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.

Performance He Created

Two and a half years ago, a group of HR practitioners and bloggers took a chance on me, this rookie blogger that was trying to find his place in the game. After only being in the HR social media space and blogging world or a few months, having anyone notice me, yet alone reach out to ask me to participate in anything, was quite the shock. Thankfully, along with a few of the other contributors, Chris Ponder decided that I would be a fit for the team at Performance I Create.

71775_440045768806_2649634_nI didn’t know what to expect, especially since I was the new kid on the block. To help ease me into the group, Ponder (as we affectionately call em) opened up every line of communication to me in case I had concerns, questions, or if I just felt the need to talk ideas through. His openness and his ability to come up with important, relevant and timely HR topics helped to provide a structure for me that I didn’t have at that particular time in my career, especially because of the what I was doing professionally.

Ponder’s ideas, organization and leadership helped me not only write my pieces for PIC, but for this site as well. Because of PIC’s structure, I learned that I could express myself in writing in both formal and informal ways. I believe that it was this balance that enabled me to make a little name for myself in the HR and social media space…growing ruHRelevant, networking with more practitioners at various SHRM conferences and ultimately becoming a “veteran” among our outstandingly thorough and thought-provoking troop.

I am happy that Chris Ponder is finally able to explore things now that he couldn’t previously because of his time commitment to Performance I Create, but I’d be lying if I said that his decision to move on from the site didn’t make me a little sad.

I find comfort now in knowing that the team that he helped to assemble is a determined and strong one…one that will take Ponder’s vision of Performance I Create and build on it. While we were working to improve performance in the workplace, Ponder helped to create performance in me as this site stretched me to do things I didn’t really know I was capable of. Because of the outlet he created, I know that we will continue to grow and Create Performance, 500-800 words at a time.

Please continue to support me and my PIC family at Performance I Create; as our best is definitely yet to come. Thank you to Chris Ponder for everything you’ve done for me, the Human Resources profession and the entire social media space and blogasphere!

#ThanksPonder

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!

Now What?

I am fresh back from a wonderful conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LASHRM) and I am still pumped up and excited about my profession.

As I emptied my conference bag and began sorting through all of the pamphlets, pens and notes, I reflected and thought to myself, “Now what?”

We go to all of these conferences for development , fellowship, and to meet our Social Media peers and friends in person, but what good is all of that development and fellowship if the organizations that we return to don’t see and reap any benefit?

What are we going to do? What are we going to change? How are we better and will the colleagues we work with daily see it? Or are we just going to hoard all of the cool stuff we learned and keep all of the free pens and water bottles to ourselves.

I saw something special in that convention center, and because of that I’m motivated to share until my colleagues get tired of me.

I had the pleasure of working with my Performance I Create colleagues as the Social Media team for the event. We had a ball, sharing session content, promoting social media, blogging, etc. As the River Center staff began breaking down the exhibit tables and attendees were clearing out, we thought that our work was done. Just then a volunteer approached us and said that there were a couple of attendees that really needed to talk to us. Agreeing, a couple of us walked out to where our Social Engagement Portal was (that staff broke those tables down fast!) and we were immediately hit with a series of questions about how “Social” could help them in their workplace. They wanted to know how to move their thoughts from ideas to execution…and which tools and mediums would be best for what they were trying to accomplish.

connectAs we engaged them (my colleague did most of the talking, ahem), you could see light bulbs not only coming on but exploding. The concepts we spoke of were not complicated. They just needed some of that stuff that we teach and talk about to come off of the screen, out of the blogs and made plain to them in person…right there in their hands so that they could grab it and implement. What they needed was the knowledge that we had gained from doing…ideas that we got from conferences….strategies that we picked up from our peers. They needed it to make sense and tie in to what they were dealing with every day in their organization…and that if they had questions afterwards that they could reach out and get support.

“Don’t just help light bulbs come on, help them explode!” – Justin Harris, 2014

That’s what stuck with me. That’s what made me realize that it’s not that the people upstairs from me don’t care to do things differently, it’s that they don’t know exactly where to start. They have ideas, but they need help planning. Those of us that say we’re experts are needed to reach out occasionally and break it down for them. Because sometimes our messages are too big and they can’t run with that load. If we break the messages into manageable chunks, focus on process instead of the presentation, we’ll see more people grab hold and put the stuff in action.

So it starts in my shop. Being the change that I talk about and helping others to implement. Helping others to get involved and learn more about the tools of our trade. Because the Resources that we have are no good if we are not sharing them with other Humans.

Don’t Argue With Fools

Offices are being taken over. Not by members of a specific generation, not by social media, not by unskilled workers, but by negativity.

stop-negativity-300x199Negativity and lack of cohesiveness is hurting our productivity even more than skill gaps and generational work habits. Negativity is universal and affects our offices no matter the stage of one’s career. And while dirty politics, snide remarks and insults are being treated more like personal issues than personnel issues, the lack of employee professionalism speaks more to a lack of management and leadership in that space.

We have all done it, snickered about a fellow employee, and then compliment them when they walk by. Participated in a session where management or a process is being bashed without helping to keep things appropriate for sake that we’ll be talked about next. And while no one can keep people from talking negatively, there are ways to harness the negative energy and to use it to build up your office.

Listen to Jay-Z
In a song entitled, The Takeover, the great philosopher Jay-Z stated “A wise man told me don’t argue with fools; Cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who…”

take_a_good_look_at_yourselfParticipating (sounding just as unreasonable or negative) in these conversations without attempting to provide solution makes us just as bad as the negative employee. From a distance, it looks like total participation. When you are the bigger person, those that constantly stir the pot will either acknowledge your positive suggestions or not speak that way when you are around.

If people are always using you as that type of sounding board and telling you unflattering things about coworkers, management or the organization, you must ask yourself, “Why do they feel so comfortable telling me this?” Are you encouraging it? If you didn’t stop them and their negativity at the door, in essence you are saying, “Ok, come on in and stir up trouble!”

Acknowledge and Learn
While the delivery method of complaints can be a cause for concern, what is just as or more important is what the employee is saying and/or feeling. Why is the staff lashing out? We know that our employees clam up when asked straight forwardly, “Tell me how we can improve our office?” or “How can things be better?” So if employees have plenty to say outside of that meeting space, we need to pay attention to it, admit that there may be validity to the issues that are being raised and use them to improve self or how things are managed in the office.

When leaders catch wind of concerns or problems, management malpractice occurs when the manager does not professionally and authoritatively approach the source and root of the issue. Ignoring it or relying on someone else to eventually say something furthers the notion that management does not care, so we’ll just keep griping amongst ourselves.

Act Expeditiously
An important quality for a leader to have is the ability to respond to an issue or crisis quickly…or better yet, proactively before it becomes a crisis. Managers loose more credibility and respect when they avoid the tough conversations and sit on their hands in the midst of negativity. If not a part of the solution, this manager is a part of the problem…and that lack of action is probably what the employees are talking about in the first place.

“Take focused and decisive action. They will follow you.” – Justin Harris, 2014

New rules and procedures alone will not a change make. Management has to step up, show commitment and be firm in what will and will not be accepted in the office. There must be leadership by example and demonstrative respect of people, ideas and the organization. This change requires those with power to come out from behind their desk and to interact with their people, so their knowledge of what is being said is no longer 3rd and 4th hand info, but a first-hand glimpse into the disconnect…so that it can be attacked first-hand.

Screw Your Pay Grade

When workplace responsibilities become “coastable”, employees often float under the radar until annual review time and ultimately retirement, all while abandoning their ability to be accountable. That lack of accountability, according to Paul Samulski, “diminishes execution and individual and team performance. It creates and reinforces a culture of blame. While everyone is busy pointing fingers, deadlines don’t get met, work remains below standard, and customers stay dissatisfied.”

When employees don’t take accountability, they complain. It’s everyone’s fault but theirs. They don’t want to do anything, but hate for others to be called upon to help. And when things go wrong and they are questioned, they give the infamous line…

It’s Above My Pay Grade
The ultimate cop out. This phrase makes me want to scream not only because it’s the worse excuse to avoid work and maintain the status quo, but because it’s always followed by a buck being passed. If this employee were denied an opportunity and told, “It’s above your paygrade”, they’d be ready to fight and then sue. But given the opportunity to slither out of working, it so easily flows from the lips.

This is why it’s common to see lower-ranking employees given more access and/or privileges by management than their higher-ranking counterparts because they:

  • Are trusted to actually do something with the access or information
  • Are willing to learn to get things done while taking chances and being resourceful
  • Are ready to take responsibility for their newly acquired skills and duties

Instead of spending so much of our attention on employees suffering from “It’s above my pay grade-itis”, spend more quality time in developing your more energetic and ambitious employees. The ones that will accept the extra assignments and go an extra mile or two or three. The ones that care about accomplishing the office or organizational goals and not just doing enough to cover their butts, collect a check and have health insurance. Either three things will occur with those “itis” stricken employees once the engaged ones begin to get the attention, praise and promotion:

  1. They will realize that it truly benefits them to buy-in and help the organization or office succeed.
  2. They will realize that there is no place for that their type of attitude and find employment elsewhere.
  3. They will continue to whisper, complain and be stagnant, only to end up working FOR the very employee that they once ridiculed and griped about. And if that employee was trained correctly, they will encourage them to come along for the ride or managed them right out of the building.

What Would Happen If…?
What would happen if…employees looked for and asked for tasks or projects that were “above their pay grades”? Our annual reviews would be full of examples and instances where we “Exceeded Expectations” instead of simply “Meeting”. We would build portfolios of skills that would make us more promotable.

What would happen if…managers stop creating and allowing a culture of blame to exist in the workplace? While they take the opportunity to identify and develop the willing talent, they must also create and foster an environment of accountability by not addressing mistakes as faults but manageable opportunities. When managers blame, employees blame. They didn’t start off disgruntled.

What would happen if…we stopped hiding our gifts and talents from our managers for fear of being asked to do more work? If we communicate and embrace our talents, we would more often find ourselves being asked to perform job duties where we operate in our gift….actually enjoying what we are doing! The fulfilling jobs can’t be offered if no one knows that those are where your strengths lie.

“Work for the pay grade you want, not for the one that you’re in.” – Justin L Harris, 2014