Archive for Robin Schooling

Your Culture’s Counterculture

Jimi_Hendrix_1967I was but a babe in arms when Jimi Hendrix shuffled off this mortal coil but I remember him nevertheless; he’s an icon of the 60’s counterculture with his psychedelic treatment of the Star-Spangled Banner and the whole setting-his-guitar-on-fire. The blue hairs neither understood it nor liked it.


Counterculture: a culture with values and customs that are very different from and usually opposed to those accepted by most of society; also: the people who make up a counterculture (Merriam-Webster)


In other words, it’s a subculture or group of people with values, norms and behaviors that differ greatly from the mainstream. It’s a specific population of people, during a well-defined era or timeframe, whose shared and collective actions and beliefs achieve enough critical mass that they impact the larger society/culture.

Countercultures exist in organizations too.

Look…there are any number of companies that believe they have the culture thing right; the recruiters tout it during the hiring process and consider it the most critical component of the entire “brand” that’s conveyed to candidate communities. New hires are evaluated on culture fit and that ‘fit’ may be viewed with as much importance (or even more so) than specific skills and experience. The leaders, managers and HR team make sure that decisions are made or policies/procedures implemented that align with and support the culture. (I think it’s fair to say the organizations that view their culture as a unique differentiator are the ones that focus on culture fit; there are still loads of companies that don’t give it much consideration at all).

But organizational culture, being comprised of the collective norms, behaviors, actions and attitudes of the members of the organization is continuously evolving and always shifting – often imperceptibly. And somewhere, deep down in the bowels of any organization, there’s a workplace counterculture. Yes…even the “good” ones.

Now we’ve seen workplace countercultures at work on a large scale; changes have swelled up from the ground bringing us, over the last decade or so, casual dress, BYOD, and flexible work schedules. No arguments here; many of these are things that we (the collective we) think are pretty damn great.

I’ve also seen countercultures bring about change on the organizational scale when, in a defined time frame, the collective actions, beliefs and vocalized needs by the rank-and-file influenced a culture shift to a different state for the entire group.

That’s been pretty fascinating to watch.


According to those who study these things there were two primary reasons for the decline of the 60’s counterculture. First, the primary political goals of the movement – including gender equality, civil liberties, civil rights – were realized. Although, naturally, we could argue if all goals were achieved.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, many of the social attributes of the movement such as the sexual revolution and a free-wheeling ‘live and let live’ mentality were co-opted by the mainstream.

When Mike Brady got a perm and he and Carol became the first TV couple (the show ran from 1969 – 1974) to sleep in the same bed they had, in essence, joined the counterculture.

I never heard Mike Brady bust out some “Purple Haze” from his home office but I think he still answered the query “are you experienced?”

Groovy Mr. Brady!




image of Jimi Hendrix via wikimedia commons  





Carnival of HR: The “What Wins Championships” Edition

Rob-RyanIt’s an oft repeated cliché regarding NFL football that “defense wins championships.”

This gives me lots of angst, particularly when my team’s defense plays like crap in the opening weekend (Let’s please get it together Rob Ryan, ok? Thanks).

The Freakonomics folks tackled this a few years ago and wrote a good post about it in which they came to this conclusion:



Bottom line: Defense is no more important than offense.

It’s not defense that wins championships. In virtually

every sport, you need either a stellar offense or a

stellar defense, and having both is even better.


Makes me think of HR. Once we’re strong in the fundamentals of our sport (like any athlete) and have the proper conditioning we then tend to focus on whether we play offense or defense, don’t we? Of course, we NEED to play both (like they do in rugby … but that’s another topic).

Both defense and offense are necessary for a win with your organizational HR and people strategies. So on that note, this week’s edition of the Carnival of HR covers the fundamentals of the game, ongoing conditioning and strength training, defensive strategies, and offensive game-changers. 4 Quarters. Plus OT.

It’s a massive Carnival this week so grab a cup of java, settle back in your chair, and enjoy all these fabulous posts!


1st Quarter

KICK OFF by Steve BrowneRepurposing HR!!

Trish McFarlaneBe the HR Brand Ambassador for Your Organization

Jessica Miller-Merrell – eSkill Blog –  Is Simplicity the Next Big Thing in HR and Business?

Mike HabermanAre your ADA decisions “job related and consistent with business necessity”?

Tim BarryWe All Need Somebody to Lean on…In our Career

Gordon Middleton – Equifax Blog - I-9 Compliance: E-Verify Monitoring and Compliance Steps Up Activities

Mervyn Dinnen – Broadbean Blog – What’s The Future For Job Titles?

John Hunter –  Each Person Doing What They Are Told Isn’t Enough


2nd Quarter

Julie Winkle GiulioniLet’s Call a Truce… in the War for Talent

Chris Fields “Maybe You Should Step Down (from #HR)”

Lynn KnightDiet and Exercise to Optimize Talent Acquisition

Natalie Pike – Hireology Blog – Hiring After Labor Day: What you need to know

Bill Boorman – Take the Interview Blog – The Times They Are A-Changin’: Taking a Look at the Modern Recruiter

Kate Achille – The Devon Group – SEO Update – September 2014

Chris Powell - BlackbookHR – The Cost of Ignoring Employee Engagement

Anthony J James – Wired – Leveraging Social Media for Recruiting


(HALFTIME – Stand Up and Get Crunk!)


3rd Quarter

Will Thomson8 Things To Consider When Doing A Video Interview

Tim BarryAll You Need is Love…To Succeed in Social Recruiting

Sharlyn Lauby & Heather Bussing - Why Job References Are Important – Part 1 – Ask #HR Bartender

Susan Mazza“3 Coaching Practices for Taking the Lid off Your Leadership”

Jennifer MillerResume Writing Tips from the HR Trenches

Jathan Janove – Ogletree Deakins Blog - Interview With #1 Bestselling Author Daniel H. Pink

Andrew TarvinThe Platinum Rule

Chris Fields“Who Are the Engagement Gatekeepers?”

Janine Truitt – Why My Next Move May Be Expat Life


4th Quarter

Melissa FairmanDo As I Say Not As I Do:

Ben Eubanks63% of Organizations Have No HR Strategy In Place

Linda Fisher ThorntonLeading For Ethics Future? (Or Ethics Past?)

Broc Edwards - new socks: the last post you ever need to read about Zappos

Joanie ConnellBreaking Away: Is the College Transition Harder for Parents or Students?

Mervyn DinnenLiving in Interesting Times

Devin Lemoine - Success Labs Blog – 4 Essential Elements for Fueling a High-Performance Workplace



Winning the coin toss it’s …….

       Dan McCarthyDon’t Lead Your Real Team Like You Manage Your Fantasy Football Team

and with the game changing play ……

        Bill BoormanWhy mobile apply could damage recruiting #trulondon








HR & IT: Friends, Foes or Partners?

HatfieldClan-EI recently read The Evolving Workplace: Expert Insights, part of a global project commissioned by Dell and Intel. For the study, TNS Global is exploring key future trends and themes pertaining to the workplace and workforce, with a specific focus on understanding the role that technology has played in its evolution

There is some fascinating information in Report #1 as the researchers outline seven trends and their accompanying hypotheses. Among these trends are Productivity (measured in outputs, not hours), Employee-led Innovation, and a revised view of Employee-Employer trust – labeled ‘Values versus Rules’ by TNS Global. We’ve been discussing these trends in the HR sphere for some time now but it’s interesting to read about them from the side of the IT professionals.

One of the interesting trends identified is one called “Many hats of the IT Manager.” The researchers state that as employee aspirations shift and people seek greater fulfillment and happiness at work, the role of the IT Manager will increasingly align with that of the HR Manager. Their hypothesis further states: “Workplace IT of the future will not merely be a tool to accomplish tasks, but constitute a means of recruiting and retaining staff, of managing well- being, and of facilitating personal and professional development.”

There are some global comparisons noted; the perception of the IT role will vary depending upon whether it is based in the East, West or someplace else, but in any event, the authors believe, IT managers will become increasingly responsible for satisfying the needs of employees.

The authors point out that the IT department has often been viewed as a barrier; implementing and enforcing policies and putting in place regulations that block employee development – rather than assisting or encouraging access to technologies that increase employee efficiency or provide satisfaction.

Our friends in IT are warned that if, for example, they don’t offer choice of device or access to software, tools and technologies desired by employees or applicants the organization will lose in the long run; engagement, talent attraction, retention…you name it.

I wonder how this makes the folks working in IT feel?

Let’s face it; if you work in HR, depending upon your organizational experience, you’ve either been best buddies with your IT manager or viewed him/her as the very embodiment of Satan. Over the last several years, more and more IT Managers have come face to face with empowered HR gals and guys who have pushed for the previously unthinkable.

“She wants a cloud-based HR solution? Let employees bring their iPhone when all we’ve ever supported are corporate issued Blackberrys? Unblock Facebook and YouTube and all those social sites? Has my HR lady lost her mind?” thought Joe the IT Manager.

The skirmishes continue. Within the last several weeks an HR leader told me “I would really like to implement xyz, but our IT Department won’t let me.

Time and budget constraints? Lack of clarity or understanding regarding the business strategies on both sides? Territorial pissing matches?

Undoubtedly all of the above.

But you know what? If you work in HR and are in need of getting some alignment and cooperation from your IT group start with a discussion around these seven trends. Approach the conversation from their perspective. That SHRM Research report you’ve quoted before isn’t going to sway their thinking…but something like this TNS Global report might.

Just gloss over the fact that your IT manager is going to have to start thinking like an HR strategist; that might start a feud akin to the Hatfields & McCoys.

That Time I Interviewed the Sex Store Guy

general storeI’ve interviewed thousands of people over the course of my HR career; the vast majority, of course, were fairly forgettable. There are, however, a sizable number I recall vividly – even decades later: the guy who ran an adult toy store, the stripper putting herself through school, and the woman who embezzled $40k from her former employer instantly come to mind.

Would it surprise you to know that every single one of those people, having passed multiple interviews or jumping through a hoop or two, were finalists for the positions for which they applied?

Also memorable: the former pimp, the former prostitute, and the 21 year old who already had 2 DUIs under his belt. I remember getting choked up talking with one woman, formerly a mid-level insurance claims supervisor, who went to nursing school at age 60 after taking care of her terminal parents and finding a new passion and focus.

There was also the man in his mid 30’s, recently released from a short prison term for selling drugs, whose parole office made a point of calling me to give a reference (“I never do this!!” he said by way of introduction). We hired that guy.  Within 6 months he was promoted and receiving accolades from co-workers left and right.

There were, of course, a few applicants whose colorful ‘realities’ came to light during the background checking process post-offer: the guy with 14 aliases, 6 social security numbers and a 32 page criminal history report. The woman who had assumed her sister’s identity when the sister went to prison (“Hey…she’s got no use for it. And I’ve got a record.”)  The woman who believed she was engaged to Cuba Gooding Jr. and informed us that, once she joined our company, Cuba would come visit the office along with his BFF Tom Cruise.

There was also the guy who sat with his fly open and legs spread wide, sans underwear, in one of the very first interviews I ever conducted. Alas, I was too young, green and inexperienced myself to alert him to the need to ‘zip up’

God I love HR.

Oh sure…every profession has war stories; health care workers, medical professionals and social workers often have really fascinating ones. Accountants? Not so much. How many titillating tales can one have about spreadsheets and pivot tables? Not a lot.

But those of us who work in human resources will be able to dine out on our stories for years. And while we often start reminiscing (and laughing) about the absurd, odd and downright strange aspects of human behavior we’ve encountered, I’ve noticed that most every HR practitioner inevitably slows down the memory-merry-go-round and reflects back on the multitudinous opportunities s/he has had for genuine human interaction: the time an employee got a cancer diagnosis, that year an employee’s house burned down, the aftermath of some corporate drama or another.

What we do…our job… allows us to be spectators into the lives of others but, more importantly, also allows us to participate in the lives of many.

Yup. I love HR.

Plus that sex store guy offered me a discount if I ever came into his shop.