The Not-So Magical Place Where HR Policies are Born

Most everyone, I imagine, is somewhat familiar with the Cabbage Patch Dolls, and perhaps, to a lesser degree, the origin story that accompanied them (as explained on Wikipedia):

Xavier Roberts was a ten-year-old boy who discovered the Cabbage Patch Kids by following a BunnyBee behind a waterfall into a magical Cabbage Patch, where he found the Cabbage Patch babies being born. To help them find good homes he built BabyLand General in Cleveland, Georgia where the Cabbage Patch Kids could live and play until they were adopted.

BunnyBees are bee-like creatures with rabbit ears they use as wings. They pollinate cabbages with their magic crystals to make Cabbage Patch babies.

Colonel Casey is a large stork who oversees Babyland General Hospital. He’s the narrator of the Cabbage Patch Kids’ story.

Otis Lee is the leader of the gang of Cabbage Patch Kids that befriended Xavier.

(This discovery legend would be reproduced on every Cabbage Patch Kids product from 1983 onward.)

Aw; cute! The whole mythology with the stork, the cabbage leaves and the pollinating bees (no birds?) is full of saccharine sweetness and innocent enough to appeal to both the targeted tots and their great grandmas who buy the dolls,

Not everything in this world though has such a pure and virtuous evolution story. Take, for instance, the origins of company policies; HR or otherwise.

Certainly most companies have multitudinous policies; there are Company Policies written and disseminated by the fine folks in Accounting (A/P and A/R), Purchasing, Safety, IT, Security and even Marketing (“don’t talk to the media unless you are an authorized representative!”).

There is, however, a special place of honor (or a special place in hell) reserved for human resources policies. These are the directives everyone is referring to when they say “it’s against company policy.”  Oh sure, your Director of Accounting may have issued a 12 page Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Policy but who, other than the rest of the accounting nerds, really knows what’s in it?

But the HR Dress Code Policy? Policy #G1-325.17? Section C, paragraph (1), subsection (a)? You can be damn sure everyone can quote it section, line and verse.

Why, I sometimes get to wondering, are human resources professionals so in love with writing, revising and adding more and more pages to the already lengthy manuals that grace our corporate offices?  (“This shall be my magnum opus,” Pam whispered breathlessly as she put the finishing touches on the 2018 revision of Acme Corporation’s Handbook for Associates).

Yes of course there are legitimate and necessary reasons to issue policies:

  • Provide guidance
  • Outline expectations
  • Ensure consistent practices
  • Maintain legal compliance (truth is, there are some items you just must issue in written or electronic form and gather acknowledgment signatures verifying dissemination) and/or CYA

There are also really dreadful and unnecessary reasons to issue (or create new) HR policies:

  • One employee did something bad, stupid or inexcusable and so an entire policy is crafted
  • A weird once-in-a-millenium event occurs (the work week ends on Leap Day which also coincides with Mardi Gras Day and time/payroll processing will be adjusted) so a “when this occurs” bullet point/sub paragraph is added to an existing policy
  • There is an overwhelming desire to create a laundry list of every possible unforeseen employee transgression that “might” lead to termination
  • An HR practitioner/leader feels the need to prove how necessary her job is by writing policy after policy after policy so she enters job-preservation mode and cranks them out by the bucketful
  • An HR practitioner/leader secretly enjoys the moniker “HR police” even though he regularly complains to everybody how bad he feels when everyone considers him the “HR Police”

Yes; you need policies. Good HR policies provide a foundation for you to outline behavior and expectations as well as communicate rights and responsibilities for your staff. Well written policies educate and clarify.

Not every policy of yours has originated in a tranquil cabbage patch filled with bees and butterflies.  Those bad policies, whether they be poorly written or just plain superfluous, need to go.

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Lookin’ for HR Love in All the Wrong Places

Just a few short weeks ago the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition rolled into New Orleans; with the volunteers and vendors and attendees there were 20,000’ish folks at this HR love fest.

I enjoyed the big show; I always do. And, excepting the usual number of Debbie Downers and Negative Nancys who have since felt the need to weigh in on various SHRM hosted message boards and communities about the “cold session rooms” and “the vastness of the convention center” and “the awful box lunches” (hey – you try to feed 15,000+ people lunch), so did the vast majority of the attendees.

As is usually the case the HR themed swag was flying off the shelves in the SHRM store. Frankly, I don’t get it; I just can’t see myself walking around town wearing an “I Love HR” shirt or displaying an “I Love HR” lamp on my desk (note: this lamp is so popular, the store has it on back order. I’m not kidding). Apparently though I’m in the minority as the SHRM store has been carrying this stuff for many years now and the desires of Linda, Betty, and Bob to buy these professional-themed career-loving-masturbatory tchotkes remains high.

Now, I would certainly hope that if one is working in human resources one loves it. Or, at the very least, doesn’t hate it.  However I’ve yet to see anyone wearing an “I love Internal Audit” tshirt. I have never walked into the office of a marketing professional to come face-to-face with a stuffed teddy bear emblazoned with “I <3 Marketing.” No IT guy/gal I’ve worked with has ever twirled an “IT 4ever” keychain on their fingers as we’ve walked out to a parking lot together at the end of the work day.

It’s a nice thing, as Whitney Houston once sang, to remember that “Learning to love yourself, It is the greatest love of all,” but is this need to continually espouse professional self-love due to the fact that we are still (STILL!) recovering from the “I Hate HR” diatribes that began well over a decade ago? Are we collectively so insecure that we’re doing the professional equivalent of reminding each other that “You is Kind. You is Smart. You is important?”

Because, once those tens of thousands of human resources practitioners walked out the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center they probably got reminded that there’s not a whole lot of lovin’ coming from people outside of our little enclave. Here are some comments from a recent article on Yahoo entitled “A Woman Who’s Spent over a Decade in HR Shares the No. 1 Sign it’s Time to Quit Your Job,” that includes insight/interview with Toni Thompson, Head of HR and Talent for The Muse.  (note: at the time I’m writing this, there were 370 comments on the article. Not a single comment was positive about human resources).

  •  HR is a dinosaur concept that needs to go away. I laugh when an HR person calls themselves a professional
  •  HR departments are a joke ow that they are filled with SJW stooges. People become HR because they fail at math and accounting.
  • When will people realize that 99.9% of HR “professionals” exhibit sociopathic behaviors mainly due to the fact that it is the easiest profession to step into and you have to lie and create fantasies in order to give the appearance you are contributing. You don’t need a high IQ, you can hide behind others and find someone to blame just so you can keep your job. Most companies are better off with HR administrators only to take care of paperwork, benefits, etc. The minute an HR wannabe shows up the dynamics change and their goal becomes how do I find controversy in order to prove I bring value. Absolutely useless profession.
  •  Most HR people are totally incompetent. They cannot think outside the box and rarely fact check anything.
  •  People in HR are imbeciles trying justify there jobs as truly the most important. News flash, not so much.
  •  NEVER let HR run your company- They are called Human Resources- NOTHING more! They will run a company into the ground if you let them- They are little more than social workers.
  • One time I told a boss something the HR lady said, my boss’s reply, “She’s Human Resources, she’s paid to lie!”
  •  HR is there only to protect upper management, not an employee. Policy interpretations will always go in favor of management, and If employees think that HR is on their side, they are in for a very rude awakening at some point.
  •  Hate it when some HR person is in on the interview process asking dumb questions. They know nothing beyond a couple of buzzwords.
  •  HR people are either sociopaths or psychopaths for the most part. No empathy. Stay away from them, don’t trust them. They are under no requirement to be confidential no matter what they say. They are there to keep management out of legal trouble, not to help employees .
  •  HR departments are the worst thing that has happened to big companies ever. There is NO PERSONAL contact most of the time. You submit an application and you may or may not get a response either way. COLD COLD COLD. I know some very good people who have not even gotten an interview or response. A damn computer decides if the person is worth pursuing. TERRIBLE. If I owned a big or medium company, HR would be gone. Assuming you wanted good people and bright employees. No one can really tell anything about someone without a face to face. PERIOD
  •  HR is a blood-sucking parasite to employees and they will do anything to anyone to make the owners or boss happy
  •  This article is useless because HR is useless.
  •  Rule No 1 don’t trust HR.

Wow. This sort of stuff makes me sad. And I know…comments on any article show the seamy underbelly of humanity, but I still think it’s worthwhile to read them and see what people are saying.

It begs the question of course…is there anything wrong with wanting to feel valued, worthy and loved? Of course not.  But you know how we’ll know when LOVE for HR is a real thing?

When our employees, leaders and applicants wear those “I Love HR” t-shirts.

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It’s OK. I’m With the Band (recruiting edition)

I live in south Louisiana and let me just say that one perception about our lifestyle here is pretty damn true: we have lots and lots and lots of live music. Most anywhere, and at most any time, one can find a band or a solo artist jamming out or singing on a street corner. There are musicians who cart their instruments around town as they head from gig to gig, while the piano players and vocalists often just “show up” at venues around town and sit in with the band. Everyone, seemingly, seems to know each other because, more than likely, they’ve played together before.

Since it’s so prevalent, I would say that at least 1 or 2 nights per week, Mr. S and I are listening to live music at either a festival, in a bar, or just by happenstance as we meander around town.

I love it.

Now, as it just so happens, this past Saturday evening we were out and about and decided to check out a hidden local venue (aka “a neighborhood bar”) we had never visited. Small’ish with about 12 barstools; crock pot of homemade tortilla soup on a side table (for all to enjoy) ; cheap drinks; 60 or so patrons. We, being strangers, were immediately assessed as we walked through the door but, as we were relatively harmless looking, were allowed to enter.

There was a band playing (blues, classic rock, cajun and zydeco classics) on the small stage and, as we settled in, multiple people came over to say “hi;” the owners (the husband and wife each made individual visits to our table), the bartender, and several bar flys, regulars, patrons all paid us a visit.

Now, as it just so happened, I was wearing a t-shirt from last year’s ERE Conference (2016 – held in New Orleans); logo on the back is a Mardi Gras mask and, emblazoned on the front is “ERE Media” and, more prominently “TALENT ADVISOR.” OK – we who work in HR and Recruiting understand this but, let’s be real, the average Joe has no concept what any of this “Talent Advisor” gibberish means.

At one point, as I was walking across the room, sipping my extraordinarily inexpensive drink (neighborhood bars rule!) and humming along to “My Toot Toot” , one of the gentlemen from the next table stopped me and said “Hey!, Which agency are you with? (my blank stare apparently signaled to him that I had zero idea what he was talking about).  “Your shirt,” he said by way of explanation. “Talent advisor. Are you a scout? Here to see the band?”

First time, I must admit, anyone has ever mistaken me for a music impresario or an A&R rep.

But…for those of us in Recruiting or HR, this experience at this off-the-beaten-track Baton Rouge neighborhood bar should serve as a reminder of how, even today with all the technology and bots and automated processes, finding talent can still be done by getting out of the office and:

  • Scouting for talent (in ways beyond merely digging through our ATS inbox)
  • Going where the talent hangs out (and not simply waiting for them to come to us)
  • Identifying ourselves (‘branding,’ if you will) in a personable and interactive manner

Right?

Anyway, as the night wore on and we chatted with our new friend, I mentioned to him that I was the head of HR for a local casino (“we’re hiring!”) and, I thought, convinced him I wasn’t there to sign the band to a record deal.

But then, at the break, the bass player came over to say “hello” and gave me his card……….

It’s OK. I’m with the band.

 

 

 

 

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The #HROlympics

synchro swimWhile the Olympic athletes are deciding whether or not to stay in the Olympic Village or head on out and book a room at the local Hilton, the rest of us are just sitting here waiting for the opening ceremonies to kick off next week.

Those of us in HR though, in between having super-important-strategic meetings where we literally sit at the table and/or are running around prepping for open enrollment (sweet baby Moses…. already? didn’t we just do this?), still need a bit of fun. I mean, something other than the monthly SHRM chapter luncheon meetings at The Central City Convention Center (oh my god Tara! They’re serving the hot buttered rolls! And the special Green Goddess dressing!!) Am I right? Yeah; you know I am.

So, because I desired a bit of levity, I posed a query on Facebook the other day and asked folks to “name some featured sports in the ‪#‎HROlympics.”

I went first and offered up what I thought was a sure fire winner —- “Forced Hoop Jumping.”

But then we got more ideas; way better than mine. Let me present to you the following #HROlympics sports for your consideration:

  • Passing the buck
  • Running a 401(k)
  • Lying (** ouch**)
  • Discussing Psychometric Assessments
  • 4 judges with numbered cards for annual appraisals
  • The hamster wheel
  • Bending over (** double ouch**) (also – not in that way. Get your minds outta the gutter.) 
  • Lawyer wrangling (this from an employment attorney) 
  • Back peddling
  • Excuse wrestling
  • Synchronized employer branding
  • Extreme cat herding
  • Ass kissing – closest to the center ring wins (wait…isn’t that the #MarketingOlympics?) 
  • Disgruntled employee steeplechase
  • The OFCCP luge
  • OneUpsManship
  • SHRM swag powerlifting (with reference to Coach bags and Michael Kors)
  • The Marathon – (just another day in the life of HR)
  • Biathalon: Failed teambuilding exercise and synchronized bitching
  • The outside counsel waffle
  • Insurance decathlon
  • Picking low hanging fruit
  • Stamina & endurance test: proving you have at least one more f*ck to give

My goodness. We’re a cynical bunch.

Or…perhaps…incredibly self aware.

#GoForTheGold

 

*************

thanks to: Matthew Stollack, Christine Assaf, Stephen O’Donnell, Julie Sholar, Heather Kinzie, Kate Bischoff, Franny Oxford, John Jorgenson, Damona Barnes, Mike Haberman, Martin Burns, Mary Faulkner, Lois Melbourne, Tim Baker, Mary McClure Wright, Brad Galin, Kelly Blokdijk, Christy Chess, Paul Miller (and more….) 

p.s. since, as we know, NO idea in HR blogging is original, let me point out that back in 2012 my friend Tim Sackett wrote a post about the “The HR Olympics”. I, however, think our 2016 list is better…..

 

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HR Service Delivery: Signed and Sealed

signed-11_8Looking for a hot conversational topic when you’re stuck chatting with a bunch of HR professionals? Whether you’re sitting with two of them at the train station or stuck in some in-house training session with your company’s entire HR team here’s a surefire discussion starter: ask them who they serve in their organization. In other words whose needs are they there to meet and/or satisfy? The business? Leaders and managers? Employees?

I guarantee this exchange will be both captivating and heated. I’ve participated in informal roundtables with this as the topic du jour and enjoyed cocktail parties (whilst sipping a lovely Kir Royale) where the discussion on this subject was so tempestuous we managed to barely escape just short of actual fisticuffs.

The answer, proffered by your average HR practitioner, to this seemingly basic question will vary based on any number of factors; the type and size of organization she has worked in as well as the sort of organization in which she was trained in the ways of HR. The answer will be formulated depending upon the HR pro’s previous mentors or bosses, and also the type of specific roles he has held in the human resources field. What was measured? What mattered? (note: contrary to popular opinion what matters does not get measured nor does what gets measured….matter.)

 

The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is “HR serves everyone.”

We serve the needs of the business. In accordance with laws, regulations, policies and the dictates and desires of our CEO or business owner, we serve, protect and defend.

We serve the needs of managers and leaders. We don’t cover up their shenanigans of course, but neither do we bring them down and lay blame. Rather, we assist them in everything related to the management of their people/human capital/resources. We coach, guide and support them so they can focus on running the business.

We serve the needs of employees. We hold their hands, we answer their questions, and we help them solve problems. We may, depending upon the need, talk to their mothers, spouses, priests or parole officers.

And when we do all of these things right we are also serving the needs of those who are external to our organization – our candidates, our communities, and our customers.

Here’s the deal…so often in human resources we’ve tended to think of these things as mutually exclusive. “I can’t be an advocate for employees if my role is to protect the needs of the company” is something I’ve heard more than one HR practitioner say. Or “I need to maintain impartiality so I can’t be too friendly with employees.”

Both of which, of course, are utter crap.

You can work in HR and be a competent and caring business professional without being a solemn and dour robot intent on spreading doom and gloom with every policy update. You can serve others without being servile or subservient. It’s not the role of the HR lady to keep a candy dish on her desk, bake muffins for birthdays and holidays, and take minutes at the weekly leadership meeting but you can still be pleasant and kind.

The strategies and goals of the business inform what HR does…but the how is what each of us as HR professionals determine once we realize who we serve.

The how is the magic sauce.

This question – “who does HR serve?” – is perhaps the most elemental aspect of human resources and goes well beyond a practitioner grasping the bodies of knowledge or being fully capable in the HR competencies. The answer to this question lays the foundation for one’s entire career in and around HR.

So I wonder…how many HR professionals are truly delivering … to all?

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