Archive for July 27, 2012

Making the Rounds with the L & D Folks

I’ve been a member of ASTD for a number of years now.  I started attending Baton Rouge chapter meetings now and again circa 2005 and found the content and flow of the meetings, not to mention the level of membership engagement, to be in sharp contrast to what went on at our SHRM chapter meetings.  Instead of stodgy sessions from attorneys like “Crafting the Latest Foolproof Policy so you can WIN Every Hearing/Court Case!” we enjoyed monthly speakers focused on topics like developing the capabilities of our leaders or increasing the involvement of employees in their own performance.

Monthly meeting attendance hovered around the 40-person mark so one VERY quickly got to know the 100-or-so chapter members.  In contrast to the HR crowd, which tended to want their speakers to just talk-to-them and give handouts, the ASTD presenters did lots of interactive stuff.  I’m not always the world’s biggest fan of activities-for-the-sake-of-activities but … it always seemed to work.  “I’ll be damned,” I thought to myself, “these training and development people know what’s going on.” 

So I joined the chapter.  And the national organization.  When I became President-Elect of my SHRM chapter I forged a partnership with the ASTD chapter that continues to this day; each November we hold a ‘joint meeting’ – GBRSHRM handles the logistics (like good HR people) and ASDTBR plans the program and selects the speaker. Awesome.

And then, for a few years, I served on the ASTDBR Board.  I handled Membership for a while and then Communications before making a graceful exit and wrapping up some volunteer duties by serving on the Nominating Committee.  Succession planning, ya know?


Yesterday we had our monthly ASTD chapter meeting which featured Roundtable Discussions.  We had 7 tables going and as we enjoyed our jambalaya and fried catfish and shrimp (yes, this is what we eat for lunch meetings in south Louisiana), we shared and chatted and learned from each other.  Conversations included:

  • To retain or grow corporate (internal) knowledge, it’s important to engage with your HIPOs and find ways to keep knowledge transfer alive
  • When incorporating social media channels internally, make sure to bring Sr. Leaders on board early and address concerns about ‘control’
  • L&D/HR professionals need to ensure there’s a climate for top leaders to interact/engage with employees – and vice versa
  • Everyone who trains deals with the need to handle classroom distractions.  Simple solutions include use of a ‘parking lot’ and finding ways to redirect attendees/employees.  Don’t fight the distraction; let these folks share within limits.

p.s.  thanks to Amanda for capturing notes from the discussions


I remember back when I first got involved with ASTDBR and I brought the concept of the ‘joint meeting’ to the GBRSHRM board.  I was so pumped and enthused and excited to connect the energy and people-centered-focus of the Learning & Development professionals with the (often but not always) serious and rule-policy-focus of the Human Resources professionals.

I’ll never forget that one GBRSHRM board member said to me “I don’t see why we would need to get involved with that group since we have nothing in common.  Those ASTD people don’t focus on anything similar to what we do in HR.”


So how’s that viewpoint working out for you Ms. HR?


When Technology is used for Evil

Susan Avello wrote a great post yesterday asking the question “Is it OK to spy on your employees?”   Go and read it; I’ll wait.

Did you pay attention to the bit she wrote about when she worked in a collections office?  The department managers monitored the calls of the employees – perhaps for quality control reasons – but perhaps, j-u-s-t a little bit, for more nefarious purposes.

Her post reminded me of a recent conversation.

A co-worker of mine relayed a story about the working conditions under which his friend is currently laboring.  The friend, a highly skilled and quite in-demand programmer, is tasked with having to ‘check in’ with his manager every moment of the work day.  Everyone who works for this manager must, when at work, open up their IM service and use it as verification that they are at their desk.  If they go to lunch – they must change their IM status.  If they go to the bathroom for 5 minutes – they must update their IM status. A few weeks ago the friend walked across the room to grab some coffee.  He neglected to change his IM status and when he returned to his desk, the evil overlord was waiting – arms crossed, foot tapping – and ready to scold.

Organizations can, and often do, decide to use GPS or mobile apps to track employee whereabouts.  It’s one thing to use this technology to evaluate efficiency and service such as in the case of a delivery driver.  But it can quickly turn evil and destroy trust.

Welcome to the dark side.


Employee Relations during ‘that time of the month’

Bob managed a customer service call center.  With 100’s of Telephone Service Reps answering thousands of calls per day (6 AM to 9 PM, EST), his plate was full.  And while he had shift supervisors to focus on day-to-day issues, Bob himself usually got involved with any employee relations issues and performance discussions that meant the employee was in danger of losing their job.  Being a by-the-books kind of guy, Bob was a stickler for rules and believed that gooey personal stuff like emotions, feelings and family belonged at home – not at the office.

One day Bob found himself faced with a challenging employee situation.  One of his STAR employees (Rep of the Month for 3 months running!) had recently been exhibiting a pattern of unacceptable behavior.  In fact, as Bob thought about it, this had been going on for some time already.  Each month, around the 5th (for Bob had plotted it out on his calendar), it was as if a switch was flipped.  Instead of being polite, cooperative and helpful, his STAR turned moody, peevish and irritable.  Co-workers mentioned more frequent bathroom breaks and as a group, the rest of the team played “let’s avoid at all costs.”  Customer complaints rose with reports of rudeness becoming more frequent.  And once, although quite accidentally, Bob walked into the break room in the midst of a full-blown sob fest.

The supervisor, well trained by Bob to stick to the facts when addressing employee performance, had already addressed the behavior but now it was time for Bob to get involved, which he dreaded.  Hearing about physical and/or emotional physical reasons for declining performance made him uncomfortable.  How, he wondered. could he delicately bring up “a certain time of the month” without feeling like he was intruding or opening up a discussion he didn’t want to have?  As far as Bob was concerned, his staff members needed to leave their personal issues at the door when they came to work.  And he surely couldn’t put up with this sort of decline once a month.

So Bob put his plan together…and called Dave into his office.



What’s Your Name and Who’s Your Mama?

Contrary to popular opinion (or HR desire), and in spite of the advent of employee self-service and other bits & bobs of technology, the day-to-day work within a Human Resource Department still includes collecting and/or verifying lots and lots of pieces of data for our employees.  Before that new hire can get down to the sexy part of the on boarding experience, they probably have to complete a mind-numbing array of paperwork.  And I use the term ‘paperwork’ loosely – some of this data may be captured via an online portal BUT, at the end of the day, Nancy Newbie is supplying us with her information.

And the HR staffers have responsibilities to verify, confirm, and coordinate.  If Nancy makes a keying error when enrolling for her benefits ‘online,’ I can guarantee you that somewhere and SOMEHOW an HR lady is going to have to fix it.  When Nancy doesn’t have medical coverage because the automatic file that was sent to the benefit carrier included incorrect information and therefore the carrier determined she was ineligible for coverage, well – you can bet that Susie in the Benefits Department is going to be late for her manicure appointment while she spends time doing lots of research and problem resolution.


In the span of my years working with employees I’ve run into some interesting mismatches of data:

  • A middle-aged man who, when he needed to complete a Form I9, was told his documents didn’t match.  Turns out his mother spelled his name incorrectly on his birth certificate.  He was, even though he didn’t know until that day, literally A Boy Named ‘Sue.
  • The older employee who was ready for retirement and thus took a trip to the SSA office to get the ball rolling on his benefits.  A roadblock was thrown up in the application process however.  For his entire life he said his date of birth was March 29th, however his birth certificate listed his date of birth as April 5th.  And he knew this was an error; the family lore included the story of how the doctor who delivered him in the early part of the 20th century was 93 years old, couldn’t see, and thus wrote the wrong date on the birth certificate.  I guess Doc Feelgood never could have conceptualized some federal government bureaucrat using his spidery handwriting to deny that little baby social security benefits.
  • The employee, joining Company B as part of a contract acquisition, who spelled his last name “Maynes.”  That’s how it was spelled on Company A’s payroll records, forms, medical files, tax reporting forms, etc.  His badge (high security location especially in the post 9/11 years) listed “Maynes” and background checks had been (allegedly) completed under the name “Maynes.”  It just so happened. however, that his real/official/LEGAL name was “Maines.”  So the HR lady from the acquiring organization (Company B) – and that would have been me – got to clean up that one.

Fun times.


I guess in a way it’s all been like working with movie stars or celebrities; you know – fabricated names and birth dates?

Now Lady Gaga can call herself whatever she wants.  But I’m pretty sure that her social security card and Blue Cross Blue Shield member ID list her name as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.