Julia and Me (and Chaz! And Michelle!) #WorkHuman

This is year 3 (three!!) of Globoforce’s #WorkHuman conference and I have been attending since the beginning.

I’ve also been the biggest fan of this event. It’s kind of tribal…like heading to get tattoos with all your girlfriends one weekend.  Or a super bonding camping trip where everyone has to use a communal port-a-potty.

Sounds weird for an HR conference but it’s really not.

I’ve never been a devotee of the sunrise yoga at 7 AM (have not attended one single session…#shocker), nor have I been particularly enamored with the flavored water served at “refreshment break” time when all I really desired was carbonation and/or a strong cup of java, yet…I still get all ramped up by every other element.

And the attendees? Smart people who are interested in what makes human beings tick. Talent professionals who are intrigued by how to make work better and how to create organizations that allow people to do their best work.

So yeah…I planned on attending in 2017 as soon as last year’s conference ended and then, BAM, the following ‘announcements’ are made (in this approximate order):

  1. Adam Grant back as a keynote (omg.. y’all…I loved him so much! And he wrote a new book with Sheryl Sandberg)
  2. Susan Cain announced as another keynote speaker; author of “Quiet Power”
  3. Globoforce extends an invitation to me and my co-presenter Bill Boorman to lead a session on “Hiring for a ‘Challenging’ Culture.” 
  4. OMG!  Julia Louis-Dreyfus is announced as a keynote speaker (Elaine moments galore float through the recesses of my brain).
  5. Sweet Fancy Moses – we now have Chaz Bono as a keynote
  6. Michelle Obama is unveiled as the closing keynote! Michelle Obama! 

When that Michelle Obama announcement was made I swear to you that I literally died and somehow resurrected my temporal not-quite-human spirit to come back to earth and assume bodily form in order to get myself to Phoenix at the end of May.

Truly.

So…do YOU wanna join me?  There are still some tickets left but you have to move fast; the conference is almost sold out! But, if you register HERE and use code WH17INF-RSC you can save $500 off the price of registration.

See you in Phoenix! 

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Repeat After Me: Just Don’t Be a Richard

I’ve had numerous conversations over the last several months that have given me pause as an HR professional.  Wait, let me amend that. Conversations that have given me pause as a business professional.

These conversations were with employees, managers and leaders who work in fly-over country for salt-of-the-earth, middle America, un-sexy companies in non-glamorous industries.  Insurance companies, manufacturing plants, and hospitals. Restaurants, transportation providers, call-centers and governmental entities.

You know…real jobs with real people; not the “world of work” we’re fed via the glossy pages of Fast Company magazine and its brethren.

This, my friends, is the world where punitive attendance polices still exist (as opposed to flexible work/life integration practices) and performance management programs cozily snuggle up next to forced rankings. A place where business owners and/or organizational leaders still feel it’s A-OK to suggest that a female candidate can be paid less because “she’s probably not the primary bread-winner for the family.”  A reality where not everyone has access to Slack or Dropbox or, believe it or not, even a mobile device with WIFI capability. This, of course, means that work schedules are posted on a bulletin board and employees take a bus across town to physically visit the workplace to check their schedule for the next week. And, in a perverted distortion of humanity, if they can’t physically view their schedule (or get hold of anyone via telephone) and thus miss a scheduled shift, they are then penalized via that draconian attendance policy. Full circle in a Kafkaesque world.

These are the workplaces that are veritable orgies of old-school management practices overlaid with a slick (and false) veneer of culture, values, and sexy branding. The sort of places that win a “Best Places to Work” award conferred by the Chamber of Commerce, local media conglomerate, or a third-party Rewards and Recognition vendor that paid big bucks to ‘sponsor’ the awards.

Workplaces where, sometimes, the managers/leaders still operate as if they’re running a Dickensian workhouse. Why? Sometimes it’s due to… 

  • Narcissistic love of power – “I’m in charge and I make the rules” (Waah ha ha!!)
  • Managers who developed their personal style of management at the knee of a mentor (raised up in the 70’s) and are too afraid or too lazy to adjust at this stage of the game
  • The ingrained belief that “everyone is out to screw us” (most often evidenced in business owners as opposed to leaders in an enterprise organization or governmental entity)
  • Stereotypes
  • Prejudices
  • Privilege

When will the day arrive when more workers can reap the benefits of our “new way of working?” Will we ever bridge the digital divide and find a way for everyone to benefit from the use of technology? What about workplace flexibility and the ability to take sick leave and not be ostracized for giving birth or having surgery or spending time with an ill family member? I think we can look back to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (106 years ago) and see vast improvements…but there are still locks on the doors.  Those barricades, placed on the doors by owners and managers, are now preventing people from opportunity and freedom of another kind.

Workplace freedom.

Note: this post, and its title, was inspired by a recent conversation with a business owner who said that her company’s policy around unlimited vacation for employees is “take off whatever time you need, just don’t be a dick about it.”  

Simple. Easy. Common sense.  

 

image: via tshirt hub

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Humans Work Best…When They #WorkHuman

Many years ago I held a job that just drained every ounce of my mojo.

It wasn’t an overly taxing gig; truth be told the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities at Acme Corporation (as we’ll call it) were fairly easy.  Every now and again I got to stretch myself and do something new and/or innovative and/or exciting but, for all practical purposes, it was the HR equivalent of assembling widgets on a factory line.  (No slight to widget makers BTW; I’ve done an HR tour in that setting and it can be damn hard work).

I would come home at the end of the day from Acme Corporation just totally wiped. Bear in mind this was probably, when all is said and done, the least strenuous job I ever had in my life. This was 8-5 with no excess hours, no expectation of answering calls or emails or smoke signals after hours and no need to worry about catching up on the weekends. Of course there was no flexibility and very little autonomy but, once again, “punch-in and punch-out?”  Sweet-sounding gig for those who are over-burdened…isn’t it?

Well..no.  It’s not.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Part of what made that Acme Corporation gig so utterly exhausting was the lack of any human-connectiveness from person-to-person (or team-to-team). I mean I can barely put into words how staid and quiet and serious everything was; even “fun” activities were a chore. It was the traditional top-down hierarchical model and, let me tell you, nothing happened without the CEO signing off on it. A complete 180 from the current experience I have working freelance with clients in the financial services space, like my favorite: a boutique borrowing and payments company in the FinTech space known as Sambla.

One time a senior leader did an impromptu “thank you” treat/snack/let’s gather at the coffee pot moment for his 10 person department; the sort of thing that good managers do regularly and instinctively. No big deal, am I right? The CEO got wind of this and was furious – I mean f-u-r-i-o-u-s.  Why? Power? Not something being seen as flowing from the CEO’s largesse? I dunno.  But it stunk. And, obviously, I left that environment a long time ago.

Cuz I’m a human being. And I didn’t want to work that way.

I bet you don’t either.

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Come get your mojo back at WorkHuman – a conference like no other where you’ll be energized and inspired as we immerse ourselves in conversations about maximizing the potential of our employees by keeping them happy, providing feedback and recognition, and encouraging them to bring their whole selves to work in order to fully contribute to and be involved in organizational success.  I love this event! This is the third year of the conference and the third time I’m attending – and this year I’ll be speaking!

Register with referral code WH17INF-RSC by tomorrow (1/31/17) and you’ll get $100 off the standard registration rate. If you register after that and use the code you can still get a flat rate of $995! 

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Now Listen Up: #TalentTalk

old-time-radioI like to talk (surprise!) and, perhaps more specifically, I quite often like to talk about HR, talent development, and leadership.  Nothing wrong with that; I enjoy what I do in my day-to-day life and never (well, rarely ever) get tired discussing the impact exceptional HR practitioners can have on the success of their organizations.

Oh sure – the vast majority of the population may not have a burning desire to listen in to a radio show (let alone a podcast that lives on well past the air date) about HR and talent practices, but many folks, just like me, do.

If you happen to be someone who falls into the “yes; let’s talk talent!” camp, make sure to join me today (Tuesday November 29th – 1 PM PST), when I join CEO Chris Dyer from peopleG2 as we have a conversation about the state of human resources, how HR leaders can make a difference, organizational culture and whatever else strikes our fancy.

You can listen here and follow along on twitter at #talenttalk.

 

 

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Here’s What Talent Agility Looks Like (redux)

rubber bandsMary managed a small team consisting of 3 employees. The positions they held were coveted jobs in a small but well-known company. With few exceptions these employees tended to be entry-level professionals who used these jobs to launch their careers – ultimately moving on to bigger and better things at other organizations. Even though salaries were below-market and there was limited career mobility due to the size of the organization, morale was high and the employment experience enjoyable. Tenure for these positions was in the range of 18 months or so which meant, as you can imagine, just about the time an employee became extremely proficient and productive, s/he opted to move on for another opportunity.

The department had numerous and varied accountabilities and deliverables over the course of any given year but core responsibilities could be boiled down to 6 primary areas:

  1. Make the widgets
  2. Market the widgets
  3. Sell the widgets
  4. Invoice for the widgets
  5. Ship the widgets
  6. Service the widgets

While all 3 team members needed to have some familiarity with all duties, the job descriptions looked like this for years:

  • Employee A: Responsible for 1 and 2
  • Employee B: Responsible for 3 and 4
  • Employee C: Responsible for 5 and 6

Stuff got done.

But then, one day, both Employees A and B tendered their resignations. The two-week countdown began as Mary realized it was going to be her and Employee C (who had been with the company for 6 months) running the show for the foreseeable future.

Initially Mary approached the hiring process as most managers (and HR professionals) do: she resurrected Job Descriptions A and B and set a course to hire employees who would perform function 1, 2, 3 and 4. After all, she reasoned, Employee C was slaying all the dragons with functions 5 and 6.

But then she stopped. Perhaps, she thought, if I provide a bit more variety and the chance for staff members to contribute in different ways, we’ll not only get the work done but reap the benefits of employees staying for longer periods because they’re continually learning and exploring. Maybe if they have the chance to do something new – something that builds on what they already know – we’ll all benefit.

So she talked to Employee C (who for 6 months had been responsible for shipping and servicing the widgets) and asked her “what would you like to do? What do you want to learn? What functional areas interest you?” Employee C said “I’ve always wanted to market and sell the widgets but I know those tasks are assigned to two different jobs. So I’m not sure what we can do.” 

But I’m sure you’ve guessed what they did.

Mary decided to be much more fluid in her operational model; versatility was in and rigidity was out. Rather than creating positions and praying-and-hoping that employees would stay long enough to develop deep-deep DEEP expertise she opted for a new model that encouraged the development of skills and the need for employees to tackle new challenges. She adopted a high-touch and constantly evolving approach that provided for task rotation every 6 months; this not only kept team members interested and engaged but ensured cross training in a fully team focused environment.

While the jobs continued to be ones that young professionals used to merely launch their long-term careers, tenure for the department increased from 18 months to close to 3 years.

I call that talent agility. I call that winning the battle.

After all…sometimes the “war for talent” is waged within.

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this post originally ran in 2015 

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