I Refuse to Maintain the Status Quo

I dare say that most humans are creatures of habit and routine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in our hurly-burly lives it’s nice to rely on muscle-memory so we can drive the same daily route to the office or know that Friday evening will inevitably be comprised of pizza, pajamas and movies. The usual and ordinary tasks we have are pretty straightforward when we do them the way we’ve always done them.

Naturally this tendency to adhere to the tried-and-true carries over into our work life. Whether we’re cranking out TPS reports or processing journal entries we get into the flow and rhythm. This is also a good thing. People who take comfort in the unremarkable may find a sense of peace cranking through mundane tasks. And for those folks who chafe at “sameness” day-after-day, entering automatron mode allows them to churn through the repetitious soul-crushing chores that exist in every job.

Now envision a department filled with people simultaneously jogging on the procedural treadmill as they push out the same reports, take the same phone calls, and sit in the same meetings week after week. Picture rows upon rows of cubicles. Department after department. Floor upon floor. A humungous organization located in either a suburban office park or on a busy street in a bustling urban city center.

Certainly all those workers are providing some sort of value as they strive to meet organizational goals while, undoubtedly, participating in the latest Corporate (HR) program-of-the-month designed to simultaneously boost engagement, track OKRs, and determine annual compensation increases?

There may be a fancy new name to this program-of-the-month but, let’s be real –  it’s the same old state of affairs.

And when you’re part of an existing entity, whether that be your job/company or your personal life/family, there’s an incentive to maintain the status quo.

It’s easy.

It’s cozy.

It’s safe.

And while human resources professionals are particularly adept at (and quite fond of!) maintaining the status quo, we are not alone amongst our corporate brothers and sisters.  In the corporate setting we’re often more keenly focused on reducing risk rather than setting our sights on maximizing potential.

So we make the “safe” hire. We stick to the same procedures whilst also building additional steps and creating complexity for the most insignificant processes (“let’s have the SENIOR Director sign off for all office supply purchases too!”). We rely on last year’s numbers (and the year before and the year before that). We look backward (only) instead of looking forward. We research other companies’ ‘best practices’ instead of designing our own ‘NEXT practices.’

We stay on the hamster wheel.

I get it. I totally get it.

But as for me? I want to try new things. I don’t want to settle for merely doing what’s easy, comfortable and that-which-has-come-before.

I refuse to maintain the status quo.

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Workin’ for a Livin’ – HR Style

Is work something we need to fix? Is work broken? Does work suck? Unfortunately, for far too many people, the answer is an overwhelming “yes.”

Earlier this year my friend Laurie Ruettimann launched the “Let’s Fix Work” podcast where she talks with guests about all things careers, leadership and the future of work.

A few months ago Laurie and I had a chat on “Let’s Fix Work” which you can listen to here. Or, if you’re sitting in your cubicle (at your sucky job!!!!!) and can’t jam out to a podcast because the boss and/or HR lady is cramping your style, here’s how Laurie recapped the conversation:

 

 

What does it take to get the title, ‘America’s HR Lady,’ from Laurie? Robin has been in the HR profession for a long time. During her two decades of HR experience, she worked across many fields: healthcare, academia, banking, gaming, and that’s just to name a few. In other words, she’s pretty much done it all. And when asked how to fix work, Robin’s first question was how we would fix HR.

Robin has a fantastic analogy on the state of work – it’s a hemophiliac who has fallen down too often and gotten too many bruises. Work might be broken, but it’s in the ER and needs urgent care if it’s going to be saved. Robin shares how she thinks we got there, based on her wide breadth of experience. She also dives into the power shift happening between job seekers, employees, and employers. The day of reckoning is at hand.

Robin admits that HR is certainly part of the problem of work being broken, and the reason she gives is that HR as a department isn’t really sure where to place itself in the conversation. It started out as being very insular, and over the years, things have improved. But not enough. While HR departments have come to understand business, the next step is for them to understand the world. And what does that mean exactly? Robin explains.

There’s also a fine line that many HR people must straddle: the needs of the employees and the needs of the business. Sound familiar? Robin says it’s a ‘cop out’ in many ways. Sure, there might be a bit of truth in it, but ultimately, being an advocate for both the business and the employees isn’t mutually exclusive. It’s not one or the other, and that’s where many HR people struggle.

You’ve heard it many times – employees are fighting HR to get something they need. So why should anyone care about HR? Robin reminds us all that HR isn’t a faceless mass out to get you. They are your co-workers and they are people, too. In fact, Robin’s experience with other HR people is that they got into it for the right reasons and with a good heart.

Recruiting is a huge part of human resources; it’s one of the happiest times for both HR and employee. But according to Robin, those good feelings don’t carry over. She offers the great idea of doing the same with employees as they navigate within the company, whether it’s handling health care, mediating disagreements, or even changing positions within the company. Ultimately, this little-by-little change is fueled by people caring for one another. And equally as important, HR people need to bring the stories of employee realities to leaders.

Laurie asks if she’s naïve for believing that if we fix ourselves, we wouldn’t need HR, and Robin’s reply is priceless. In truth, HR as we know it will always be there. It has to be to ensure things are done according to legal requirements. Even with the automation that is becoming far more common, and Robin talks about why humans will always be needed in human resources.

What is the future of HR? Robin sees it splitting into two separate departments or having two divisions within the same department: administration and people. The administration side deals with compliance, payroll, PTO, and the other dry things, while the people department works with employees to help them understand what’s happening, as well as growth and development.

Are businesses and their HR departments ready for the reckoning that is coming? In fact, Robin believes that HR, at least, is poised for the shift. So what positions are in danger? Is the generalist here to stay? What about the firefighter? Robin shares her thoughts on who had better be ready to adapt to new roles and dive into specialties in the near future.

So what does the future of HR look like? Robin has settled on a phrase: she is an advocate of the workplace revolution. It’s time to change – not only should you be an advocate and ally of the people who hired you, you should also be an advocate and ally to those who come to you with their work-related issues. It sounds simple, right? Robin reveals what it actually entails.

 

 

 

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“Wait til @jkjhr sees us, he loves us!” – #ILSHRM18

Many of us like to point to our vast social networks and talk about the friendships we have either made or deepened that are directly attributable to hanging out on social media. I, for one, can point to the early days on #HRtwitter as instrumental in bringing lots of people into my life; folks on whom I continue to rely for advice, counsel, fun and frivolity. People I admire and adore.

John Jorgensen is one of those people.

Back in 2008/2009, John and I “met” online via twitter; hanging out on #HRHappyHour every Thursday night, chatting offline about SHRM (I was Past President of my chapter in Louisiana, he was State Director in Illinois).  I remember the first time we met IRL; HRevolution in 2010 in Chicago. My plane landed, I checked into my hotel, and I sent him a message asking where he was. After getting the answer I walked down the street, popped into an Irish Pub of some sort, and hung out with my friend for the first time!

Fast forward a few months and John (along with William Tincup, Jessica Miller-Merrell and Geoff Webb) sat with me in a bar at HRFlorida and helped me come up with a name and buy the domain for my original blog. Yup.

Why is John so special and why are we honoring him today on “John Jorgensen Day?” (also the first day of #ILSHRM18):

  • He is a wealth of knowledge on human resources and if new practitioners dive into his brain for just an hour or two they will walk away with the best foundation for their blossoming HR career
  • Behind that curmudgeonly exterior is a heart of gold; he will do anything to help another person whether it be his family, friends, alumni of his schools (he just landed a board role for his HS alumni committee), or his pals on Team Tuppy Trivia
  • He has worked diligently at the forefront of changing the dynamics of SHRM (local, state and national levels) while also promoting and championing the history of our professional organization
  • He will advise you of the correct ways to prepare and consume chili (no beans!), Chicago style hot dogs and Portillo’s Italian Beef
  • He loves old school blues music, The Godfather and Animal House, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Gettysburg
  • He calls me at least once a month so we can catch up, joke around and solve-all-the-days-problems!

Cheers to you John Jorgensen – this is a day when we, your friends and fellow HR professionals – salute you!

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Eeeww: The Top Employee “Issue” That Makes HR People Queasy

Working in human resources means you get to do all sorts of cool things related to organizational culture, employee experience, performance and development, and change management. Sometimes you just get to crank out some good old-fashioned rah-rah cheerleading which, although many in “strategic” HR are loathe to admit it, can be quite enjoyable.

Working in human resources also means you have an inside, often uncomfortable, view of the seamy underbelly of humanity.  We’re in a special place where we learn about all the unpleasant, disreputable and downright sordid activities with which people fill their time.

The HR Department is no place for the prim and prudish.

During my career in HR I have had to deal with my fair share of shocking incidents, and, being friends with loads and loads of HR folks, have heard tales from many others. There are many perplexing behaviors the average HR professional can pretty much take for granted they will deal with at some stage such as when an employee is discovered:

  • watching porn at work
  • taking naked selfies at work
  • sharing naked selfies with their co-workers
  • sharing homemade porn (starring themself!) at work
  • posting homemade porn on the internet so it can be “discovered” by co-workers

No? Just me and my HR friends?

Well surely, if you work in human resources, you’ve dealt with an employee who:

  • starts a consensual romance with a co-worker
  • thinks it’s perfectly OK to have consensual #sexytime, during work hours, in the bathroom
  • uses the executive conference room for #sexytime, after hours, while ensuring the Auditing Firm’s files are not disturbed

No? Again? Just me and my HR friends?

So…yeah…eeeww (you might be saying). Give me a performance issue or an investigation into timeclock manipulation or even a damn body-odor conversation! DIscussing sex is just distressing to all sorts of HR practitioners; puritanical or not. Yet, again and again, we have to head down that path.

But do you know the Number 1 employee issue that makes HR people squeamish, the granddaddy of them all, the absolute WORST conversation to have with an employee?  It’s the chat about “sexual self pleasuring at work.”

Surely this situation has arisen (no pun intended) in just about every workplace? I think every HR person I’ve ever swapped HR Horror stories with has had this delightful ER experience. I’ve heard stories of gals and guys taking care of business in bathrooms, offices, cubicles, parking lots, janitor’s closets and walk-in-freezers. Brrrrr. A google search on the situation leads us to questions, queries and articles such as  Masturbating at work is a doctor-approved stress reliever.  Well then.

Yesterday I cam across an article on the topic: Several Women Say Airlines Don’t Take Their Complaints About Men Masturbating Next To Them Seriously.”   This led to some HR pondering:

  • If your employee heads on a business trip, sits next to a masturbator, and is traumatized by the experience, how does that impact their employment?
  • What if they have to travel for work?
  • Can the employee hold the employer responsible for subjecting them to the masturbator?
  • If the employee can no longer travel and is fired is that a constructive discharge?
  • Would it be compensable under workers’ compensation?
  • And on the flip side….what if your employee IS the airplane masturbator?

Eeeww indeed.

At least some folks have the sense to take the matter into their own hands (pun intended) in the janitor’s closet back at Headquarters.

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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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