Archive for April 28, 2011

On the Road to HREvolution

I’m on my way to HREvolution (hashtag #hrevolution) today for one of the absolute highlights of my entire year.  Human Resources peeps, recruiters, vendors and consultants will all be in attendance.  Forward-thinking provocateurs, inspiring conversationalists and some of the brightest minds I know who work in our little corner of the business world. There will be Canadians in attendance and we’ve even got some Brits coming – and not just because they’re trying to escape Royal Wedding fever at home.

I was unable to attend the first HRevolution in 2009; it was held on a Saturday in Louisville and we had Saints tickets for the next day at noon (Saints 30, Carolina 20) and there was no way I could miss that.  So I stayed home and followed the twitter stream.

But when HRevolution came back for a second event in May of 2010, I snatched a ticket as soon as possible.  Most-incredible-experience-ever.  I didn’t have a blog at that time, but the wonderful Ben Eubanks let me do a guest post over at UpstartHR because I had to somehow capture some of the things I was thinking.


What will these next several days bring?  Unknown except with certainty I can say it will be INVIGORATING – FUN – CHALLENGING and perhaps somewhat scary; cuz scary happens when you’re challenging the status quo.  So we’re going to have an “HR Slam,” we’re going to talk about people being creepy and we’ll ponder the question of what to do when “Wellness Sucks.”  We WON’T have powerpoints and droning attorneys and other dull and stereotypical junk.  We’ll hug, we’ll meet up with old friends and we’ll make new ones.

I can’t wait.

And in honor of the Royal Wedding, I just may wear a tiara to the Friday night tweetup.

Round Up the Usual Candidates

Over the course of my many years in HR I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates.  I’ve worked in a variety of industries so I’ve had staffing responsibilities for positions
ranging from dishwashers to Loan Officers to Research Scientists in the biomedical field. Lots of resumes, lots of phone calls, and lots of interviews.

Now generally, when I needed to fill a Research Scientist position or that of an RN or Physical Therapist, I tended not to have folks in my candidate pool who didn’t meet some pretty specific education, skill and experience requirements.  But when I’ve worked to recruit for various service, administrative or even sales positions, I’ve gotten resumes and/or collected applications from a wide and vast pool of job seekers.

Over the years I’ve received resumes and/or inquiries from strippers, mortician’s assistants, and people with 15 years customer service experience in a library setting; prison library that is.  I’ve talked with waitresses who put themselves through school working at a certain establishment (logo of a nocturnal winged animal that lives in the woods) and had adopted the same dress code standards for their personal lives as for their work uniform.   I’ve interviewed former hookers (really), pimps (truly) and people who embezzled from their former employer.

One memorable interview many years ago was with a man who worked for 10 years at an establishment that turned out to be an “Adult Book/Toy Store.”  I was interviewing him for a sales/service position which required someone with the capacity to successfully cross-sell products to customers.  As we dove into the guts of the interview, he regaled me with some stellar examples of how he did just that – customers came into the store and made a purchase of some sort of latex item and he made sure to inform them about other products that that could be of ‘assistance’.  He provided me with lots of examples of his experience managing multiple tasks and priorities – he managed the counter and rang up sales, stocked shelves and simultaneously kept track of the little 25-cent movie-booths in the back.  He took notice of which genres his repeat customers enjoyed and made product recommendations to them on their next visit to the store. He was smart, personable and friendly.  It was certainly the first (and thus far only) interview where I had to ask serious questions about the sorts of products his store carried, but after the meeting I knew he was totally a good candidate for an open position.

My next step was to send him on to the hiring manager, and I used the same tactic he had used with me – I didn’t clarify the sort of business in which he worked.  You see, on his resume which I had received prior to scheduling the interview, he listed “Assistant Store Manager, 19xx – 19xx, All-Star Books.”  Until he sat down across from me during the interview, I had no idea that “All-Star Books” was the business-entity name for the store dba “Adult XXX Store.”  He didn’t lie or falsify anything.  But he probably assumed that some uptight staffing specialist (me) at Conservative Company ABC (mine) would have passed right over the resume of some guy working at a porn store. (note – I did give the hiring manager a bit of a hint about his non-traditional industry experience, but asked her to keep an open mind and focus on WHAT he did, not WHERE he did it).

Now I wish I could say that we hired him, that he was the most fantastic employee ever brought on board and that he broke all sorts of sales records. But alas, I can’t say that.  We ended up filling the position with another candidate and Mr. Dirk Diggler continued, presumably, to work for All-Star Books.

Did we not take him seriously because of the industry in which he worked?  Quite honestly I can’t recall that the hiring manager made a big deal out of it; we always had a wealth of candidates for open positions and would have settled on the best overall choice.  The again, maybe she didn’t bring it up because she was too embarrassed to have a conversation with ME about Dirk’s experience cross-selling ‘marital aids.’

Fairly recently I became aware of a job seeker looking to make the move from that place with the logo of a nocturnal winged animal that lives in the woods.  I’m sure she works pretty hard – they serve lots of cold beer, fairly decent food and tend to be thronged with fans when sporting events are televised. 

But what will she experience in the job market?  Are there employers out there that won’t consider her due to “where” she worked?  Do hiring managers and/or HR professionals/recruiters think this way?

And what have you done when faced with the candidacy of someone who was NOT the usual candidate?

A Letter to a Manager

Dear Mr/Ms Manager –

Happy springtime and I hope you’re having a super week.  I realize it’s a busy time of year for you, but I trust you’ll indulge me and read this quick note that I’ve jotted down and sent to you about managing people.

Now no doubt you’ve attended some training courses/classes on how to effectively manage people.  And even if you never have, it’s pretty easy to find tips and resources ANYWHERE.  Go ahead –  google “tips for managers” or something similar and you’ll find more info than you can possibly devour in a few sittings.

Naturally, as I sat down to write this letter to you, it was initially pretty tempting to compile a list; call it the “Top 6 Tips for Managers” and watch the web traffic to my little corner of the interwebz pick up.

So I started off by making a list for you:

  • Embrace diversity amongst your staff and (pretty please?) don’t merely surround yourself with people who are ‘just like you.’
  • Encourage fresh, new and different perspectives.
  • Have real conversations with your staff and provide feedback, feedback and more feedback.
  • Praise in public.
  • Criticize in private.
  • Believe in the abilities of your employees and trust them to do the right thing until they prove otherwise.

And I like my list.  I believe every single one of those tips is valid, important and something that you need to write on a piece of paper and tape to the wall over your desk.  Maybe you can even embroider these words of wisdom on pillows which can then adorn that plush comfy couch you have in your fancy corner office.

But then I got to thinking about tips and lists and pithy sayings. Is it possible for one to merely refer to a guidebook or handbook or roster of rules and ideas and effectively manage people?  Isn’t that, perhaps, what’s gotten so many failed-managers in trouble?  They’ve been placed in a leadership position and imagine that what got them to that position will carry them onward to success in their new role as a manager of people.  They assume that tossing off bon mots like “I recognize a job well done and reward my staff as individuals” will demonstrate their grasp of this important aspect of their professional responsibilities.  And they begin to believe their own hype and figure they’ve ‘earned’ the rights and privileges that go along with the fancy title, embossed business cards on better-quality paper stock, extra weeks of vacation and a much more fluid  workday schedule.

So I decided that I would toss aside my list and provide you with one important concept:

* * * * * * * * * *

Set the Example

* * * * * * * * * *

For I believe this is the most important lesson you can learn.  You’re always on display and your employees will look to you determine how they should behave, how they  should work and what the tone of their interactions should be with others.   Are you following the rules you expect others to follow?  Are you gossiping or indulging in rumor-spreading? Are YOU complaining about the direction or goals of the company/business unit? Are your actions speaking louder than your words?  What is the example you want to set?

Thanks so much for reading this letter.  I wish you all the best and expect that you’ll have many years of management success.



A “Good” Friday

I’m enjoying a holiday today; it’s Good Friday after all.

And, well, it’s not because I’m a religiously observant type.  Rather, it’s a state holiday and a company holiday.  In fact, almost every place I’ve worked has observed Good Friday as a holiday. Now granted, I’ve put my HR skilz to work at two Catholic organizations over my long-and-storied career, but I’ve had good Friday holiday time virtually everywhere.

So I got curious.  Obviously Good Friday is not a federal holiday, but when I googled it, I discovered there are a handful of states in the US that categorize Good Friday as a state holiday:  Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky (half day), Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas (optional).   This means that State and local government offices and courts are closed, as well as (some) banks and even post offices.

Since I live in Louisiana we observe the state holiday.  No surprise there; we’ll celebrate a holiday at the drop of a hat.  It’s also crawfish season and the end of Lent so everyone can go back to eating chocolate, drinking (more) booze and indulging in whatever other self-identified bad habit from which they’ve abstained for the last 40 days.  But I spent most of my life in Wisconsin where Good Friday is NOT a state holiday.   Yet as a kid and even a working adult, I found that many businesses closed, if not for the whole day, for the hours of 12 PM – 3 PM.  I mean we LITERALLY had paid holiday time of 3 hours on Good Friday.  And then we all came back to work from 3 PM to 5 PM.  As a child, with my parents, we went to church between those hours.  As a working adult, my co-workers and I went out for a long lunch or out to a movie (not religiously observant, remember?).  In fact, I vividly recall going to see The ‘burbs on one such Good Friday.

Today, since, I’m an avid SHRM-ite and volunteer, I’m actually going to be meeting with a friend/colleague and working on some #LASHRM12 stuff.  Followed by a delightful luncheon with cocktails, and then, more than likely, a mid-afternoon nap.  Is this what the state of Louisiana had in mind when they determined Good Friday should be a state holiday?

What about you?  Holiday?  Not a Holiday?  And what about our non-Christian friends?  Will we ever move past these Christian holidays in our multi-cultural/multi-denominational/multi-religion world?