Embrace change…and a little chaos

chaos“I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me.”

Bob Dylan

The future is scary. It’s rushing at us and it’s as if we’re not even keeping pace today let alone preparing ourselves for tomorrow.

To further complicate matters, the tendency of some – not all – who work in human resources, honed after years of practice, is to hunker down, pretend that change is not coming, and keep maintaining the status quo for as long as possible.

I’m not making that up. I meet HR professionals who, even after implementation, are hoping and praying that the Affordable Care Act will go away. I talk to HR practitioners who gripe about the burdens brought on by the Family and Medical Leave Act…and the FMLA has been around since 1993.

Employee reviews on Glassdoor. The rise of the contract worker. The demands for remote work and flexibility. The globalization of talent. The economic demands of underdeveloped nations. Politics. Wearable tech. Robots. Generation Z.

For some it’s all too overwhelming.

It can be somewhat comforting in this volatile environment for HR professionals to want to go back to the basics and focus on legislative updates, benefit plan utilization reports, 401(k) administration, and the doling out of annual performance reviews.

But you can’t retreat to the comfort of the familiar.  Your CEO doesn’t close the door and refuse to pay attention to trends. Your CFO is checking the markets and conferring with financial advisors to make projections on where to invest the corporation’s assets. Your CMO, originally terrified of Twitter and Facebook circa 2010, quickly learned that she will no longer be the only one controlling the company’s message.

Put your ear to the ground.

“But I am,” you protest (I can hear you). “I belong to my local SHRM chapter and go to monthly meetings and get updates. I read that HR Magazine they send me in the mail each month. Once a year I go to a legislative conference so I know what’s been proposed on the state and federal levels.”

That’s not enough.

I want you to explore and learn and be aware about issues going on in the economy, politics, and the technology sector. I want you to pay attention to consumer trends and pop culture. I don’t care if your favorite musical genre continues to be 80’s hairband music (Guns N’ Roses forever!) and you’ve made the statement that what passes for music today is crap; if your employees are tuning in to Common and Pro Era you best have them on your radar because your references to Will Smith as a hip hop artist are not going to cut it.

I’m not even going to talk here about the need to know your business and industry. That’s a given. If I hear one more HR pundit trot out that tired old line as if it’s some sort of earth-shattering revelation I am going to, perhaps quite literally, stab someone with a fork. Obviously if you work in the restaurant industry, you best hustle your butt into the restaurant and work a shift or two. If you work in banking you best understand how bankers categorize assets. Oil and gas? I want you to be able to talk, with some degree of understanding, about supply, demand and how pricing per barrel occurs. You get the picture.

But what I’m talking about goes far beyond that. Listen…

  • I run into HR professionals who have no idea who is running for national office in their district. “I don’t like politics so I don’t pay attention.”
  • I know HR leaders who have never heard of Glassdoor or other similar sites…even though their company has scathing reviews listed. “They can do what on what website?” 
  • I encounter HR practitioners who don’t pay attention to the changing workforce demographics and the rise of independent workers. They don’t comprehend how wearable tech and the “quantified self” is not just coming to the workplace but has arrived. They think they will use robots and data and technology on their terms instead of realizing that their lives are already affected.

“ I don’t have time,” they lament. “I’ve got work and my kids and my family. I sing in the choir every Sunday and we have choir practice on Wednesday nights and soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

C’mon now; don’t be that guy/gal.

I want you to be wildly curious about everything. Subscribe (or read the free versions…there are plenty out there) to Fast Company, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review. Peruse Architectural Digest and Popular Science and Psychology Today. Check out Rolling Stone (yeah…sometimes it’s still relevant), Politico, and your local newspapers. If you live in the US watch the BBC News. Explore your town. Drive to the neighboring city and take a walk. Ask questions. Seek answers.

I want you to look forward … not backward.

I want you to welcome the future … not run from it.

I want you to embrace change … and a little chaos.

“Chaos in the midst of chaos isn’t funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.”

Steve Martin

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The Price of a Job: “De ducks are flying”

charityThis past weekend I spent some time at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum. Currently showcasing local artists (past and present) in a gallery show called “Monuments & Metaphors: Art in Public Spaces,” the museum is a pretty nifty gem here in the heart of downtown Baton Rouge.

One of the pieces currently on display is a digital model of some art (an aluminum relief piece) that has been embedded above the main entrance of New Orleans’ Charity Hospital. The hospital, opened in 1736 just 18 years after the city was founded by France in 1718, has been the second oldest continually operated public hospital in the US. As some of you may know, the hospital has been closed since the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. Hope, however, springs eternal that something will eventually move into the space.

On the placard next to the model of “Louisiana at Work and Play” created in 1939) it was related that artist Enrique Alferez included a duck as a reference to some shenanigans (and there were numerous shenanigans) of Governor Huey P. Long. A few enticing details were given so I went home to look up the story.

The book Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long by Richard White gave me the details:

“With the Depression putting thousands of Louisianians out of work, state jobs became even more precious and patronage an incredibly important tool. Huey hired extra game wardens, bridge tenders, state policemen, and added thousands of jobs with his huge road building program, with every new job securing at least one new vote. By 1931, Louisiana employed over 22,000 men working on highways, more than any other state in the country.”

 “He funded his political organization with money given by wealthy supporters,,,,, and from the collection of “deducts” from state workers. State employees paid 5 to 10 percent of their salaries, a total of $1 million a year, for the upkeep of his political machine. If the refused to pay, the ‘come or quit” employees lost their jobs. When the squeeze was put on them for more contributions, they uttered the expression “de ducks are flying” and shelled out for tickets to the machine-controlled baseball park or took out another subscription to the machine-owned newspaper.”

I found this fascinating.

It also got me thinking about the reality of not only securing a job but also having a satisfactory experience as a job seeker or employee 85 years hence.

We know, with certainty, we don’t want to go back to the days of Huey and paying for the right to maintain our employment status. Yet, to combat the sort of crap that was de rigueur in the good-old-days, we have created complex processes in order for people to secure, let alone maintain, employment. Want to work for government or big business? You have hoops to jump through and HR ladies with whom you have to deal. HR ladies who could care less that you come personally recommended by Ms. Big Shot VP tell you to “fill out this 10 page on line application” if you want to be considered. Jesus himself may be your close personal friend but there are still rules.

We can, in a round about way, thank Huey and his brethren for this. But is is, perhaps, the price we pay today in order to gain employment. There’s no longer the need to toss a few bucks into the governor’s pocket but it is necessary to waste countless hours pleading like a supplicant at the altar of the ATS.

Huey may have looked damn dashing in his summer seersucker. It’s quite likely, as many will point out, that while he was nothing short of a dictator the people of Louisiana loved him and in his time as governor and later US Senator he did more for the regular Louisiana citizen than any other state politician who came before or after him. He certainly enjoyed, as do I, a perfectly blended Ramos Gin Fizz. He even wrote a song.

I, for one, would rather create my own kingdom than rely on someone else’s patronage.

Or at least create my own kingdom without the need to spend 55 minutes completing your online application only to get a canned “thanks but no thanks” reply 10 minutes later.

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Image: LSU School of Medicine (New Orleans)

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Just Because You Can…Doesn’t Mean You Should

can openerWhen contemplating a course of action or implementing a new procedure/policy HR practitioners stand at a metaphorical crossroads.

In general the process begins with the question “can we do X?” which is a perfectly acceptable, and appropriate, place to start.  After all, as much as we may take umbrage at the relentless HR stereotype that we’re rule-enforcing bureaucrats who take great delight in policing every action there’s no denying that ensuring compliance and mitigating potential risk is an important part of what we do.

Yet…once it’s determined that “yes we CAN do X” it’s quite rare that the follow up question “but SHOULD we do X” is ever asked.

This doesn’t seem to rear its head in relation to matters that are fairly clear cut; wage and hour issues, EEO requirements and the like. Rather it pops up when there are nuanced decisions to be made or when one can opt to domore than is required.  You know… those times when one has the opportunity to enhance the employment experience and treat people like, well, people.

This has come to mind again after a number of recent conversations, discussions and consultations when business owners, HR colleagues and others have sought clarity on things such as:

  • Eliminating paid vacation and paid holidays for some (but not all) classifications of employees
  • Drastically alternating work schedules/work hours. Immediately. Like tomorrow.
  • Deciding that an internal applicant is not worthy of an interview because “we know we wouldn’t put him in that position anyway.”
  • Requiring an exempt employee to be on-site (8 AM to 5 PM) for the 40 hour Mon-Fri workweek even though a project deadline necessitated her working 16+ hours the previous weekend.  Not at the office Mon – Fri for full 40 hours? Just make sure missed work time is accompanied by a deduction from the PTO bank.
  • Charging employees’ time to their PTO bank for breaks needed to express milk
  • Opting to not disclose to an employee the reason for his termination

Ah yes.

Please…by all means…ask if you can. But don’t forget to wonder if you should.

 

“All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Layin’ In The Sun,

Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things

They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done…

But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

All Ran Away And Hid

From One Little Did.”

Shel Silverstein

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this post originally ran at the HR Schoolhouse

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3 Things Your HR Department is Doing Right Now

old officeManaging employee data on spreadsheets

I recently read a job posting for an HR Director position with a mid-sized organization (several thousand employees). There, amongst the laundry list of job duties, was “Provide annual wage adjustments on Excel spreadsheet and relay wage increase information to the Payroll Department.”

Lesson: If you work in HR please don’t think you’re the only one who is behind the times. You’re not the only HR professional cobbling together your systems of record and HR data using spreadsheets, word documents and paper files.

Watching you

I had a conversation at a gathering this past weekend and a friend mentioned that his employer is “putting cameras everywhere. They’re all over the building now. They just want to catch us doing something wrong I guess.”

Lesson: No matter the reason for increasing the amount of cameras at a workplace (safety for staff, 24 hour monitoring for security reasons) rest assured that employees will be convinced the HR Lady decided to install cameras so she could catch employees in the midst of sinful transgressions. An employee once accused me of placing a camera in her office because we knew she changed clothes in there before heading to the gym; she was convinced someone in the security department was enthralled with sneaking peeks at her bra and panties.

Hiding Out

Last week a friend mentioned that her company’s HR Department (already well known for having a locked HR Department that requires employees to buzz for admittance) has recently spent a considerable amount of money ‘frosting’ the plate glass windows of the HR lobby. The explanation, as it has been relayed, is so that employees don’t see their co-workers and colleagues sitting in the HR Department.

Lesson: If your HR collateral claims your organization is warm-hearted, compassionate and open you need to make sure the HR Department understands the symbolism behind their actions. Ensuring privacy for sensitive conversations is a good thing thing but this group is sending the message (no one can see in our windows!) that the HR Department is a bad evil place just barely removed from the circles of hell. Even though the rest of the company’s employees dwell in cubicles and gather in collaborative work pods no one just pops in to chat with HR staff.

And that’s what your HR Department is doing right now.

They’re also probably on Facebook trading inspirational quotes and sharing pictures of puppies; you know, before updating the internet access policy that blocks your access to Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and…..

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Surprise Me Rob Lowe! #WorkHuman

workhumanThere are many things I’m looking forward to at the Globoforce WorkHuman 2015 conference including hearing from Tania Luna who is a trainer, consultant and “surprisologist.” She’s a founder, along with her sister, of Surprise Industries where, according to their website, they provide “a collection of non-routine experiences for non-routine people” as they focus on surprising and delighting individuals, couple and companies. Working with SI, a friend, partner, or employer can provide personalized and unique gifts, customize events to create memories, or schedule events ranging from a private yoyo workshop to a Michael Jackson class where one can learn the dance moves to MJ’s Thriller, Beat It or Smooth Criminal.

Imagine giving Karl in Purchasing (who loves loves LOVES MJ!) a never-to be-forgotten memory? That’s just one example but it’s illustrative of how organizations are refining their understanding of how human relationships at work can energize, excite, and transform the business. HR and business leaders are starting to “get it;” appreciation and recognition is much more effective when we bring the personal-and-human element back into the workplace. Karl probably doesn’t want another lapel pin to toss in his dresser drawer…but Karl will never forget learning how to moon walk.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about at WorkHuman. We’re going to explore engagement, recognition, psychology, and technology. We’re going to discuss the business impact of the human-centered workplace. We’re going to hear from keynote speakers including:

  • Arianna Huffington (Co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post)
  • Rob Lowe (Best-selling author, activist, and award-winning actor)
  • Adam Grant (Wharton School professor of psychology and best-selling author)
  • Shawn Achor (Harvard-trained researcher and NY Times best-selling author)

This is going to be good. I don’t even care which Rob Lowe shows up; I’m just looking forward to his stories about teamwork, risk-taking, work, and life. (Oh…and please please please let him talk about the Snow White at the Oscars thing…)

According to Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley “WorkHuman is designed to empower organizations to harness the transformative power of emotional connections among colleagues, and supercharge efforts to build a humanity-focused workplace culture.”

Interested in joining us? Use code RSWH15100 and you’ll receive $100 off the registration price.

I hope to see you there!

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