Hold the Phone

blue rotary phoneWant to get someone to click your blog post link, attend your conference breakout session or download your whitepaper? Apparently, as we sit here in 2016, you can ensure that happens by using the word “disruption” (or some variant) in the title of your content.

We in HR are told we best be disrupting something or, if we’re not, we may as well be wilting away and dying. I hear that, I swear to you, every single day.

And yeah…I get it. I believe it. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time exhorting my fellow HR professionals to push, prod, and question. Challenge the status quo! Fight the machine! Bust those the HR stereotypes that tell us we’re not only clueless and out-of-touch but also slow to react!

I’ve written blog posts about disruption. I’ve done presentations at conferences with the word “disrupt” in the title. I even spoke at one of the first DisruptHR events in Cleveland. (I used the word “penis” in my opening sentence of that one; admittedly with the intent of leading some of the HR gals to clutch their pearls.)

But…every now and again I, and you too I bet, want a moment of relaxation. Enough with the disruption.

Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to crawl back into the soothing comfort of benefit administrivia; blissfully spending your day reviewing monthly utilization reports and reconciling STD/LTD plan invoices. There’s nothing wrong, my friends, with scheduling some down time in the file room. (We all still have those archived files don’t we; ancient artifacts from the days before we captured electronic signatures and scanned and stored everything ‘in the cloud?”) Go ahead; dress in jeans, escape to the dusty confines, and spend a lazy afternoon sorting and organizing.

Remember when you perused paper applications, picked up the phone, and actually called (omg! the horror!) your applicants? Try it again when you want to calm your nerves; for old times’ sake.

Oh. Wait. That might be disruptive.

Settle down.


Collaboration: The Role of the Leader

bridgeWhen embarking upon an initiative to increase – and reap the benefits of – collaboration there are several steps for leaders to take at the onset:

* Determine why collaboration is desired

* Define what collaboration will look like in the organization

* Review the current state of the organizational culture to determine readiness

* Ensure people are ready, willing and able to collaborate

There are also additional areas leaders should evaluate when making a commitment to increasing or improving collaboration in an organization.

Value vs. Cost

When identifying the potential opportunities that exist leaders should make a commitment to undertake certain initiatives only when the value will exceed the cost.

Value may be derived, for example, when better innovation arises through collaboration. This can take the form of cross-unit product development or new business development for the entire enterprise. Value can lead to increasing sales (i.e. defining additional cross-selling opportunities or enhancing customer service offerings) or by improving operations that lead to costs savings. Think about, as an example, initiatives that lead to the transfer or sharing of best practices or better decision making.

Leaders must also assess the potential cost and ask questions such as “will we be foregoing other projects or opportunities because of this new effort?” or “will we, perhaps, experience budget overruns, poor quality or lost sales?”

Personal Behavior

Leaders must take stock of their own readiness and ensure not just their personal ability but also their individual willingness to collaborate.  After reviewing and removing the organizational barriers that exist leaders should also focus on:

  • Encouraging relationships that cross organizational boundaries and hierarchies.
  • Implementing internal strategies that celebrate, recognize, and reward a relationship oriented culture.
  • Training employees in the skills related to collaborative behavior such as conflict resolution skills, project management skills and the behaviors associated with recognizing and appreciating others.
  • Modeling collaborative behavior by allowing different voices to be heard, soliciting input from multiple people, and making it clear that disagreement is not the same as conflict.
  • Communicating to others in the organization that the goal of collaboration is not collaboration but is, rather, better results.

Morten T. Hansen, management professor at UC-Berkley, has defined disciplined collaboration as “the leadership practice of properly assessing when to collaborate (and when not to) and instilling in people both the willingness and the ability to collaborate when required.”

By focusing on the goal – better results! – and collaborating only when appropriate leaders can successfully improve organizational performance.

Visit the blog tomorrow when we’ll wrap up this week long series by discussing Collaboration: Working Smarter, Not Harder. View yesterday’s post


Social Then. Social Now. #NewWaytoWork

Ibm_px_xt_colorWhile I’m certainly not a proponent of holding meetings for the sake of meetings there is value in getting together face-to-face with co-workers, colleagues or clients to ruminate, ideate, and, perhaps, innovate. Hearing a voice, looking someone in the eye, and making a human connection adds richness and depth to any working relationship.

That being said, the typical “team meeting” is not necessarily the optimal manner in which to accomplish any of that. Over the course of my working life I’ve attended my fair share of excruciatingly painful meetings and recently got to reminiscing about how – not that long ago! – the process usually went something like this:

  • The manager sent an email requesting agenda items for the upcoming weekly meeting; this email chain quickly grew to massive unwieldy proportions.
  • 85% of the invitees replied; the annoying ones used “reply all”
  • Based on the newly projected length of the gathering the manager decided to hold a ‘working lunch’ (11 AM – 2 PM).
  • She then sent another email asking everyone to choose a preferred food item (lunch to be delivered!) from an attached menu.
  • At least two team members responded (“reply all”) and reminded the manager of their food allergy and/or their need for a vegetarian/low-carb/fat-free option.
  • The day before the meeting the manager emailed the agenda to the team and, inevitably, several people requested changes or additions thus resulting in yet another lengthy email chain.
  • One hour before the start of the meeting the manager (or her designee) printed 15 copies of the agenda and all supporting documents (collated and stapled).
  • The meeting began at 11:15 (when the last straggler finally arrived) and lunch was delivered at 1:15 by which time all in attendance were famished. Despite agreements to end on time the meeting dragged on until 2:55 PM.
  • The next morning the cycle began anew.

Note: Naturally before the widespread usage and availability of email (i.e. back in the dark ages when I started working) these tactical planning maneuvers occurred through a combination of telephone calls and memos delivered via inter-office mail.

Obviously, all of this tomfoolery occurred before any actual productive work was done.

Lunch, however, was usually good.

Social Then. Social Now.

Fast forward to 2015 and the new way of working includes social workflow in an entirely different fashion. Organizations are using Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) to communicate, collaborate and work together in a whole new manner.

This is not just taking broken and ineffective processes and layering technology on top of them in some approximation of workflow optimization. Rather, incorporating ESNs and Online Communities in the workplace is about replicating the social and personal interactions that we crave as human beings while using technology to support and enable work. It’s removing the ridiculousness of that 3-hour team meeting yet maintaining the personal interactions and relationship building fostered by gathering together (even virtually) with a shared purpose.

While ESNs offer analytics, dashboards, and repositories for data and documents, many also incorporate video, messaging capabilities, and networking channels that promote real-time interaction. It’s pretty cool stuff; I was once part of a team that implemented an ESN to drive communication and cross-functional collaboration and we saw an increase in both the sharing of tacit knowledge and innovation focused on both short-term project completion and long-term planning and revenue growth.

As a member of IBMs #NewWaytoWork Futurist Group I recently received access to the latest IDC Study entitled: Worldwide Enterprise Social Networks and Online Communities 2015–2019 Forecast and 2014 Vendor Shares. If you want to read it (there’s some interesting information) you can download the report here with a quick registration. Also a shout out to our friends at IBM; they’ve been named the Worldwide Market Share Leader in Enterprise Social Networks for 6th Consecutive Year by IDC.

Bringing the Horse to the Water

Just because we build it – or implement it – doesn’t mean they’ll come though. Horse to water…am I right? If there’s a story I’ve heard many times over it’s “we reviewed products, vetted solutions, purchased a technology, and trained employees. But no one’s using it.”

Implementing anything new into an organization requires that a few key things occur; the initiative must be championed at the highest level while simultaneously being embraced and promoted by employees in the trenches who are gaining the benefit. Are change management skills required? Absolutely. Which sometimes becomes a challenge for leaders and HR professionals who, let’s face it, have often been the slowest ones out of the gate regarding technology; something they’ve viewed as inherently complex, frightening and creating transparency with which they’ve never been comfortable.

Remember though…those leaders and HR folks got just as nervous, once upon a time, about instant messaging, cell phones and email. (I have to go where and check what? I have to keep it open all day?).

Have you implemented an Enterprise Social Network? Thinking about it? How did you reinforce behaviors or promote new actions? What lessons did you learn?

Let’s discuss!

Note: follow IBM Social Business on Twitter and check out the #NewWaytoWork tour; events are scheduled for all over the country!


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.


Agile HR: Fables and Fairy Tales

scrum-pigs-chickensWho doesn’t love a good fairy tale or fable?

As a child I had an affinity for Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Princess and the Pea” and Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Well maybe not that last one. My mother, on the other hand, liked to quote it a lot.

Then when I grew up and started to hang out with other HR ladies everyone seemed to love business fables like “Who Moved My Cheese” and “FISH! Philosophy.” I remember going to a conference/seminar where we tossed stuffed fish around the room. Yeah. Really.

But there’s another business fable – a cliché by now – that I’ve always enjoyed:

The Pig and the Chicken

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

The Pig replies: “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

It’s a fable often trotted out in the world of software development when teams implement the agile software development methodology. (note: the Scrum Guide officially discontinued the use of this analogy in 2011. I don’t care…I still like it).

Even if you don’t work in the IT world you may have heard of scrum; a framework that helps people and teams work through a complex project. Or, perhaps, you’re a rugby fan who likes the correlation between a scrum half (#9) who directs traffic and links the forwards to the backs, and the scrum master (development world) who coaches and coordinates and connects team members to ensure collaboration.

For me it’s always begged the question…can HR professionals play rugby? OK…I jest. But can HR pros be agile, fast and flexible? Can they “think” this way?

  • Roll out a product (an HR initiative) in incremental stages
  • Test it
  • Improve it
  • Repeat the process for continuous improvement

Are HR professionals willing to be the pig and sacrifice in their entirety? Seek improvement in order to work themselves out of their jobs? Do HR so well that the need for redundancy and layer-upon-layer of HR positions are eliminated? Outsource when it makes sense? Pass responsibilities on and empower both managers AND employees? Sacrifice unnecessary HR bureaucrats in order to allow the business to operate more effectively?

Or is that, perhaps, a fairy tale?


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