Archive for May 27, 2011

Lend Me Your Ears. Or Maybe Your Bra.

We’re faced with a topic that just won’t go away so I figured I would add my 0.02 to the conversation.

After a kick-start by John Sumser at HRExaminer  I’ve seen it covered at The Tim Sackett Project, dissected at Flip Chart Fairy Tales, and discussed at XpertHR. A few days ago, Michael Carty followed up by posing a few questions over at Focus.  Check them here (for the guys) and here (for the gals).

A lot of back and forth about the “what exactly does it/should it/can it” mean since women outnumber men in HR.  Style, innate ability, tendencies towards certain types of behavior?  We can gender-stereotype all we want when we think about why women move into HR and how, if at all, they change the dynamic of their department, their organization or the profession as a whole.

Are women better at HR than men?  Please.  Questions like that are an insult; an implied jab at all the great men who work in HR.  I despise that question almost as much as the one “who would you rather work for, a female boss or a male boss?”

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Layered on top of this conversation, however, rests the larger issue of overall gender discrimination and stereotyping.  This popped up, however briefly, at HRevolution during the Roundtable Discussion session.  But it really had no legs because I’m not sure the folks in that room have experienced blatant gender stereotyping.  Or they think it’s not happening anymore.  But it’s alive and well and still surfaces itself periodically:

*  A male EHS Manager and a female HR Manager attend a meeting and are introduced as “the safety man and the HR girl.”

*  A candidate for a management position arrives for an interview with a male GM and a female HR Manager.  During introductions he calls the male “sir” and the female “darlin'”

*  Question asked of female HR job candidate – “Are you sure you can work in this environment?  It gets hot and dirty and you won’t be able to wear your nice suits and high heels.”

*  Overheard at a business function within the last year – “Nice to meet you little lady, what do you do?”

Heard these, saw these and lived these – in the not too distant past.   I WAS the “HR girl.”  And trust me, I was about 30 years past the stage of being a girl anymore.

Is it the south?  Am I in a part of the US where we’re living in some sort of time-warp dimension?

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Does it matter if HR is female?  Of course not; certainly not in terms of capabilities, education, knowledge and ability.  But until we get past this societal crap and baggage of how professional women are perceived – in ANY profession – we will still ask ourselves this question.

All that matters? At the end of the day I’m just thrilled when I see HR folks making a difference in their organizations, in the lives of their employees and within their profession.

Gender-neutral.  Whether they need to wear a bra or a bro.

It’s Carnival Time

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The latest Carnival of HR is up and hosted by Jon Ingham over at his Strategic HCM Blog.

Another great group of people have chimed in and I encourage you to add each of them to your reading list if they aren’t already on it!

So pick up some cotton candy and sip on a nice lemonade.  Be careful when you ride the Tilt-a-Whirl.  And don’t let the carny convince you to spend $2 for 3 ping pong balls to throw in a jar just to win a goldfish.

Unless you really really REALLY want a goldfish.

Synergy: Not Just a Space on your Buzzword BINGO Card

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Synergy.  It’s a word that gets a lot of bad press.  It’s shown up on lists of ‘Most Annoying Buzzwords” for probably close to a decade. People poke fun of it, roll their eyes at business briefings, and snicker when a speaker announces that their topic will be ‘Building Great Synergy Among Team Members.”

But I’m going to come out in favor of resurrecting the word, because, let’s face it – we STILL applaud the concept.

We know synergy is at work when a team comes together, perhaps even for the first time, to really solve a problem.  We see success when two companies or divisions merge and become greater, together, than they were separately.  It’s pretty awesome and powerful when a group of people with their individuals experiences, thoughts, ideas, and backgrounds join together to become a collective whole.  We get chills (well, I do anyway) when there’s unity and accomplishment.

How do I define synergy? It happens when a group is more than the sum of its parts. It slaps us upside the head when independent elements combine to achieve a result that may be difficult or impossible to achieve alone.  It’s people working together. It’s corporate cohesiveness.

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Perhaps it’s the word itself.  It’s possible it has just become worn-out – a classic case of semantic satiation where one repeats a word over and over and over again until it loses its meaning.

But the concept is valid, so I propose we find a new word.  Coaxhial. Genernormous. Klaptrapuree.

Got any ideas for a new word or phrase to replace the old one? 

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Now excuse me while I go get on the same page with my solution-focused team so that we can develop some value-added deliverables.

K?

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image courtesy of MyGala

Just a Coupla Chicks Having an HR Conversation

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The other night I was at a local networking event (p.s. it was loads of fun – shout out to my girls Lydia and Flor) . It was for women, we drank wine, and it was held on Wednesday.  Read more about it here and see if you want to add your own local event. But I digress.

While meeting all these fabulously accomplished women I was, at one point, damn-out dumbstruck.  One of my tablemates (who I have since named Eva Gabor, cuz she was kinda glamorous and stuff), has been a working professional for 30+ years  at small, mid and super-large-global companies.  Upon finding out I worked in HR,  she said to me: “so what exactly do you DO in HR?”

Me:   “uhhhhhhhhh; **………**”

Eva Gabor:  “Oh Honey…. all I’ve figured out that HR does is enroll me in my benefits and sort of interview me so they can pass judgment if I’m worthy enough for my eventual boss to interview and hire me”

Me:   “uhhhhhhhhh; **………**”

Eva Gabor:  “so what DO you do all day?”

Me:  “**……..**” “blah blah” ‘culture’, “blah blah” ‘ensure our managers are equipped to engage our staff’, “blah blah”, ‘compliance’ (yup, I said it), “blah blah”, “align culture”. “blah blah”, “employer branding’ (oh F-me, I think I really said it and can’t take it back), “blah blah” ‘company goals’ “blah blah”……………………………….. (like I really think I just wound down)

Eva Gabor:  “uhhhhhhhhh; **………**”

(now btw – this delightful and accomplished woman was a true southern lady, only drinks champagne (like the real stuff from France), and was totally not picking on me – merely curious)

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So there I sat.

And initially I was pissed.  Does anyone ask Accountants what they “do all day?’  When was the last time you heard someone ask a PR professional or a Network Administrator how they spend their time? Who the hell  (I thought) is ‘Eva Gabor’ to ask ME what I do all day?  Just cuz her HR people sucked doesn’t mean I do!

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Deep breath.

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Now Ryan Estis has told me I need an elevator speech (sadly I’ve ignored his advice which you should not do).  So there I sat, on this gorgeous Louisiana night, in a fabulous garden courtyard, scrambling for the words to describe what I do e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y.  Because that’s what really what she asked me.  Not what my ‘big picture” focus is. Not what HR means.  Not what HR is about.  She wanted to know how I spend my time.  How do I fill those hours between 8 AM and 5 PM.

So as I sipped a lovely wine (‘tho I neglected to get the name) it struck me that perhaps I’ve become somewhat ashamed jaded cynical about what I actually DO do all day.  But dammit – it’s important.

I’m in the trenches. The lovely lovely trenches of a small/mid-size company.  I may spend hours building spreadsheets, cleaning out files, compiling records and planning system changes that make the lives of our employees and managers easier.  It’s entirely conceivable that I may devote several hours to an OSHA/UI/WC/ADA or FMLA issue.  I can lose the better part of an hour immersed in the minutiae of a staff member’s vacation time as I reconstruct time accrued vs. time taken vs. time recorded…on paper…by hand.. with a pencil.  Sometimes our HR Rep and I spend a few days at a time cleaning out files and purging and archiving PAPER (yes, paper) records. And sometimes, as Eva/Lisa Douglas might appreciate, I have my own Eb Dawson at work who treats me like “mom” – and needs my assistance.

But I also have sufficient time to sit and read and think big thoughts.  I’m fortunate that I’ve got time in my day to ponder and research and plan and envision my organization’s future.  I’ve got time to walk down and chat with the VP of Sales, the VP of Marketing or a department manager to find out what they’re worrying about or what project is consuming their time.  I can stop and visit with employees.  And then I can wander over and visit with my CEO and let her know what’s happening.

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So what do I do all day Ms. Eva?  Simple……

I keep my business running.