Archive for February 29, 2012

Talk to Me – Transform HR

I just came back from the inaugural (and wonderful) TLNT Transform HR conference.  In many ways it was a typical HR conference; HR Body-of-Knowledge stuff, HRCI recertification credits, a busy Exhibit Hall with interesting vendors, lots of chocolate (thanks Pinstripe!) and a cocktail hour or two.  The model was a mix of 50% general sessions and 50% break-out sessions and the topics ran the gamut from employee benefits to building value through relationships and social capital.  While I sift through and process some of my specific session take-aways, I did identify one theme that I found throughout many of the sessions as well as in definite and abundant supply in the general conference experience communication is key.

Content and conversation over the two days covered use of social channels (Twitter, Facebook, internal IM systems) and the building of internal-company-specific social networks and collaborative sites.  Employee engagement strategies were presented, dissected and questioned.  And many presenters highlighted, via various stories and illustrative examples, the simple power of the picking up the telephone and/or having a face to face conversation to further a relationship, give feedback or strengthen a human connection.  Everything old may, in fact, be new again.

Is it possible that we transform HR by returning to some of the basics?  Talk may be cheap…but it’s pretty effective.

My Big Phat HR Department

I’ve worked for a variety of organizations and in a vast array of HR Departments.  I’ve been a solo practitioner (several times), I’ve been the HR head honcho, I’ve been a Functional HR Manager in a shop of 30, and I’ve been a cog-in-the-wheel of a ginormous global team with hundreds of HR folks.

My current role has me being the head of HR for a mid-sized organization with a small HR staff.  It’s a good size and one which I enjoy – I’m not ‘alone’ so I have folks with whom to have conversations about all the awesomeness that is HR.  And, of course, I have the greater local HR community so I can easily meet someone for lunch or have a quick phone chat when there’s something I want to discuss.  So it’s cool.  But…

…I do kind of miss my days at the ginormous-global company.  Several times a year we would all converge at a conference center/hotel for 2-3 days of meetings, training sessions, or to plan for upcoming company initiatives.  I got to hang with hundreds of my HR co-workers from across the world – learning about their day-to-day happenings in the UK or Argentina or Mexico or Toledo, Ohio.  We talked about what worked and what didn’t.  We swapped stories about the sites and the management teams we supported.  We talked about what made our locations unique.  Inevitably, one of my sites was featured on a slide deck or two (usually during the presentation by our in-house counsel) and I got to get up and share the peculiarities that lay within the Collective Bargaining Agreement which covered about 200 of my employees.  It didn’t matter that the organization had locations with Teamsters – those CBAs were old news.  My CBA, however, was always a source of constant amusement amazement.

We also had a lot of fun.  We had dinners and happy hours and social activities.  We took over a comedy club one night.  We went nightclubbing.  We went dancing.  Inevitably, some nice HR folks acted semi-inappropriately and wondered if their career was over.  People slinked into early morning sessions just a bit bleary-eyed.  Good times.


It was a change when I moved from a super-sized organization to a smaller scale and for the longest time I thought how about much I missed being part of a large HR group.

But you know what?  I still am a member of a large HR Department.

Over the last several years, relationships which originated in social media and then turned into offline relationships, have brought me into an even larger HR community. And just as with those departmental-gatherings-of-old, several times per year I get together with these colleagues and friends for educational goodness, snappy debates and mind-itching discussions.  We also have dinners and happy hours and social activities.  We go nightclubbing.  We go dancing.  Some nice HR folks act semi-inappropriately and people slink into early morning sessions just a bit bleary-eyed. Like this morning.

Good times.

**** p.s. And no; that picture at the top of the post is NOT my HR posse.  For the story, see what Frank Roche has to say

It’s (Still) Carnival Time!

So between Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras and the veritable monsoon we had in south Louisiana over the weekend I’ve been super busy.  And, if you’re like me, the week of festivities just totally took you out of the normal pace o’ business.  So you can thank me for linking you to last week’s CARNIVAL OF HR hosted over at Laurie Ruettimann’s home base The Cynical Girl.

I.  Check out all the awesome content and read these people right now if you are not already doing so.  Seriously.  Do it now.

2.  Make sure to stay tuned to the ongoing Carnival of HR.  Post-haste.

And yeah – Laurie assigned all the music herself.  She knows I adore that Mick Jones who does a bang-up job as lead vocalist on the selected track.  And I’ve got mad love, of course, for  Joe Strummer (RIP).  The Only Band that Matters.

Employee Stagnation? Not in My Pool

We’ve hit a patch of lovely spring weather here in south Louisiana; the trees are budding and the flowers are in bloom.  There are even mosquitos buzzing about – well, of course, they never really went away over the winter.  Soon, spring will turn into summer and our wet weather will lead to the formation of fetid and stagnant bodies of water in swimming pools, fountains, bird baths, ponds and/or low-lying areas.  A delightful breeding ground for more mosquitos.  Ick.


1. Not moving or flowing; motionless.
2. Foul or stale from standing: stagnant ponds.
3. Showing little or no sign of activity or advancement; not developing or progressing; inactive: a stagnant economy.
b. Lacking vitality or briskness; sluggish or dull: a stagnant mind.


Over the last several years of the sluggish economy we’ve been warned that once things pick up, employees who have felt their careers stand-still will leave their organizations in droves.  These stories, of course, have been targeted to organizational leaders, managers and HR professionals with stern reminders to make sure that even during times of slashed budgets and lowered headcount we make sure to keep long-term engagement tactics in mind.  And certainly, many many employees have mentally checked out over the last few years; the value proposition into which they entered with their employer was determined to be a crock – ennui set-in, perhaps a bit of passive-aggressive behavior was exhibited.  Refrains of “my employer doesn’t care about me so I’m just going to do the minimum until I can get the hell outta here” rang out down corporate hallways and at post-work happy hour gatherings around the globe.

But employees have been listless and lifeless for decades.  Who among us hasn’t worked with someone who pops in each day, sits at their desk or stands at their work station and churns out the bare minimum?  Gordon in IT hasn’t bothered to upgrade his skills with any new technolgies for years and the only thing that gets Gail in the Customer Billing Department moving is free cake in the break room.

I’ve seen it, you’ve seen and managers the world over have let it occur.  Gail has became motionless and content to just hang-out and collect a paycheck and her manager has allowed her tepid-non-moving soul to do just that.

And while the ultimate responsibility rests with Gail to once again demonstrate some activity and get her groove back, there’s also an absolute necessity for her manager to stir up the water.

If the water in my backyard pond sits a little too long without something moving it around I see a change pretty quickly.  I’ve got to go outside send Mr. S out to dump that green, brackish water and scour out the algae that’s starting to form on the sides.  He primes the pump, turns on the spigot and gets everything moving again.

So Gail – turn on your pump.  Or your manager is going to do it for you.