human resources

first day jitters

“Will I like it here?”

“Is this going to be a good year?”

“Will I like the person in charge?”

“I wonder what the people sitting around me are like?”

“Where will I put my stuff?”

“Where are the bathrooms?”

“Is lunch any good here?”

“I hope work will be interesting.”

“Did I wear the right clothes? I wonder what others are wearing?”

“How early is too early to show up? How late is too late?”

“How long will it take to get there?”

“I don’t want to be here.”

“Will I make any friends?”

“Should I have styled my hair different? My hair never looks right.”

“Which door am I supposed to go in?”

“Wonder what I should do first when I get there?”

“Is anyone else new here today?”

“Hope I don’t do anything that makes me look stupid.”

“Should I have brought anything else?”

“My stomach hurts.”

“I hope they like me.”

 

First day of school at 8 years old or first day of work at 56, it’s all the same. Insecurities, doubt, and “what if…?” questions loom large.  I wonder what the answers will be.

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why so serious, HR?

The Killer HR Robot, destroying fun in the name of credibility!

The Killer HR Robot, destroying fun in the name of credibility!

HR has a credibility gap. We just don’t get the respect we deserve. Or, at least, it seems HR likes to think HR has a credibility gap. There is no shortage of HR folks who think they don’t get the respect they deserve. Maybe they don’t, but it’s interesting to see what they think will create credibility.

I attended the Illinois State SHRM conference recently (a great conference that’s worth crossing state lines for) and a participant, fairly new to HR, expressed concern that we weren’t allowed to have fun in HR. Um, pardon? Apparently her boss and other HR leaders in their community felt that having fun destroys credibility. They believed executives wouldn’t respect HR if we were ever viewed as having fun.

A significant part of my career has been in leadership development and I’ve traveled around and spoken to and worked with leaders in many companies, in many industries, in many countries. Never once did any leader say, “You know what destroys leadership credibility? Fun! I hate it. When I’m looking for strategies to get the most out of my employees, forget someone who can link selection, development, and retention to solving business problems, I want an HR leader who is bitter, dour, mean, and boring. Get me someone who can put fun to the side and make this a culture where our employees hate being here. That’ll solve our business problems!”

Fun doesn’t have to mean frivolous. Fun doesn’t have to mean silly. Fun doesn’t have to mean you don’t know what you’re doing. Fun doesn’t have to mean you don’t take serious issues seriously. Fun can mean that people create significant results and enjoy doing it; that although they take their jobs seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. It is entirely possible to be outstanding at what you do AND have fun.

Work isn’t always fun. Often, it’s difficult, complicated, and unpleasant. Which is why I think it’s doubly important to bring fun to it when we can, to find ways to make it more enjoyable, to find the joy in our work. If nothing else, to have fun working together. To look forward to being around our teams. HR can’t make every day a great one for each and every employee, but there is so much we can do to create a positive culture, a great employee experience, and a strong employment brand.

It saddens me to think about the culture and employee experience and business results these anti-fun HR managers are creating. No one looks forward to going to work, giving it their all, and staying around year after year in a miserable environment. I can only imagine the recruiting, retention, and performance problems these companies have.

And they think “fun” will ruin their credibility? Too late.

 

heroes and friends

Social media gave me heroes. When I first started playing with social media I was awed by a handful of standout people working hard at sharing knowledge, shaking up the status quo, and kicking at the boundaries of their fields. Their larger than life perspectives arrived in my little corner of the world without fail through blog posts and Twitter updates. I began digging down, finding their influencers, and one hero led to another and another and another.

I discovered the magic of social media and learned the obvious secret. I could contact – contact! – these heroes and they would respond. Their ideas were big, but they weren’t the untouchable rock stars on the 15 foot high stage. They were open, liked sharing ideas back and forth, and responded quickly.

Then, I personally paid to attend a conference over 1,000 miles away for the chance to attend presentations by several of my biggest heroes, learn from them, and meet them in real life. That conference changed my world. After a few embarrassingly starstruck-tweenage-girl-meeting-the-boyband-of-the-week moments I realized these online celebrities of my world were, just people. People reaching out to the world and trying to make a difference in between all the dull-normal moments of life. Yes, they were outstanding at what they did, but they still had jobs to go to, spouses to hand them chore lists, kids to take to the zoo, and minivans in need of replacement. Their weekends looked like my weekends; their workweeks like my own.

Another conference followed, then another, and another. At each one, I arrived meeting another hero or two and left with much learning, fantastic discussions, and more friends.

Conferences took away my heroes and gave me friends. Friends dedicated to personal missions of changing the world of work. Friends who give their time and advice freely and eagerly. Friends I count on to push me, cheer me on, and inspire me to play bigger in this world.

If you go to conferences, when you go to conferences, I encourage you seek out your heroes. Go find them, meet them, talk to them. It’s good to have heroes; it’s better to have friends.

 

What a 9 Year Old Can Teach Us About L&D

SWEET! I wiped out! They should make pads for your butt!

Five minutes into his first ride on his first skateboard and my son was bouncing up off the ground, getting his board out of the shrubbery, and jumping right back on.Skating There were no tentative “baby steps”, no hesitation. It was full force, hop on and go enthusiasm. That brief moment contained the most important aspect of successful training.

 

What is the most important aspect of successful training? Today, I’m guest blogging over at Performance I CreateRead the rest of this post here .

branding, HR, and the customer experience

Want to build your company’s brand? Give a close look at your HR department.

That’s not how we typically approach it, is it? There are a ton of articles on branding, but far too many that discuss it as though it’s a separate activity, as though it’s a shiny bit of chrome that gets bolted on to make the company look nice. Company leaders just decide how they want the company to be known by customers, then they create marketing to support that and it’s done, right? Um, no.

In reality, branding is deeply woven throughout the entire organization, despite our attempts to reduce branding to some eye catching advertisements. It’s a circular “chicken and egg” problem that has to be addressed as a whole and looks something like this:

Brand –> Values/Culture –> Hiring/Retention/Development –> Employee Experience –> Customer Experience –> Brand

 

Brand. The company decides what it wants to be known for and how it wants to be viewed by its customers. Highest quality, best value, best service, the choice of people in the know, whatever.

Values/Culture. Not the stupid mission statement nailed to the wall that no one can remember and everyone ignores. Not the list of safe values that shows up in the “About Us” section of the webpage but how things actually get down and the (unwritten) values the company uses to make decisions and set priorities. (Lest we forget: Enron’s posted values included “Integrity” and “Excellence” but those clearly weren’t the values underscoring their day-to-day operations.)

Hiring/Retention/Development. I cannot emphasize this enough: business gets done for, through, and by people. What the company stands for and how it operates is determined, supported, and reinforced by its people and the behaviors that are encouraged (and tolerated). The ideals written on the wall are irrelevant if they are not fully supported by who gets hired, who is allowed and encouraged to stay, and what they are taught through formal training AND daily interactions with managers and peers.

Employee Experience (EX). I’m not convinced we can create employee engagement or motivation – that’s one reason why who we hire is so important – but I’m very confident that we can utterly destroy it through the daily employee experience. Is the EX one of support, growth, and pride or terrible manager, toxic peers, inane policies, and a dehumanizing culture? Or, is it trapped in between and a daily dose of apathetic meh?

Customer Experience (CX). The customer experience determines how they think of your company. Your definition of the brand is meaningless next to the customer’s. Who determines the customer experience? It’s a combination of your culture (i.e., how things get done around your company) and your employees. It’s been said the customer experience will never exceed employee experienced (I like to think of it as: CX<EX). That makes sense. It’s ridiculous to think we can make our employees’ lives miserable and have them turn around and create a wonderfully fantastic experience for the customer.

Brand. Yep, all of this leads right back to brand. Not the one you want, but the one you actually have.

None of these operate in isolation; they all feed into each other. You can’t build the brand without linking it to your people and how you expect them to operate day in and day out. So how is you HR department supporting the brand?

Might be time to give it some thought.

the three guaranteed new secrets of ancient best practices

Some days it’s all about the headlines isn’t it? A catchy, grabby declaration meant to attract eyeballs and wallets. There is so much content – so much content competing for your time and attention – that the headlines have become formulaic in their attempt to stand out.

“The”. We humans like to know there is definitive certainty. No wishy-washy possibilities or discussion here. This article is all about chiseled in stone absoluteness.

“Three”.  We also like definitive numbers. It tells us right up front that there is only a certain amount of info being discussed. Interestingly, the number is either single digit or a fairly high double-digit. Seven is fine, sixty-three is fine, fourteen just doesn’t work.

“Guaranteed”. Who doesn’t love a good guarantee. This is proof it works right? Um, sure. The most relevant legal definition from Law.com is: a promise to make a product good if it has some defect. Most often, if something you purchase doesn’t work, the guarantee would be for money-back, repair, or replacement. How much did you pay for the blog post? If it doesn’t work, how much recourse do you have? Yep, zilch. I guarantee it. A great, sounds good, but meaningless word.

“New”. Yep, none of those old ideas for me, thank you very much.  What? You mean I shouldn’t be a complete jackass as a manager if I want people to care about their jobs, I shouldn’t eat more than I burn off if I want to lose weight, and I shouldn’t drive like a teenage boy late for a first date if I want to save fuel? I know that already (even if I don’t do it, like, ever). No, tell me something new. And make it a…

“Secrets”. This goes right along with “new”. There will never be a blog post, article, or book titled, “Common Sense Stuff That Everyone Already Knows”. And the secrets must be either so hot off the press that the ink smears, or they better be…

“Ancient”. Yep, old. Been around for years and recently recovered from the mists of time. But not twenty years old, more like 200+. Bonus points if you connect it to a revered, yet mysterious people from: a) a long time ago; and/or b) far, far away. Tibetan monks, Peruvian priests, Spartan warriors. Tailored to the topic of course. “Leadership Secrets of the Viking Berserkers” would sell like water in the Sahara, but “Human Resource Secrets of the Druids” might not work so well.

“Best Practices”. This is the greatest term ever invented for selling ideas, because it looks buzzwordy, businessy, and authoritative, yet is essentially meaningless. It sounds like it means cutting edge, but it really means status quo. “Best practices” is more eye-catching than “currently fashionable ideas” or “the stuff we’re doing today that seems to work OK, but we’ll look back upon in fifteen years and face palm ourselves in sheer embarrassment.” Interestingly, these best practices can contradict other best practices in the same site or magazine and no one seems to notice or care.

The best part is the topic at hand doesn’t matter. Not a bit. It’s common across every professional, enthusiast, and tabloid subject I’ve seen. Unfortunately, using or not using these secret (ha!) headline best practices (ha!) is no guarantee (ha!) of quality. Some great articles use them and some don’t. Some horrendously vapid and vacant articles use them and some don’t.  But the trite articles trending through the interwebs? Definitely.

 

HR, you don’t need an app for that

For Christmas I asked/begged for a gps running watch and I absolutely love it. It looks good, is super easy to use, it tracks and records my runs, the display is customizable to show the info most important to me, it syncs to a website that syncs to my phone, and I’d highly recommend it to other runners.

BUT it’s an indulgence. It’s unnecessary. It’s a tool of convenience, but far from a requirement. It, and the entire infrastructure build around it (website, apps, etc.), can be replaced with a $6 stopwatch and a $1 notebook. Most importantly, IT DOESN’T RUN FOR ME. It enhances the habit I already have; it doesn’t instill new habits. (Anyone ever buy a time management app, PDA, software, or scheduler thinking it would make you effective with your time and discover that it, um, didn’t?)

Yesterday, I saw a  post on Forbes.com called 2014: The Year Social HR Matters. This piece has some good thoughts, but really got me thinking because there is a section that describes social data as enabling companies to rethink the performance review. To quote in small part:

“…some companies are going one-step further to create a new process focusing on having a “Check-In”. The software company Adobe now relies on managers controlling how often and in what form they provide feedback. The Check-In is an informal system of real-time feedback, which has no forms to fill out or submit to HR.

Instead, managers are trained in how to conduct a check-in and how to focus the conversation on key goals, objectives, development and strategies for improvement…”

I am 100% for this. Only… Only, it’s exactly what I thought managers were already supposed to be doing. Why do we need an app, software, or electronic gizmo to practice fundamentals of good management? Are companies really waiting for the technology to be in place before having actually conversations with their people? Could they not manage without big data? Like my watch, there may really cool ways of using social data to help us do what we’re already doing even better, but IT WON’T MANAGE FOR US.

The world seems rife with HR vendors trying to sell this dream, trying to convince us that the tools do the work instead of helping us do the work better. And that is a very key distinction. The hammer in my toolbox won’t build the house for me, but it will help me build the house faster and easier than without it. The performance management system won’t have the tough conversation with employees – at best it will make it easier for managers to have more conversations and provide more and better feedback. Applicant tracking software makes it easier for us to stay on top of things and provide a better candidate experience, but it doesn’t do it for us. We can gamify and automate employee recognition, but the most impactful employee recognition event I’ve seen cost a total of $20 and used nothing more sophisticated than a word processor and strapping tape.

My point is simply that the apps, software, etc. are (can be) great enhancements to what we are doing. But there is no point in waiting to purchase them to get started with providing better training to managers, better experience to candidates, better recognition, better HR, etc. etc.  There is a real danger to thinking that technology and data offers one size fits all silver bullet panacea that will magically and effortlessly solve all the problems.

With the right intention and approach these things can be done very low tech and still have meaningful impact and results. With the wrong intention and approach it’ll still suck despite all the technology and money we throw at it.

The watch is cool, but worthless if I don’t actually do the running.

humane, resourced

Humane ResourcedFeeling pretty awesome this morning. I can now officially lay claim to contributing to an internationally best-selling HR and Business book.

The Kindle book Humane, Resourced was released just the other day and is already climbing the charts. As of this morning, I’m told it’s at #21 for HR books in the US Kindle store and #2 in the UK. It’s also sitting at #8 for Business books in the UK. I’m sure these numbers will be out of date by the time I post this. Buy your copy now – all proceeds go to charity.

“Humane, Resourced” is a collection of contributions from over 50 business, HR, and L&D bloggers, each bringing their own unique perspectives and voices to the loose topic of people and work. Given the contributors, thought-provoking kicks to the head are inevitable:

1.    Simon Heath (@SimonHeath1)
2.    Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1)
3.    Sukh Pabial (@sukhpabial)
4.    Ian Davidson (@ianandmj)
5.    Bruce Lewin (@fourgroups)
6.    Ben Morton (@Benmorton2)
7.    Richard Westney (@HRManNZ)
8.    Lembit Öpik (@Lembitopik)
9.    Emma Lloyd (@engagingemma)
10.  Gemma Reucroft (@HR_gem)
11.  Stephen Tovey (@StephenTovey13)
12.  David Richter (@octopusHR)
13.  Amanda Sterling (@sterling_amanda)
14.  Wendy Aspland (@wendyaspland)
15.  Peter Cook (@AcademyOfRock)
16.  Julie Waddell (@jawaddell)
17.  Leticia S. de Garzón (@letsdeg)
18.  Vera Woodhead (@verawoodhead)
19.  Nicola Barber (@HRswitchon)
20.  Tim Scott (@TimScottHR)
21.  Amanda Arrowsmith (@Pontecarloblue)
22.  Inji Duducu (@injiduducu)
23.  Anne Tynan (@AnneTynan)
24.  Neil Usher (@workessence)
25.  Louisa de Lange (@paperclipgirl)
26.  Megan Peppin (@OD_optimist)
27.  Ian Pettigrew (@KingfisherCoach)
28.  Steve Browne (@stevebrowneHR)
29.  Kate Griffiths-Lambeth (@kateGL)
30.  Tracey Davison (@mindstrongltd)
31.  Jason Ennor (@MYHR_NZ)
32.  Bob Philps (@BPhilp)
33.  Kat Hounsell (@kathounsell)
34.  Simon Jones (@ariadneassoc)
35.  Mervyn Dinnen (@MervynDinnen)
36.  Alex Moyle (@Alex_Moyle)
37.  Julie Drybrough (@fuchsia_blue)
38.  Susan Popoola (@susanpopoola)
39.  Ruchika Abrol (@ruchikaabrol)
40.  Simon Stephen (@simonstephen)
41.  Damiana Casile (@damiana_HR)
42.  Honeydew_Health
43.  Malcolm Louth (@malcolmlouth)
44.  Perry Timms (@perrytimms)
45.  Sinead Carville (@SineadCarville)
46.  Jon Bartlett (@projectlibero)
47.  Jane Watson (@JSarahWatsHR)
48.  Broc Edwards (@brocedwards)
49.  Sarah Miller (@whippasnappaHR
50.  Meghan M. Biro (@MeghanMBiro)
51.  Anna Lloyd (@buggilights)
52.  Luke Thomas(@springccr)

“Humane, Resourced” was conceived, organized, and promoted by David D’Souza (@dds180) over in the UK. He gets massive kudos for making this book happen. Can’t wait to see his next project.

defining and shaping What Comes Next

In a couple of weeks, on November 11 and 12 Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt of Talent Anarchy are hosting/leading/facilitating an event called The Frontier Project on “Designing The Future of Work.” More think tank than conference or training, this is a chance for you to get together with 50 or so other sharp, passionate, innovative, and curious folks to discuss, debate, and (re)imagine where work is headed, where it needs to go, and perhaps what you can do about it in your world. Joe recently wrote about about it here.

I attended their first Frontier Project back in May and am excited for the chance to attend this next one. Although Jason and Joe are both masters at giving the box called “status quo” a good and vigorous shaking, I’m most looking forward to meeting and learning from the other participants. I don’t know who will be there but I’m expecting and hoping to see a mixed group of thought leaders, forward thinkers, and everyday professionals looking to define and shape What Comes Next. Interested? Sign up here (and notice you have one more day for the early bird discount).

Yes, I wrote about this a few weeks back and I’m writing about it again. I love to think about the FutureNow of work and I’m very excited to see Joe and Jason hosting another Frontier Project. It, along with the Meaning conference over in the UK, are two standout events dealing with what work could be. I’m encouraged and hope to see more and more events like these in the coming years.

I don’t know what this Frontier Project is going to look like, but I know what I got out of the last one. Rather than giving you a link, I decided to make it even easier and have included the summary I wrote and posted on May 29 after the first Frontier Project.

 

 

don’t predict the future, declare it

Human Resources, like many fields, is at a cross roads where its future is at a disconnect with its past. Many of its reasons for being have become irrelevant, easily outsourced, or reduced to a minor function. Some predict the end of HR; others cling to it. Ultimately, the future of business and work will decide the future of HR.

The Frontier Project, held May 20 and 21 in Omaha, Nebraska had the stated purpose of “Reimagining the Role of Human Resources.” That’s a bold tagline creating huge expectations and it was an interesting mix of 40 or so HR pros, consultants, vendors, and thought leaders who attended.

Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt led the group using an accelerated decision making process. Normally, it’s a technique used to create a decision and action steps for a specific problem. Applying it to the future of a field while still creating individual actions is a bit trickier, but worth the effort.

So, what’s the future of HR? I’m not telling. Not because I took a blood oath of secrecy; because I don’t know. No one does. But here’s a few thoughts I took away from the two days:

Predicting the future is really, really difficult. Particularly for experts because they know exactly how things are in the field, but most innovation and change is ignited from outside the field. If one isn’t careful, focused expertise leads to being blindsided. To prevent getting stuck in what our expertise demonstrated was right, we were told to use our “imagination, not expertise.” Regardless, it’s still difficult. Could you have imagined 2013 in 1993? Could you have imagined 2013 in 2008 before smart phones and social media took off? Another bit of advice for imagining the future: “If it makes sense today, you’re probably not pushing far enough out.”

Even people who think like me don’t think like me. Oddly enough, the future I’m convinced will happen looks different than the futures 39 other people are convinced will happen. We all have biases and, although there’s some overlap, it’s really easy to get stuck in our own reality tunnels.

When people discuss the most important things the field of HR should be focused on it sounds very buzzwordy business-speak. Lots of jargon. Lots of mention of technology, big data, etc. But when people describe what makes their job great it there is a strong emotional and personal connection. I don’t know what that schism means, but it makes me wonder.

The field of HR is so divided between administrative and strategic functions it makes me wonder if we shouldn’t identify them as separate fields. I suspect much of HR’s identity crisis would go away if we acknowledged we’ve been trying to find unifying answers for (at least) two distinct fields. Much as finance and accounting or marketing and sales are split, imagine the issues that would quickly dissolve away if we could allow HR to move in two different directions.

“Us vs them” is a powerful, powerful quirk of human thinking. It carries a lot of judgment and self-righteousness. Be very careful how you define “us” and “them”. Consider the possibility that it might really be “us and them”, or even just “us”.

Some other quick thoughts (mostly shared by others):

HR needs to stop waiting for someone to ask us to do and simply find what needs to be done and get on with it. If it requires permission, make a case for it and sell it. Stop waiting.

Technology/tools can be an enhancement or a distraction from the people/business connection. Like all tools, none are inherently good or bad, but how we use them determines how much they will help or hinder.

Statistics can’t predict the individual. Ever.

Integrate HR into the business processes instead of trying to integrate the business processes into HR.

Use imagination first to play and explore and then apply expertise to make it possible.

The future is scary when you don’t feel you have any control. The future is exciting when you feel you are creating it; it’s threatening when you want things to stay the same (or go back to being how they were); it’s liberating when you see how it could be even better than today.

I need to spend more time kicking ideas around with smart, passionate people. Really can’t do that enough.

 There’s lots more from those two great days that I’m still processing and thinking about. Joe and Jason are threatening to offer it again in the future and I’m excited to see how The Frontier Project evolves. Good, good stuff.