HR Can’t Be Strategic If They’re Busy Being Your Mother

noseI’ve been honored to work in the HR industry for twenty years.  Honestly, with all the perceived negatives, there are so many more great moments that make working with people worthwhile.  But, as I sit here as an analyst, conducting research surveys and interviewing HR leaders, I find it sad that we are not really moving the needle as much as we should.  Why?  Because organizations ask HR to be more strategic while making them take care of the unusual, mundane and sometimes gross aspects of people management.

Unusual?  Gross? Mundane?

Yes, HR leaders and their teams are still doing the “dirty work” that managers don’t want to handle.  Do you have an employee with body odor and don’t want to handle it?  Just go to HR and they will address it for you.  What about the employee that dresses inappropriately, showing just a little too much of their stuff?  Yes, just take that one to HR too.  Here’s one for you….employees rubbing boogers on the men’s room mirror?  Yes, even that can come to HR to address.  I know these may sound like things a parent would address with a child, but I assure you these are all very real in our workplaces.

I don’t know how the HR department became the keeper of all these great incidents, but I am ready to hear that the managers in the organization are stepping up to handle them.  Then, and only then, will your HR teams have time to actually work on strategic things to help drive revenue or support the business goals of the company.

What about you?  If you work in HR, are you still spending time on these issues, “mothering” employees and leaders, or am I just happening to get a lot of stories from the trenches that are not true?  I’d love to hear your comments….

Suffering at Work: The Skeleton That Supports the Flesh of Genius

whiplash-2014-movie-review-car-accident-playing-drums-bloody-andrew-neiman-miles-tellerFor those who know me or listen to me on HR Happy Hour, you’ll know that each year, I rush out and binge on as many of the Oscar-nominated movies as I can.  There is something magnetic about a movie intended to make you really think compared to all the summer blockbuster action movies that are just around the bend.  Well, this time last year, I had the pleasure of watching Whiplash.  It’s a movie about the complex relationship between a student and his conductor of a jazz band.  But more than that, my takeaway then was that it’s about the need to go through harsh feedback and sometimes pain in order to develop.

When I wrote Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out, I was so close to seeing the film that it was all I could think about.  Now, a year later and after watching the movie a few more times, I see it’s like an onion and I’m peeling the multitude of layers back to reveal even more significant meaning.  So you see, it’s the perfect Oscar movie because it continues to make me think about what lessons come from examining the relationships.  Dr. Matt Stollak, beloved friend and professor at St. Norbert College, shared an article with me that made me want to revisit some of the themes from Whiplash.  The article he shared was a review by Matt Zoller Seitz called 30 Minutes on Whiplash.  In his article, Matt says:

“This formulation is insidious, cruel, reductive, joyless. It turns the pursuit of artistic excellence into a referendum on the ability to endure shame, rejection, public humiliation, doubt and physical punishment. It’s as singleminded in equating endurance and transcendence as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Nevertheless, as a indicator of future success, the ability to withstand suffering is hard to beat. It might in fact be the skeleton that supports the flesh of genius.”

As I read that, I focused on the suffering.  Do we need to suffer for our art?  Do we need to suffer in order to experience greatness and excellence?

I don’t believe I’ve ever thought about these questions in relation to greatness or excellence at work.  I’ve had a more practical approach and that is if you work hard, it leads to success and excellence at work.  When I really think about those key moments in my life that made a difference in the way my work habits developed, they involve failure.  They involved hardship, doubt, insecurity and many feelings that are negative.  From that, the work that was forged became more meaningful to me because I felt that I really had to work even harder to overcome the obstacles.   I wonder if I would have achieved many of the successes I have without the hardships.

I think not.

So, what about you?  If you have reached levels of excellence in your career that you’re proud of, were you able to get there without suffering?  I’d love to hear your perspectives in the comments….

 

Ideas of How to #WorkHuman Today

It’s been a good week here in the mid-west.  I had a great time leading a webinar earlier in the week with Globoforce.  The topic was how to make our workplaces more human.  Tall order, right?  Well, I hope I provided many examples that HR leaders (and other leaders) can use to make small strides in this area.  In case you missed it, you can listen HERElogo_light_backgrounds2

One of the main points I made in the webinar is that people need a workplace where there is LOVE.  Not the romantic kind of love that is the nightmare of every HR pro around, the kind of love that means that you genuinely care and are concerned for your colleagues.  We all have so many things going on in our busy lives that sometimes, when things are less than perfect outside of work, we can’t help but let it impact us during work.  AND THAT’S NORMAL.  For years, we’ve all been brainwashed that we need to leave all our troubles at the door when we come to work.  We have to be strong, stay focused and produce, produce, produce.  Well, no more!

One reason workplaces quickly become less human and don’t have that love and compassion is that we don’t know many of our colleagues.  I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, my favorite news show, and they did a story about Freshbooks and how they are innovating in the way they encourage connection among colleagues.  Freshbooks is a Toronto-based company that has instituted voluntary “employee dating” at work.  This isn’t romantic dating, it’s setting people up on blind dates with colleagues for purposes of getting to know their co-workers better.  You can catch the whole video HERE.  Basically, employees volunteer to be matched with someone they don’t know.  The woman who makes the matches tries to select people who would never normally cross paths or work on projects together.  The two parties then have a “work date”.

While awkward at first, 100% of the employees who participated say they would do it again and it was worth it.  They are able to learn more about what other parts of the organization are up to AND they get the benefit of making a new work connection.  Think about what would happen if you tried this in your company.  Would it lead to greater connection, more collaboration, more innovative ideas?  I’d venture to say that it would.  That’s what I call #WorkHuman in action.

So, my challenge for you as we go into this next week at work is to view your workplace through a different lens.  Is it human?  Do you feel real connection there?  If you can’t answer yes to those, then find ONE thing you can do differently to start changing the tone.  It may just be taking a stranger to lunch.  I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments…

 

Hanging By A Thread- How to Make Your Workplace More Human

Did you know that you’re only connected to your employer by the weakest link?

Think about it.  No matter what we are paid or the type of work we do, we are connected to organizations we feel make strong connections with us.  If that organization, or the leaders we work with, give any reason to weaken the links that tied us to them in the beginning, everything begins to unravel.  That’s why it is no surprise to anyone who has done exit interviews that money is usually not the main reason employees leave your organization.  They leave because they do not feel connection to their leader or to their colleagues.

So, what is the thing you need to have or know in order to retain your best employees?  It’s a more human workplace.  What do I mean by more human?  Well, it’s the kind of place where you are recognized and validated.  You see, many organizations today think that they are doing something special by giving recognition, if they do it at all.  But like money, that is only a small part of appealing to your employees.  It’s giving them validation that what they do matters.  That WHO they are, the whole person, matters.

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There are many other things you need to know when it comes to making your workplace more “human”.  Join me Tuesday, January 26th for a free webinar.  I’m teaming up with Globoforce to spend an hour talking with you about strategies to make your workplace one where employees really will want to stay.  Be sure to share this with your colleagues too….the more people you enlist to get on board with this idea, the better your workplace will be!  Click here to REGISTER free.

 

HR Happy Hour #229: Lessons from The Academy of Rock with Peter Cook

HR Happy Hour 229 – Lessons from The Academy of Rock with Peter Cook

Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

Guest: Peter Cook, Founder, Human Dynamics

LISTEN HERE

This week on the show, Steve and I were joined by Peter Cook, who leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock.

We chat with Peter about the impact of music on our success and learning in business.  We also talk about his new book (coming out in early 2016) called  Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise.  Peter shares his stories from a lifetime in business and experiences with many well-known musicians.

You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using he widget player below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through)

This was a really fun and interesting show and I hope you will check it out.

As a reminder, you can find the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes and all the major podcast apps for iOS and Android. Just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’ and add the show to your playlists and you will never miss a show. And follow the HR Happy Hour Show on Twitter – @HRHappyHour.

HR Happy Hour #230: Email Me! Battling The Pull of Constant Connectivity

It’s an exciting start to 2016 because Steve Boese and I recorded the first HR Happy Hour Show of the year! We chat about email and the impact of connectivity on multiple platforms.  How often do we have people who not only email us, but then follow up with Twitter DMs, FaceBook messages, LInkedin Connections, etc.? Too often!  We somehow get derailed a little bit and end up discussing what Steve plans to do before conference season starts.  Hint….it has to do with facial hair!

We wrap the show by talking about why we won’t make predictions about the HCM industry.  Everyone else already does. Instead, we cover what should HR leaders be talking about in 2016.  From intelligent technology, the world of benefits, to the importance of the employee experience, we cover it all.  Please listen in and then weigh in on what you think is important for the upcoming year.

And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

4 Easy Steps to Reduce What’s In Your Inbox

Are you bombarded by email, texts, tweets, posts and instant messages?  I’m not talking about the fun ones from your friends.  I’m talking about the ones you get from your boss, colleagues, clients and other people in your workplace.   I could easily spend all day trying to sift though all these messages, not to mention the time I spend trying to respond to each one. To top that, at least half the messages people send me don’t really need my attention.

~sigh~

So what do we do with the emails we don’t think we need?  The tendency for many people is to delete the email and prioritize how we tackle responding to the rest.  You may even find yourself feeling anxiety or anger when someone sends you a seven paragraph email when they could have been more concise.  After all, don’t they realize you are busy?

What we all forget is that to the sender, it was important enough to write.  The reason isn’t important.  What is important is that we should take time and acknowledge that it is that person’s work.  I use the term “work” in the sense of discretionary effort put forth with a specific outcome in mind, not actual value.

I don’t want you to spend all day dealing with only answering email or other messages.  What I  want you, and me, to do is realize that we shouldn’t just dismiss the work that someone else finds important.  What should we do?

  • If you ask for a report, read it when it is prepared.
  • If you receive an email, at least read through it once.
  • If you shouldn’t be copied on something, quickly and politely notify the sender to stop including you in the future.
  • If someone creates any work product for you that is not helpful or needed, advise them politely.  Either tell them what information would be helpful or that it is not needed going forward.

Not rocket science, I know.  Just small reminders that just deleting email and other messages won’t help clear your inbox.  You need to communicate with people about what you need, and most importantly, what you don’t.

Top 10 Takeaways from The HR Technology Conference 2015

17th+Annual+HR+Technology+ConferenceThe 2015 HR Technology Conference just wrapped and it is time to collect my thoughts and reflect on the event.  First, thank you to Steve Boese and David Shadovitz for the work you do creating the event.  Thank you also to the team at LRP for selecting me as a speaker this year and for all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing an event of this caliber.  Even though I don’t work for LRP, although some think I do, it is an honor to be part of such a stellar event.

I attended as a speaker and an analyst this year.  I tried to make the most of my analyst time by visiting with as many solution providers as possible, mostly in the Expo Hall, which enables me to have advisory discussions with HR leaders throughout the rest of the year.  I also attended some great sessions like the Awesome New Technologies session and the Awesome New Startups session.  Both showcase the best of what we can expect from the world of HCM technology and it’s exciting to watch the transformation of our industry.  That said, I have ten things I am taking away from this year’s event.

Top 10 Takeaways

  1. Compliance reigns-  If you listen to some of the sessions and some of the leaders of various solution providers, you may believe that compliance is dead, or at least being killed off.  But much like your favorite character from a soap opera, compliance is not only not dead, it’s stronger than ever.  As a former HR leader, ensuring the compliance was being handled properly was what helped me sleep at night.  Knowing that risk was mitigated and that we had all the regulations met let me focus time on more of the “fun HR” strategies.  After talking to numerous vendors who strive to help keep your business in compliance so that you are freed up to work on other things, I’m excited to see that this is truly achievable for today’s HR pros.  Hat tip to Equifax Workforce Solutions and Talentwise for what you all have going on this year as well as what you’re doing in 2016!
  2. Move to Human-  It’s interesting to hear who is more concerned with the bits and bytes and who is focused on people. I know it’s a HR technology conference, however, those companies and speakers who focused more on the people….the human side of HR….were the winners in my eyes.  As I walked through the Expo Hall, I tried to pay special attention to the providers who talked more about the actual people and the benefit of the tools for the people than those who talked about features.  Several providers stood out in this area for me:  Ultimate Software, Silkroad and Globoforce.  Kudos for keeping the people front-and-center as you enter 2016!
  3. Marketplaces are the Future- This was the first year that one of the main buzzwords I heard was “marketplace”.  Giving employees and leaders the opportunities to make choices easier when it comes to a variety of solutions was refreshing.  Two standouts here were ADP and the ADP Marketplace showcased during Awesome New Technologies.  The second was PlanSource and their benefits marketplace.  I can’t wait to see how organizations embrace all the offerings.
  4. Opportunities for the Cloud-  For several years, talk has made it seem like everyone had already moved to the cloud.  As analysts, we know that this is not the case….YET.  The movement is certainly picking up and for me, the take away is that solution providers need to keep reminding themselves that NOT EVERYONE is there yet.  Give these organizational leaders time.
  5. Some Buzzwords are Overly Ambitious-  If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrases “machine learning” or “predictive analytics”, I’d have left Las Vegas richer than if I’d played Craps.  I’m all for talking about the workplace of 2020 or 2025, however, don’t forget that many HR leaders and teams are still trying to find solutions to bring all their people data together.  Others are a step farther and can actually run reports on that data and make some recommendations.  Thinking that HR pros have all the tools needed to embrace prediction is overly ambitious.  The same goes for machine learning.  We are taking baby steps as organizations.
  6. Startups push the Established Vendors- One of the most exciting things for me during this event was the opportunity to connect with some very exciting startups.  From having the opportunity to answer questions for the startup community at HR Tech Tank on Sunday to spending time talking to entrepreneurs in the Startup Pavillion, I was energized.  Two standouts for me were Bridge US and Elevated Careers by eHarmony.  These two are doing great things and should be on your watch list for 2016.  It will be interesting to see how the more established providers react to some of the new ideas startups are pursuing.
  7. Not everyone in HR wants to do it all-  One topic that came up in a session I led was the disagreement on just how much a HR leader wants to do or has time to do.  For example, I think it is a great idea to have technology implementation that is faster and easier.  However, providers need to keep in mind that you have HR leaders who may not have time to implement this technology and that they want to pay you to do it.  They also need options for customized service from you because they may not fully understand how to purchase and implement a technology.  This is by no means a knock on HR pros….this is just a gentle reminder that sometimes, we all need to have a helping hand or be taken care of….even HR pros.
  8. Education = Comfort-  Whether it’s buying a technology, implementing a technology or just learning how to be a better HR leader, attendees want education.  The job HR leaders face is a challenging one and whether it’s through sessions at the event, discussions at a booth, or once they return back to their offices, they need ongoing education and support in order to be comfortable with technology.  An organization that is making strides on providing education for HR leaders is Peoplefluent.  I am glad to see their focus not only on the tools to help HR, but in making them comfortable.
  9. HR needs help with Internal Communications-  The primary way that HR teams communicate with employees and leaders is via email.  This is changing.  As HCM solutions begin to offer new avenues for communication in organizations, they should also offer more in the way of templates or service offerings on the communications to be shared.  Several providers are now offering solid resources.  A couple I liked were from Oracle and Successfactors.
  10. Approachability trumps formality- My final takeaway is around the way not only the event works, but how business works.  I am hearing feedback that people value the ability to be approachable far more than being formal.  Whether you’re a speaker or a provider, spend time planning how to make yourself and your organization more approachable.  Those of us in the HCM technology space are far more comfortable than the average HR buyer.  Let’s make them feel welcome.

So, those were my top takeaways.  If you attended, what were yours?  Be sure to share them in the comments section.