I’m on a Boat!

Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw on board a boat in a still from the film 'Jaws'I attended a Lunch N’ Learn meeting yesterday sponsored by a local business group. There were about 15 people in attendance from both small businesses and large multi-state organizations. The topic, of interest to all as based on the discussion that ensued, was ‘Employee Engagement.’

Being immersed as I am in the world of HR I was curious to see how this topic was presented by a non-HR person and what conversations would ensue from this group of business owners, mid-level managers and organizational leaders.

Some, but not all, of those in attendance were familiar with the term if not the general concept of engagement. The speaker shared some of the Gallup results we’ve all become used to seeing and then explained it something like this:

“Imagine 10 people are on a rowboat adrift on the ocean. 5 of them are just doing their job and getting by (neither engaged nor disengaged), 3 people are actively working to manage the situation (engaged) and 2 are sitting back and doing nothing (actively disengaged).”

It was an easily understandable metaphor for the crowd to get.

But…

…. it led the group down a dangerous path of what they would do were they in charge of that boat. The general consensus seemed to be that the 2 people doing nothing merely needed to be tossed overboard. Get rid of the dead weight. Feed them to the sharks. Consign them to Davy Jones’ Locker.

The problem, amid laughter, appeared to be solved.

But isn’t this, unfortunately, how leaders and mangers sometimes think? “The problem is with the employees; not me!” “Slackers!” “We do so much for them; why won’t they work harder and care?”

And so managers and leaders and yes, HR professionals the world over, find it easier to wash their hands of the situation rather than dive deep and ask the questions like “What if it IS us?” “What sort of conditions exist that prevent people from working harder and caring?”

“Why are we adrift on the ocean in this f*#king boat in the first place?”

*****

Last week we had the first-ever community-wide “Best Places to Work” luncheon; as with many of these ‘awards’ the emphasis when sharing the winners’ stories seemed to be on ping pong tournaments and foosball tables; jeans day and on-site flu shots. Company fishing tournaments with matching polo shirts. Hey… that’s the stuff that makes for fun reading. That also, sadly, leads some organizational leaders or HR practitioners to attempt to repair that leaking boat with a patch of silicone.

Of course, in the recap of the BPTW luncheon, it was pointed out that “when it comes right down to it, the real perks of any profession in the Capital Region are these: feeling valued in an organization, having confidence in the company’s leadership, feeling a sense of progress and knowing that your employer truly cares about their employees’ well-being.”

Hire right. Treat people right. Let them have a voice. Show them they are valued and that their contributions are important.

Although, I guess, those fishing skills from the company fishing tournament might come in handy when one is adrift on the ocean.

********

image from “Jaws” via Universal Pictures

Conference Culture and Local Flavor

Flavor FlavLast week I was fortunate to attend 3 separate SHRM conferences right here in Louisiana; the SHRM Diversity and Inclusion Conference and Exposition, the New Orleans SHRM (chapter) Annual Conference and the Greater Baton Rouge (chapter) Annual Conference. All were excellent. And all were different.

I posted my thoughts on Facebook at the end of the week and, in a side conversation with someone, got accused of being mean-spirited and harsh in referencing particular aspects. Look…I’m not Gallup or Nielsen running a poll; I’m a gal who happened to go to 3 conferences in a week and noted the overall conference experience – as-I-saw-it. I merely pointed out how these three events differed, in my opinion. It’s why I write a blog for god’s sake.

Here’s what I said:

SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference – great energy and excitement; people from all over the country/world who “knew” each other; cutting edge conversations; provocative conversations that push the profession forward; networking and connecting highly emphasized

NOLA SHRM – strong existing personal connections among attendees; friendly and welcoming crowd; standard HR content (mid-level and senior level content) with nuggets from each speaker that offered opportunities for “ah – I never thought of it that way” moments; lots of humor and fun; vendors drawings were for gift baskets of booze; attendees stayed until the end; scheduled networking event afterwards for cocktails with a batch of HR folks and speakers who hung around for it

GBR Society for Human Resource Management – serious business with lots of suits; less personal connections amongst the wider group as people danced (sat) with those they came with; standard HR content (geared to entry or mid-level pros); less humor; a number of attendees left mid-afternoon; vendor drawings were for Starbucks gift cards; no scheduled networking or social

 

Every event was superbly executed by the organizers and appeared to meet the needs and expectations of its intended audience. The folks who came to see Daymond John and Chaz Bono would not, I’m venturing a guess, have been interested in attending a session on Labor Relations (NOLASHRM) or updates on the ACA (Baton Rouge).

And that’s…OK. The organizers at all 3 events knew the type of content their attendees expected and delivered it. I have friends who head to recruiting conferences who would have rather jumped in the Mississippi River than attend the vast majority of these sessions but you know what? They don’t come to HR conferences; they head to the events that provide what they need.

What intrigued me about the week is that the events all fall under the SHRM umbrella; we’re all part of the same ‘family’ yet Uncle Joe is a bit different than Uncle Sam. There are 60 miles that separate the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but, as anyone who lives here can tell you, it’s more than mere miles down the I-10.

And that was my point with the observations.

It’s a bit like working for a geographically dispersed company with a well-defined and articulated culture. The company’s mission, vision and values may be in alignment with employee behavior but, at the end of the day, there are variations in implementation by micro-groups. The needs and wants of sub-groups differ – even as they go about aligning themselves with the overall.

  • “Our company has a casual environment and culture but we still like to wear suits here in the Chicago office.” 
  • “Sure, we socialize here in Jackson. We go out to lunch as a team but I would never head to Happy Hour with my co-workers. I just want to get home at the end of the day.”
  • “The GM for our site added a foosball table in the break room for weekly tournaments. It’s a lot of fun and I go to support everyone but I’m just a bit more serious than everyone else so I never sign up to play.”

Mea culpa to anyone who thought I was ‘slamming’ their efforts or results.

It’s hard to sell snow shovels in the deep south and there’s really not a market for pirogues in the midwest.

And that’s…OK.

This is Modern Day Recruiting – LIVE from #gbrshrm14

bridge2I’m attending the Greater Baton Rouge SHRM Annual Conference today along with several hundred of my fellow HR professionals. We have coffee, croissants and, theoretically, cocktails at the post-conference Happy Hour.

Mid-morning I’m sitting in a session with Kara Blumberg, Director of Professional Services, with Hirevue, discussing Modern Day Recruiting.

Kara highlighted what she identifies as three trends driving modern day recruiting:

Recruiting must be Personal

Recruiting is personal and people want their stories to be heard. In addition, the horrendous ‘candidate black hole’ surfaces (boo!) and everything quickly becomes impersonal for, well, most everyone. Use tools and tech to assist but remember to  tell your stories and keep things authentic.

Recruiting drives Business Value

The reality is that HR/Talent Management professionals struggle with trying to fulfill all their responsibilities and have for years. Today, however, executives realize they need HR pros with a talent focus as TALENT is a primary concern for every organization. YOU (HR people!) can get your CEO’s eye by creating a ‘Talent Name’ for yourself. Add business value by focusing on talent needs…and executing well!

Data Science

Kara made the prediction – “in the near future, every HR Department will have a Data Scientist on staff…OR the Data Scientists will replace HR.”  (Gasps, disagreement and “but what about the need for HR to be people-people?” came up.)

And I get it. It’s frightening for many HR practitioners who have not felt the need to stay on top of trends Who have not realized that HR must have a future focus. Who have long considered technology and data and analytics to be something that resides in the server room with the IT Department.

So in the end, this was a great session for our Baton Rouge HR Community; I’ve long tried to be a resource and share information so I appreciate any and every opportunity when learning on these topics occurs.  I hope many of them read this recap of the #HRTechConf from Josh Bersin – The Top 10 Disruptions In HR Technology: Ignore Them At Your Peril.

As Kara commented when wrapping up - “The bus is full; but if you’re not on it….another bus is coming!”

Changing the Conversation about Diversity & Inclusion – #SHRMDiv

s_HomeI had the opportunity to attend the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference and Exposition in New Orleans on Monday and was just enraptured; it was my first time attending this particular SHRM conference.

I could tell, right out of the gate, that this event was going to be a bit different than the typical HR event (SHRM or otherwise) geared towards the masses of HR practitioners trying to scoop up re-certification credits. It was small (500 or so attendees I would estimate) and the energy, passion and excitement was palpable. Smart, authentic, honest and human conversations were happening all around me as soon as I walked in and sat down for the opening general session.

During the session, after we all did a brief activity with the person sitting next to us (talking about unconscious bias), a few people shared their thoughts with the larger audience. When an HR/D&I pro stood up and said “As a gay black male here is what I experience everyday….” it was confirmed for me yet again that this was not your mama’s HR conference. I’ve been to HR conferences with your mama (and your daddy). Sometimes she’s racist, homophobic and judgmental; she quite possibly would have rolled her eyes at this guy’s honesty.

And it was the honesty I appreciated so much at this conference; people (HR people!) were their most authentic selves at every turn. No one was afraid to point out the absurdities of some of the residual attitudes they encounter every day in their D&I work. In a session I attended the speaker said “I’m a white middle-aged male. My friends don’t understand how it came to be that I’m speaking at a Diversity conference.” (and all of us in the room chuckled knowingly).

We didn’t hear chatter about EEO-1 reports or affirmative action. We didn’t sit through sessions run by the EEOC. Rather we had the chance to discuss “Building an ROI-Focused Diversity Scorecard” and “Assessing and Developing Passion for Global Diversity.” There were session offerings about religious diversity, using Six Sigma to link innovation with diversity, and how to address the biases that exist against the unemployed.

As Dr. Shirley Davis (SHRM’s former VP of Global Diversity & Inclusion and Workforce Strategies) told me during a video interview we did “we have changed the conversation about what diversity and inclusion is.”

I agree. We have. But our continuing work is getting all HR practitioners invested in that conversation.

Here’s the deal: I’m a SHRM member, former chapter president, and long time volunteer leader at the state level and I travel around quite a bit and see activities at the chapter level far and wide. Many SHRM chapters and state councils now have a Diversity Director position on their board and quite a number of chapters (and state councils) promote “Diversity Awards.” Yet I can tell you that the old conversation still reigns supreme as race and gender (with a smattering of generational diversity) continue to be the overwhelming topic of D&I talk. Compliance and coded keywords are prevalent. Too often, in my estimation, when HR practitioners say “we have a diverse workforce” they are merely doing a mental tabulation of their workforce demographics: white vs. black, old vs. young, males vs. females.

How do we disrupt that?

The Monday afternoon keynote speaker Daymond John, said something that is wildly appropriate to everything we do in HR but especially in our approach to building and embracing inclusion:

 

“The world is getting smaller and there is disruption in every industry.

We can either take advantage of that … or we will fall by the wayside.”

 

Let’s not fall by the wayside.