Dream More…Learn More

head-in-sand-1024x808I’m speaking at the Metro Milwaukee SHRM Chapter‘s Spring Conference today about “Keeping HR Relevant.”  We’ll chat about the current state of HR, the emerging trends within HR, and what we, as HR practitioners should focus on to transform HR. All things we’ll be discussing since Human Resources, as we’ve known it and loved it, is going away.  Yup…the way that Kay down in Personnel has worked for the last 30 years isn’t good enough today … and it surely won’t be good enough in 2020.

This issue has been on my mind all week as we just wrapped up 2 ½ days of the Louisiana SHRM State Conference. I’ve served on the conference committee for 5 years and for the last three I’ve been in charge of planning the programming, content and speaker selections.  Let me tell you – I’ve approached that role with the fervor of Moses coming down from the mountain top.

I get pretty wound up about it because it’s essential for our survival as HR practitioners that we hear new things, explore challenging concepts, and engage in conversations about the world of work and HR innovations. We need to learn about marketing and finance and the internet of things.  We need to delve into a bit of anthropology and psychology and geography too.   We need to talk about politics, and the global economy, and what’s going on in Crimea and why in the world the state of Louisiana maintains an unconstitutional anti-sodomy law on its books.  Why the price of gas is once again fluctuating. Why black nail polish is now an acceptable fashion choice and it’s OK to let employees wear it to work.

Yet, alas, many people working on HR seem to think “this has nothing to do with me or my job.”   This makes me incredibly sad; EVERYTHING has an impact on what we do in HR.  Hyperbole?  Not much.

When keynote speaker Jay Kuhns mentioned “talent communities” on Monday I wondered, (and tweeted) if most attendees weren’t hearing that phrase for the first time.   (note –  you may be of the opinion that talent communities are a crock anyway, but that’s neither here nor there).  Snide tweeting aside I contemplated this because of a serious malady that afflicts the average HR practitioner: Purposeful Avoidance.

  • “I have neither the time nor the interest in reading blogs, whitepapers or publications.”
  • “If I don’t think about it maybe it won’t come true.”
  • “I’ll just lie low until all this talk about social media big data globalization dies down and goes away.”
  • “I’m going to hand off responsibility for this internal social network project to IT or Marketing; I don’t understand it and don’t want to have to learn.”

C’mon…we’re better than that.

I do have hope that the future of HR can be bright; I had a number of conversations this week with new and emerging young HR professionals who, if they don’t get beat down by their dinosaur HR Director bosses (stuck in HR circa 1993) are ready to charge forward.  They may lack experience and the knowledge/wisdom that comes from slogging through the trenches for a number of years but they also bring curiosity, vitality and an eagerness to develop a new and relevant model of HR.

Very little purposeful avoidance in that bunch.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”  (attributed to John Quincy Adams)


image courtesy of Optimism Man

Table for One

bistro tableOne of the failures of HR Professionals is the tendency to create new policies, procedures or rules based on the action – or misaction – of one employee.

“Heather wore jeans with a hole in them on Casual Friday!  We need to revise the dress code policy and make sure it states that jeans with holes are forbidden!”

“Karl is wasting too much time playing Candy Crush on his phone!  We need to institute a no personal phones policy!”

“Glenn parked in the row reserved for 20+ year employees; we need to redesign the parking permit hang tags so Security can hand out tickets when employees park in the wrong section of the lot!”

Rather than having a one-on-one chat with Heather or Karl or Glenn to eliminate the behavior, Sally in HR wields the tiny bit of power she possesses and rewrites a policy. She sends an email to department heads instructing them to hold meetings and share the new edict with their staff; acknowledgement form requiring employee signature attached – forms to be returned to HR to be kept on file.

One action by one employee leads to an over reaction by HR.  It’s been happening, or so it seems, since time began.


… there are times, when it really matters, that HR often ignores the actions, behaviors or voice of one employee.

The same HR professional who was so quick to send a company-wide email banning flip flops after Janet in Purchasing wore a pair to work, disregards Janet’s attempt to seek help in dealing with a manager who belittles his staff at every turn. “That Janet just complains about everything; plus she wore flip flops that one day.”

The benefits manager, with her head-down laser-like focus on compliance and Summary Plan Descriptions, ignores a request from an employee for a conversation about available benefit options for potential “if this then that” scenarios. “If I listened to each individual employee about ‘possible’ personal changes I would get nothing done.  I can’t provide that service to all so I can’t do it just for one.”

“Make an appointment to see me next week to discuss your request for medical leave.” “You haven’t complied with FMLA requirements; your leave is denied.”

“You’re having a problem with a co-worker making unwelcome remarks?  Let’s get together next Monday when I’m back in the office.”  “You failed to report Joe’s alleged conduct in accordance with our harassment policy.  There’s nothing I can do.”

Remember HR – a table for one can often expand to seat two.

No. Uh. Wait. We’re Rebranding!

noah's arkThe film “Noah” opened this past weekend.  I personally have no intention of seeing it as I am neither a Russell Crowe fan nor someone who enjoys biblical stories writ large with the vengeful God.

Director Darron Aronofsky told the New Yorker that “Noah” is “the least biblical biblical film ever made.” The crazy guy creationist Ken Ham calls it an unbiblical, pagan film from its start.” If my Facebook feed and other online resources are to be believed lots of church-going folks (youth groups and ladies’ Bible groups alike) headed to the theatres in droves only to be upset at the sinfulness and lack of biblical truth.  Movie theatres were promoting the film as an event to churches (“hey, we can sell lots of popcorn after the Sunday service!”) while, more than likely, leaving out Aronofsky’s quote.

The story of Noah as outlined in Genesis is filled with drunkenness, implied incest, animal sacrifice, and, obviously, the murder (by God) of thousands of people.  Death by drowning looms large which, as a child hearing the tale in Sunday School, terrified me no end and was the stuff of my nightmares.

Yet I’ve known many parents who have decorated a new baby’s room in a Noah’s ark theme, filling the space with cuddly stuffed animals and rainbows in soft colors.  Walls were filled with pictures of a wise and benevolent Noah, wearing a head covering and clutching a staff, beaming at a dove.  There was neither a bit nor a bob of Noah’s drunken nakedness in the décor.

Noah, the dude not the film, got a makeover and successfully re-branded himself over the last few millennia.

The lesson for HR in this (because you knew there was one) is that if you wait long enough and have a stellar PR machine you just might be able to recast the stories about your culture, your employment experience and your company.  Hang in there long enough and perhaps the public will forget the origins from which the stories sprung. Then again, despite your best efforts at showing only the rainbows and sunshine, an outsider might come in, a la Aronofsky, and remind everyone about the gritty, dirty and quite disturbing reality.

I guess we’ll see how JC Penney can handle that.


image credit

HR Juju

buster-500To the casual reader perusing through some recent posts it might appear that I poke at my fellow HR colleagues with the same level of unbridled delight with which a 6 year old pokes a stick at an anthill.  Over the past week a few readers have called me to task for denigrating the entire HR profession. One reader, bless his heart, even told me to “kiss his HR a**”

I like when people are passionate about something near and dear, which, in this case, is working as a human resources professional.

Look – I love HR; if I didn’t I surely wouldn’t have spent the last 25 years working as an HR practitioner and leader.  If I thought we were a lost cause I would not be an active member of SHRM and a long-time volunteer leader with my local SHRM chapter, my SHRM state council and my state’s Annual SHRM Conference.  If I didn’t care I would have packed it in by now and headed on down the road.

But it’s because I do care that I like to tweak noses, push buttons and point out areas where, in my estimation, we’re failing.  Like most people in HR I like to be firm when needed. That’s an HR skill, right?

Sometimes the tough conversations happen when there are subjects we just don’t want to discuss. We get uncomfortable and defensive whenever a sacred cow is tipped or a long held assumption is challenged. I would hope when prodded that my fellow HR professionals would get to thinking about new ways of viewing things, but sometimes all they get to thinking about is how much they dislike “self-absorbed, stereotyping jerks.” (Yup.  Same guy).

Lots of HR people do awesome stuff in anonymity.  Quite often there is no one, save the employee who received assistance, who knows how hard an HR professional has toiled to get something done.  No one knows about the senior leader who had his rear-end saved because the head of HR talked him out of doing something stupid.  We need to celebrate these successes with each other because no one else will raise the flag on our behalf.

So please, I implore you, go out and thank an HR lady today.

I need to reverse the bad juju of the visits from unhappy readers.


image via the roller girl.ca skateshop