Destination Nashville #HRTN17

The 2017 Tennessee SHRM Conference will most definitely be the destination for up-to-date and relevant HR industry news, best practices and networking. But in the mean time and in between time, HR folks like to have a good time…and there’s no better place to do this than in Nashville, TN, the host city.

The conference itself is located at the Opryland Hotel, which is located on a major parkway that is conveniently located within 15 minutes of everything in town. When pulling into the hotel, attendees will immediately be impressed with the grounds themselves, but walking in is like walking into a city all in itself. Complete with retail shops, restaurants, canal rides and beautiful botanical conservatories, there really is no reason to ever leave the property!

But if you must venture outside, one does not have to travel far…actually, just across the parking lot…to the Opry Mills Mall, which is on the site of the former Opryland Amusement Park. After spending all of your extra money on the awesome shopping, one can skip across the street to the Grand Ole Opry to catch a concert from any number of internationally renowned country music superstars. If all else fails and you’ve exhausted all of your energy during the day at the conference, just catch a movie at the Stadium 20 IMAX theater or grab a snack and a drink at Dave & Busters!

If you’re feeling adventurous, Downtown Nashville, considered one of the country’s go-to destinations, has a little bit of everything for a little bit of everyone. Looking to see some art, try the Frist Center for Visual Arts. Looking to people-watch and listen to live music, take a walk down to Lower Broadway and chill on a restaurant’s rooftop. You can take a tour on the top of a double-decker bus, Segway, pedal tavern (yes, a pedal tavern) or by foot to see the parts of The Music City that you can read about online!

Nashville has and always will be the perfect destination for the Tennessee SHRM Conference and Expo. With plenty to do, see and hear before and after dark, it’s a guaranteed good time and opportunity to learn from peers and Nashville local industry leaders. We think you’ll enjoy our city so much that you might not want to leave! And we’re cool with that…and actually getting used to it, as Nashville boasts to becoming the home to more than 100 new residents per day. So come on in to town, enjoy yourself and enrich your Human Resources career in the process.

HR Through Rosy Colored Glasses

Working at a University, it’s impossible not to walk around and feel old as you see thousands of young and eager faces going to and from class. While I don’t work directly with students much, I get “drafted” every year by dozens of them to do interviews for their Human Resources or Business classes. I laugh because I wonder if their syllabi say that they must interview an HR professional or if my name specifically is on them. I think I’ll ask next time.

Every conversation I have with them goes the exact same, which shows me a few things. The same, generic interview questions are provided to them and most importantly, hardly any of them really know what they are getting themselves into majoring in HR.

I try to be as candid as possible when I discuss what I do. I also am not one to sugar coat, so I’m surprised that I haven’t gotten an email from the faculty concerned about what I’m telling them. But when you speak to someone that is in “the trenches” so to speak, you should hear the not-so-pretty, non-glamorous, non-text book type of accounts that we’ve encountered since we’ve been out of school.

It reminds me of this song by Bill Withers that was re-recorded by John Legend called” I Can’t Write Left-handed.” In the song, they tell the account of a young man returning home from war. In the conversation Bill Withers had with him, the young man spoke of his experiences and said that “Being shot at didn’t bother him…it was being shot that really shook him up.”

He goes on to account in the second verse:

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fighting, fighting every day
And looking through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway

Oh, but something that day overlooked to tell me, Lord
Bullets look better, I must say
Brother when they ain’t coming at you
But going out the other way

glassesWhile I’m certainly not comparing our jobs to that of soldiers, because Lord knows I couldn’t be one, our students and young professionals are given these same tinted lenses to wear. No one taught me how to navigate in the business world once I graduated. They didn’t tell me that it would be hell to find a job. They didn’t tell us that dealing with employees and their issues would be stressful. They especially didn’t tell us how the decisions we would make in our HR offices could affect the professional lives of those same employees. The theory around reductions in force, layoffs, terminations, workplace bullying, poor communication between managers and employees and performance issues and self-esteem doesn’t even come close to actually having to deal with it day in and day out.

I remember in a particular job I had that terminations were so commonplace that I almost became numb to them. The more I had to deliver the news, the less and less I thought about what those people had to go through and what they would do with themselves once they left our building. I went from dreading those conversations to executing them without hesitation and with precision. Corrective actions became a habit and a part of my muscle memory.

T’was from these experiences that I began to understand that it was far more productive and humane to identify possible employment issues before they became terminable, and how to keep employees from meeting that fate. Unfortunately it took me having to see it to learn it, as this wasn’t taught. What was taught is that HR is about process, rules and bottom line. I know now that it’s about productivity, development and learning to make the best of the resources that we have.

I honestly believe that if new practitioners and students were shown more realistic pictures of what HR does, we’d have a stronger, better equipped crop of advocates that understand our role in companies…making a difference and not just firing the shots. At the very least, we’d weed out those that didn’t necessarily have what it took to be the right type of leader in our industry…or those that could see early on that this wasn’t the field for them.

So no, I’m not going to paint a perfect picture of what I do, because it is tough. It is oftentimes stressful and difficult. The feelings of guilt come and go as I balance emotion with logic and ultimately decide what’s best for employer and employee.

Unlike the young man in the song that was more than likely drafted to do what he did, we had choices. Those new to this profession have even more choices than we did. So while we speak and share our stories and experiences, we must tell all sides, the good and the bad, to help mold those that are committed to this industry and to give those that are on the fence enough information to make their choice…before they become the poorly equipped and uninformed HR people that we end up complaining about in our blogs and at our conferences.

Social In The Smokies #TNSHRM14

On September the 17th, I will be traveling to Sevierville, TN and hanging out with the coolest, most professionally driven Human Resources practitioners this side of the Mississippi River at #TNSHRM14.

While our theme is “Life In The Fast Lane. Keeping Up With HR”, I will be doing my best to take it slow…enjoying every conversation, every connection and every learning moment as this conference is truly one of the highlights of my year.

What will I be doing? I’m glad you asked. For the second year in a row, I will be serving as a member of the Social Media Team. So I’m responsible for making sure you, yes you, are seeing all of the sites, getting all of the educational nuggets and connecting with all of the attendees via Social Media. This year we will also be hosting a Concurrent Session, so you’ll have the chance to hear the entire team break this Social thing down.

Check out my video below about the upcoming conference and I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort in Sevierville, TN, September 17-19.

By the way, you can still register HERE!

Is Technology The Answer?

Have you ever had a manager say, “Research the best program that will fix X,Y & Z.” and you want to say, “We just need to fix you/us first!”? 

When processes are broken, we want to immediately automate. When people are not doing what’s expected, we think technology is the magic solution. When we can’t get organized, we run to the app store on our tablets or the vendor with the flashiest presentation. At the end of the day, we must understand that you cannot automate inefficiency (you can tweet that if you’d like).

Now I love automation, but I’m aware enough of my own inefficiencies to know that an app or a new form won’t automatically make me productive. Software does not excuse or cover up my weaknesses. Using technology to mask or cover up laziness, poor management and cowardice to champion change will not work. If there is a process that is fundamentally flawed and we input that jacked up info or process into a new shiny system, we will simply go from a mess to an automated mess. 

Automation can assist in getting us on track or to make things quicker, but a solid foundation has to be laid first:

  • Departments must be on the same page about what they are trying to accomplish
  • Groups must clearly define what they want “success” to look like
  • Expectations and standards must be clearly established and communicated to employees

Let me offer an example of how my organization got it right. As a government entity, every personnel action requires multiple levels of approval from various offices. The old process entailed physically signing off on documents, mailing it around to the different offices until it got to HR for final approval and processing. This process generally worked, but it was slow, papers would get lost under piles on desks and it was difficult to hold people accountable for doing their part. 

First knowing exactly what needed to be done, we found a company that could automate this process, allowing actions to be approved electronically, move through a database to the next decision maker, complete with email notification of what needed to be done and when. With this system, we were able to see exactly where each action was at all times and who to call if their was a bottleneck in the process. Ultimately, actions that use to take months to complete could be done in a matter of hours or a few days.

When companies first identify exactly what they are trying to accomplish and learn how to effectively manage it, thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to force broken processes into new shiny computer programs can be saved. 

circuitboardTechnology should be used to enhance processes and systems that already have a workable foundation, or at the very least a team of people that are dedicated to getting it right…not just trying to make it paperless. Technology should not be a bandage for a broken leg. We have to put a splint on that leg, develop processes to keep it from breaking again and then enhance it with technology that makes sense for what we specifically do or need done. 

So before we run out and spends thousands of dollars on new toys and the latest and greatest from a conference (be careful my #SHRM14 peeps), lets invest in the basics first; clear communication, creativity when tackling issues and holding the right people accountable…because if we can’t do that before the tech, we’re probably not going to successfully do it after the tech.

ADApting To Employee Needs

Please visit Performance I Create for my new post on compliance and decency in the workplace.  Here is a sample…

ada“The very foundation of what HR professionals do is ensure that our organizations avoid risk and stay compliant to not only the policies that are established for the company but to Federal regulations and the laws of our particular States.

…compliance is not only about rules and requirements, it’s also about decency, advocacy and respect for current and potential employees and clients…”

Click HERE for the full article and please share!

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

The Danger In Overpraising Employees

Employees that are good at what they do oftentimes don’t hear it. They are so good that even when they do a little extra, it becomes viewed as the norm and is virtually unnoticed. Most times when we see managers praising employees is when they have performed at or below standard and have finally done something extraordinary. This creates a feeling that the only way to get attention is to underperform, then actually do your job. While those that are consistently good are seemingly punished for it.

How often have you seen the employee that has attendance issues rewarded for having a short run of punctuality? On the flip side, how many employees are thanked for being dependable and consistency present and on time. Not as many, because they are doing what they are expected to do.  So is our praise tied more to expectation (or lack thereof) or actual performance?

Meeting minimum standards should be positively acknowledge but not so much that employees believe that average is special.

If/When You Do, Be SpecificGood-job-275x300
Throwing around “Good Job!” just to seem like the nice supervisor actually hurts more than it helps. Generic praise is empty praise. The recipient will not necessarily know what behaviors to continue and build upon if they’re not told which ones caught the positive eye of the manager. Compliments and mentions of specific tasks, accomplishments or behaviors show that those in charge are paying attention to what employees are actually doing to get their results. This helps build consistent performance as well.

Balance in praise is key. We must vocalize appreciation for consistency, and when someone does something that is a big deal, treat it and acknowledge them like it is a big frickin’ deal. Nothing encourages the extra mile more than noticing and rewarding people for running it. But we must be careful not to water-down praise by giving it when it’s not warranted.

Embrace the Unsexy Stuff

We all want to be able to say we changed the world from the inside out. That’s cool and that’s a great goal. But there are plenty of things in the world that need tweaking from the outside in as well. And unfortunately, those tasks aren’t sexy. They’re needed, but boring and/or tedious.

I have personally been in roles where I am depended on for things that are clearly outside of my area of expertise. I love gadgets, so people think that means I am an IT guy. I’m pretty good with a screwdriver and pliers, but that doesn’t mean I’m Facilities Management. I like to talk, but that doesn’t mean I’m a speaker or Master of Ceremonies. I’m dashingly handsome, but that doesn’t mean I want to model. I love cigars, but that doesn’t mean…yeah, I do know a lot about CigaHrs.

So I’m learning (and it’s a struggle) that maybe people are depending on us for these things because we’re trusted, because we know how to get stuff done, because if we don’t have the answer we’ll help in figuring it out or we have the right connections to solve it. And that’s a beautiful thing…I think.

It causes extra work. Every issue is critical and can’t wait. I’m realizing that the ability to be all things to all people is a talent in itself, and valuable in any setting, whether I see it that way at the time or not.

Getting Stuff Done may not be what’s listed on your degree, but the ability to do it will propel one far further than what they studied in school. Far beyond certifications. It’s all about talking a good game and backing it up. Or not talking at all because you’re too busy doing!

I-can-doSo I’m working on NOT complaining about being asked to do the unsexy stuff and I’m trying to change my mindset that if I know how to do both the Sexy AND Unsexy stuff, I’ll be indispensable… more than normal anyway, as no one in business is completely indispensable. Plus, that stuff still has to get done so who better to tackle it that me!

No task is beneath us, as they all prepare and elevate us to something greater.