues.  I am happy to indulge the fascination, though.  The first HRevolution attendee who comments (10 words or more required) on this blog post will receive the book “Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon” as a gift from me.

bacon-book

More lessons to follow; stay tuned!

What HR Can Learn From Good Pet Owners

Freckles2 At my direction, my veterinarian killed euthanized this dog today.  He was very old and very sick, and it was my first experience with this most humane and selfless of acts.  Since I have four more dogs at home, it will certainly not be my last act of this kind.  I know that good and responsible pet owners welcome the ability to euthanize their animals to end their pain and suffering; it is the ultimate and final act of kindness to the animal, even though it causes the owner great sadness.

In reflecting on my life with this dog, I found some analogies that could be drawn between pets and employees.  Not, of course, that employees are pets or should be treated like them.  But how WE behave, or should behave, toward our pets can be helpful in defining our HR behavior.

1.  ENGAGEMENT

It’s easy for everyone to spend time with a new puppy or a kitten -  they’re so cute and delightful!  Even the youngest owners can’t wait to play with them or stroke them.  But as the puppy or kitten grow into larger animals, many people lose interest in playing with or exercising or engaging their pet.  Their basic needs of food and shelter may be provided, but little else.  Unless the pet needs discipline or restraining, the pet is simply left to amuse itself.  A good pet owner is different – a good pet owner knows that the pet is a vital part of the household and makes sure that the pet is walked, played with, trained, touched, or talked to as much as the pet needs.  Forever.

There is often a similar honeymoon period with a new employee.  HR makes sure the employee is successfully onboard, and hovers a little bit while the employee gains their footing and grows confident in their surroundings. But all too often, once that honeymoon period is over and the employee is trusted to perform on their own, the employee is essentially forgotten.  Sure, the basic needs (pay and benefits) are met.  But no one attempts to engage the employee, to seek him or her out and make sure they remain interested, motivated, trained, or involved.  Unless the employee needs discipline or counseling, the employee is often completely forgotten about by HR.

Good HR is like good pet ownership: there should be resolve to stay interested and engaged with the employee forever – not just the first weeks or months.  Seek out your employee and find out what you both need to do to stay involved with each other.

2.  COMMUNICATION

It is sometimes very difficult for a good pet owner to determine if their pet has a problem that needs attention. Since pets can’t talk, good pet owners are vigilant in watching for signs that the pet is in trouble: Is he eating properly?  Does she seem lethargic?  Is he pooping too much? Too little?  What does the poop look like?  FIVE dogs – and I could tell each one of their feces apart.  I had to, because it is an early – sometimes the only – sign of distress.

Employees can usually speak, so the HR pro doesn’t have to go to such extreme measures to determine if there are problems needing attention and discussion.  Unfortunately, many are not taking the time or making the effort.  When did you last ask an employee if everything was alright, or if there were any issues or concerns that you could help them address?  Too often, we expect the employee to come to us if they need or want something.  But often a problem is not discovered until an exit interview, when it is too late to fix (at least for that employee).  It’s natural for an employee to prefer to be asked to give information, rather than have to demand it be given.

Good HR:  be vigilant and care enough to look for warning signs indicating a problem.  Communicate with the employee and make sure that trouble is addressed as early as possible.  Ask the employee before s/he asks you.

3.  COMMITMENT

Every good pet owner buys, rescues, adopts or otherwise obtains a pet with the knowledge and agreement that their obligation to that pet is forever.  Good pet owners expect that their home will be the animal’s home forever.  Yes, sometimes unforeseeable and insurmountable problems arise that cause pet and owner to be separated.  Even then a good pet owner will work to re-home their pet so that the pet’s well-being is maintained.  When the time comes for the pet to be released from its physical pain or suffering, the good owner does what is necessary, no matter how hard, to help the pet die in peace and with dignity.

I harbor no illusions that employers have a lifetime obligation to their employees.  But HR should hire an employee with at least an idea that they are going to commit to the employees professional well-being for as long as they possibly can.  If HR has shown that commitment to the employee, consistently engaged and communicated with the employee, and has acted similarly to the good pet owner throughout the employment relationship, the end, even if involuntary, will be more dignified.

Welcome to HR University

“There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it” – Edith Wharton

Remember your undergraduate days?  Not every professor wrote their own textbook.  In fact, most professors that did write their own textbook – and used it exclusively in class – were pretty boring teachers.  The best professors, and your favorites, were the ones who culled information from a variety of sources – including the students in the class – and helped put that information together in a fun, informative, cohesive way.  Discussion was a huge part of this process.

With that in mind, I am launching this blog and calling it HR University.  I’ll try to be a good teacher about any and all things Human Resources related.   Not everything discussed here will be original or novel (perhaps not anything; we’ll see.) but hopefully we will work together to be mirrors that reflect and champion the best knowledge and practices and then pass them on.

Like a brick and mortar university, a lot of the discussion/learning may be about things other than HR.  In undergrad, we learned a lot in the dorm or the dining hall.  These were good things; life lessons that we still use every day.  I learned to like and drink beer in undergrad.  It had nothing to do with my academic major, but it helped develop knowledge of teamwork and achieving a common goal.  So virtual beer drinking will probably show up in this blog, too.

Questions and comments will be welcomed and answered.  I’m getting a little bit of a late start on this academic year, so let’s roll!