Let’s Get #ERE16 Tattoos on Bourbon Street!

bourbon-street-new-orleans-wpthelonggoodbyeNext week (and I’m quite excited!) I’m heading over to from Baton Rouge to New Orleans (a 60 mile drive which, by Louisiana traffic standards, will take 3 hours) in order to get my TA mojo on at The ERE Recruiting Conference (#ERE16). My friend Amber Eastman is coming with me (she’s an awesome recruiter BTW) and we’re going to talk recruiting and tech and employer branding and then probably drink a cocktail or two. OK; maybe three. Probably three.

I’ve not been to ERE before and, let me tell you, I can’t believe I’ve never gone to this conference! How is this possible? I went to the inaugural TLNT conference (they don’t even hold that one anymore!) in Austin (circa 2012 ish?) and then, once upon a time, snuck into SourceCon in Atlanta when I was there for a #tru event. So, in some respect, once I get ERE under my belt I will have completed the Triple Crown of the EREMedia conference circuit. Like getting a stamp on my dance card…am I right?

Look…I float hither and yon with the HR/Talent/Tech/Recruiting crowd. I’ve even been known to cozy up to a payroll lady or two having attended and spoken at a few payroll and accounting conferences. (The swag of choice is also Coach bags and stuffed animals; sensible flats are the footwear of choice). However, there is nothing, seriously, like hanging with recruiters for a couple of days. Nothing. Seriously.

Now I’ve got “HR” in my title but over the course of my career I’ve also worked in a recruiting agency, been an in-house recruiter, and done a few stints as a Corporate Recruiting Manager.  (Perhaps that gives away my age; it was before we re-named ourselves Talent Acquisition. Ahem.). Thinking back on it though every time that I’ve gone back to in-house HR I ended up zigzagging back out and went sideways/upwards back into recruiting. My first love. Truly.

Yup; that’s why I’m ALL about talking talent next week. People – and the acquisition thereof – drive the success of our organizations.

Oh sure, when we work in HR-proper we get all pumped up about our ability to churn out ACA notices or manage Open Enrollment. That magical time of the year, am I right? Kill me now. Employee Relations? Got to master that. Employees peeing in the parking lot? Co-workers can’t get along? A rumble in the lunch room. We are on it!

But… let’s face it. In my heart (thought not in the heart of every HR lady) beats a restless quest to source and recruit and hire and onboard and retain PEOPLE.

That’s what we’re talking about next week and I’m looking forward to hearing from/meeting folks like:

Christine Deputy, CHRO of Nordstrom

Jennifer Shappley, Director, Talent Acquisition, LinkedIn

Tiffany Ligon, Head of Talent Acquisition, Vodafone, Americas

Stephen Leach, Manager, Workforce Diversity and Inclusion, Nestle USA


Follow along at #ERE16 and watch for dispatches from New Orleans. I may take a picture of two of my Sazerac.

Or the tattoos we’re gonna get!



All Recruiting is Local: Triage

sisyphus punishmentThis has been quite the summer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Alton Sterling (July 5th). The ambush/shooting that resulted in the death of three law enforcement officers (July 17th). The flood of epic/biblical/Zeus tossing lighting bolts/’Tony Perkins didn’t understand God” proportion (August 12th /13th /14th).

We were reeling, as a community, after the first two events; it’s the kind of news coverage no city wants. We’re used to national or international news being made due to (1) LSU football (2) the foolishness of our government/former governor or (3) because somebody is singing “Me and Bobby McGee” at some karaoke bar while drunkenly lamenting (in kinship with Janis Joplin) about being ‘busted flat in Baton Rouge.’ (admit it; you just sang along to that….didn’t you?)

Then came the flood.

But let’s rewind.

How do we spin this mofo?

After the Alton Sterling shooting (and weeks of protest marches) and the grief that settled on the region after the killing of the 3 officers, people were unsettled. Obviously.

How could this be happening to good old Baton Rouge? We’re a charming city halfway between New Orleans and Lafayette! Oh sure, we may have the worst traffic along the entire stretch of I-10 but we’re the city that Garth Brooks sings about for God’s sake. We have unbelievable food, great music, friendly people, and what many consider the epitome of college football tailgating traditions. Are we a bit behind the times with a soupcon of (hidden) southern racism? Well, yeah. But, by God, we’re also bustling and growing and working super hard to change.

But then … pow. Ouch. A punch to the collective solar plexus. Awful and heart wrenching and devastating.

But, because our Baton Rouge Area Chamber (of Commerce) has a really super cool Talent Development group (seriously; the two awesome women that have led this since its inception are so incredibly stellar), they convened a meeting of local HR/Recruiting/Talent leaders on August 3rd so we could chat about positioning Baton Rouge as an employment destination after these two events. We discussed how, as employers, we’re promoting opportunities to in-demand talent and discussing relocation with people who, let’s face it, never considered BR as a career destination in the first place. We dove into WTF is IBM going to do? What about our local mega-hospitals? How do we convince Justin and/or Jasmine to choose Baton Rouge over Austin or Dallas or Atlanta or Seattle? This was, obviously, a challenging task before July; by August 3rd this was starting to seem like a chore of Sysiphean proportion.

Then the rain fell.

Digging Out

Two weeks after this meeting we had 31 inches of rain in 2 days. Mud and sludge and water, water, water. Mold and more mold and mold upon mold. We now live amongst sheetrock and gutted homes. Our residents talk about lost cars and lost homes and, sadly, lost lives. We had entire cities decimated in a matter of hours.

How do you dig out from crap like that?

The People

A woman I work with arrived at the office yesterday for the first time since the flood. She gave me her iPhone and we swiped through hundreds of pictures of her house. Saved for her own memories, of course, but also saved as the necessary documentation for FEMA and the SBA and the insurance adjustors and the company’s employee assistance fund/foundation and for God and baby Jesus and anyone else who could help.

We looked at pictures of her life; everything piled on the curb in Denham Springs, LA. We giggled at the photo of her son-in-law, sweating profusely after ripping down water-soaked walls in 95 degree heat/humidity. In one photo he sprawled in a lawn chair, beer in hand, shouting exuberantly to a room with concrete floors; nothing (save him and his outstretched arms), blocking the view from the front door to the far back of the house.

She wept, just once, as she told me about her mother’s belongings that are now lost forever; tangible mementos from her childhood and her mother’s life that now sit in a 10 foot high pile of garbage waiting for the Waste Management truck to scoop up on its next pass through the neighborhood.

She dealt with all this in just two weeks. She’s back on the job.

But not everyone is.

Hiring (not just recruiting) is local

Those problems we discussed on August 3rd (one month ago today) seem almost solvable now in light of recent developments. Not to sweep those July events under the rug of course; crime and institutional racism are not trivial by any matter. That hen has yet to come home to roost.

But how, locally, do we recruit in a market where people are in need of putting their lives back together before they even consider looking for a new job? How do we entice folks to move here when there is no housing stock on the market, apartments are booked across a 20 parish region, and people are on waiting lists of 600+ just to get a rental car? (note: guy at work told me yesterday he could get a rental car if he was willing to drive to Oklahoma and then, once he was done with it, drive it back to Oklahoma).

The economic recovery in south Louisiana is projected to take a year. Retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré, who coordinated military response in New Orleans after Katrina, says he expects it will be 8 – 10 years. (Have always loved me some General Honoré; that man needs to run for POTUS).

We have thousands of residents displaced, thousands of Louisianians homeless, and thousands more destined to feel the full force of emotions hit them in a few days, weeks or months. How do we triage that?

Would you move to Baton Rouge for a career opportunity?

There’s the ultimate talent question.

Source me some of that.



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The Week in HR: Baton Rouge Edition

bootsSo what’s happening? What have y’all been talking about in HR & Recruiting over the past week? I’m sure I missed a blog post or two about “When Candidates Act Like Ryan Lochte.” There were, no doubt, numerous posts I didn’t read about the Randstad/Monster deal. I bet there was countless content churned out about employer branding, employee engagement, personal branding, and analytics that never made it to my radar screen. Oh…and for the serious side of HR I’m sure there was loads of stuff about the looming FLSA deadline and chatter about ACA and open enrollment season that I’ll just have to catch up on some other time.

You’ll have to forgive me and the other HR professionals, talent leaders and recruiters of the greater Baton Rouge area; we’ve been just a bit pre-occupied for the last 11 days.

We’ve not had much time for talk because we’ve been caught up doing HR – in all its difficult, messy, imperfect, unloved, “make fun of it all you want” glory.

My peers (and I know this because many of us have been messaging and calling each other throughout the week) have been:

  • Making decisions with executive teams and owners about when to close/re-open
  • Reaching out to tens of thousands of missing or displaced employees
  • Determining how to provide pay and immediate access to funds for employees
  • Connecting employees and their family members to EAPs, insurance carriers, FEMA and Disaster food stamp programs
  • Setting up disaster relief funds
  • Mobilizing 401(k) providers for an influx of hardship distribution requests
  • Organizing food, clothing and cleaning supply distributions
  • Arranging temporary housing for employees
  • Buying gas, clothes, toiletries and food for employees
  • Coordinating carpools and transportation shuttles for employees who lost their vehicles
  • Volunteering at shelters, meal distribution centers, and animal rescue sites
  • Gutting and cleaning houses – for self, friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers
  • Crying
  • Holding hands
  • Hugging

Do we have issues? You bet. But I’ve never been prouder to live in Louisiana. I see the strength and resilience of the human spirit as everyone, from all walks of life, is playing a part in recovery. Together and united.

We got this.

#unBRoken #LouisianaStrong


A Different Twist on HR Networking

martini with a twistOver the last week I’ve read just about every #SHRM15 recap post. In 99.9% of them (ok, I just pulled that statistic out of the air but it’s pretty close) the author opined something like “networking is one of the greatest benefits for attendees of the big show.”

I do have to say, after attending the conference for well over a decade, that I’ve seen a marked increase in the interactions, meetups and blossoming relationships that occur amongst peers and professional colleagues. I certainly give some credit to the increased usage of social media channels and technology platforms that allow people to connect before, during and after the event. Jan tweets Carol during a session, they meet face to face in the SHRM bookstore, grab a cocktail together at some law firm’s networking event that night and BAM – next thing you know they’re LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends.

That’s a good thing.

Here’s the issue though…often times this “let’s network!” mantra only gets trotted out at events or conferences. People turn the idea of connecting into a 4 day goal as opposed to an ongoing dedicated belief that there is inherent value in continuously meeting new people, learning new things and indulging in new conversations.

Obviously the thought of purposeful networking is as horrifying to some people as is the idea (to me) of encountering a spider in the bathtub or a clown at my front door. The fact that articles about its importance continue to be shoved down their throat just makes them even more reticent and unwilling to indulge in activities that appear to be about mindless chit chat or conversations with strangers.

I get it. But I also find it disheartening when members of professional organizations don’t take advantage of networking opportunities; especially in a small community where, for better or worse, everyone will some day either work or collaborate with everyone else.

I’m a member of two SHRM chapters; New Orleans SHRM (NOLASHRM) and Baton Rouge SHRM (GBRSHRM) and the approach to networking is strikingly different between the two chapters. The NOLASHRM chapter holds monthly evening networking events and earlier this week they hosted a get-together at a wine bar/store/restaurant. 50 HR ladies and gents showed up to enjoy a cheese and charcuterie spread and, of course, wine. This attendance number represents but a fraction of the members but the events are held whether 5 people attend or 100.

The GBRSHRM chapter, on the other hand, hosts no dedicated networking events nor is anything done in the evenings except for the annual Holiday Party at which spouses/guests sit awkwardly, watch HR ladies line dance, and silently vow to never attend again no matter how much their wife/husband pleads. There’s a little history to this that I can speak to (having been chapter president 7 years ago); even though chapter members regularly state in survey after survey that they want networking opportunities, whenever events are held attendance is dismal.

It’s become abundantly clear that HR professionals in Baton Rouge don’t want to attend anything outside of work hours. Reasons I’ve heard have ranged from “the Baton Rouge traffic is so bad that I just want to get off the roads and get home” (understandable) to “I use my evenings to spend time with my family” (I get it) to “I really don’t want to spend time with any of these people.” I kid on that last one. Sorta.

Over the years the BR chapter has attempted numerous times to get local HR people together; we’ve done crawfish boils and picnics (zoo and water park). We’ve done a golf outing. We’ve put together a walking team for charity events and volunteered at the Food Bank (6 people showed up). We’ve done “meet ups” and “tweet ups” and post-seminar happy hours. An HR friend of mine started a non-SHRM affiliated “HR Special Interest Group” a few years ago and built an email list of 100 or so HR folks to whom she mails monthly invites to gather at Venue A on a given date. Over the course of almost 2 years we have had about 20 different people show up with a core group of 6-8 regular attendees. At this stage it’s merely a gathering of friends that, while fun, is not a networking event.


Is it a local community thing? Perhaps. When I lived in Milwaukee we did all our SHRM chapter meetings at night and they were packed. I spoke at a Cleveland SHRM DisruptHR event last year and there were 40+ of us who first descended on a local bar at 9PM (well past the bed time, apparently, for Louisiana HR ladies).

Is it an HR thing? Maybe; although one certainly doesn’t run into this reluctance with the HR Technology crowd or with Recruiters, subsets, to some degree, of the greater HR world. No wonder I like recruiting conferences better than HR conferences; the best conversations, learning, and information sharing happens at the bar after the day’s activities have concluded.

Maybe purposeful networking isn’t for you. Maybe a mad dash once a year to grow your professional connections seems like enough effort. That’s OK – go ahead and stay home. Resign yourself to hanging out in the same circles, with the same people, talking about the same stuff.

But I’ll be over there having a conversation.

With a twist.


Why I Can Be a Feminist and Still Support #MissUSA

MissUSA-CrownLast night we had the kickoff meeting for the #KreweDeCrown; a team of 8 members of the Baton Rouge Social Media Association (note: the #krewe thing is total Louisiana). We’ll be serving as social media ambassadors for Visit Baton Rouge by covering events before, during, and after the 2015 Miss USA competition. We’ll be hanging out at the preliminary competition, chilling on the red carpet, tweeting from the live telecast, and taking assorted trips with the contestants to various picturesque venues.

I’m covering a beauty pageant. Once again.

Last summer the pageant was held here in Baton Rouge and it was such a success that, needless to say, the mayor and business leaders clamored to entice the Donald to bring it back for 2015. That’s right; Donald Trump runs this show and he will, once again, be bringing his comb over and misplaced presidential ambitions to the Bayou State.

It was a fascinating experience last year; I wrote about it here and here and here. We also had a blog site up for the local newspaper which is (hold on!) soon to be resurrected.

Now I certainly have my problems with the entire pageant trope; the perpetuation of unrealistic standards of beauty, the objectification of women, the virtual pimping and unabashed money-making off young women (and their families) who are powerless to resist the sirens’ call of the pageant world. Spare me, I beg of you, the numerous aspects that just make me cringe. In a country with fringe religious groups perpetuating the patriarchy I have often found the hair on my neck standing up at the mere thought of a spectacle that celebrates the unmarried (and subliminally virginal) woman and categorizes her via European standards of beauty while minimizing any personal attributes beyond her ability to smile and speak coherently into a camera.

Yet, at the same time, I detest stereotypes and will never – with every ounce of my being – relegate people to expected behavioral norms. Therefore I find myself supporting the choice of those women (and men) who freely and actively participate in pageants. “Freely,” of course, is the codifier; I get absolutely ill at the prepubescent glamorization of girls, toddlers and babies in the children’s pageant world. I’m not quite sure where the age of consent sets in but I’m fairly certain that the average 3-year-old pageant contestant hasn’t made the decision to get hair extensions. Mama Rose is lurking there; exploiting and manipulating while skipping hand-in-hand down the garden path.

But, for young women, does it have to be a choice between burning one’s bra or parading around in a swimsuit? Must it be an either/or? Does one or the other validate the worth of the women who decide to compete in these pageants? Nope Jim-Bob; it doesn’t.

So in 2015, just as in 2014, I’ll have my moments of angst. During last year’s pageant I left the theatre during the swimsuit competition because I just couldn’t stand to watch women in bikinis and high heels marching around the stage like animals at the county fair. I mean really – who were Ian Ziering and Rumer Willis to judge? Ugh.

But feminism means ensuring that every individual, regardless of gender, is free to make the choices he or she wants to make. Stay out of my womb. Don’t patronize me in the board room. Respect my choice to either stay at home and raise my children or to work outside the home. Don’t pay me less than my colleagues merely because I have a vagina.

Let me wear the crown.

If that’s what I want.


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