MonthApril 2012

What I Learned at LASHRM 2012

One of my goals for 2012 was to attend 3 professional conferences to do strengthen and expand my connection to the people who support this journey I’m on. And I took the first step toward that goal when I ventured to New Orleans, Louisiana for the Louisiana SHRM State Conference last week!

The experience was everything I thought it would be — and so much more! Everyone I met was so warm and welcoming and as excited to meet me as I was to meet them. It was great to attend an event where I didn’t feel alone or uncertain of who I would “hang” with while I was there. Thanks to the last year I’ve spent engaged in social media, I walked into the conference feeling like I was reuniting with friends, instead of being anxious about encounters with strangers. And I left with more new friends and connections that I look forward to building on. And I can’t wait to do it again!!

I also learned some stuff. Great stuff! And I want to share the highlights with you …

  • Cultivating the relationships in your professional network really matters. The conference opened with Talent Anarchy’s Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen, who recently published a book about harnessing the power of relationships to change your life (Everyone got complimentary copies courtesy of Coventry. I read half of it on the plane ride home. It’s awesome! Get it!) In the opening session, they talked about the importance of being intentional, deliberate and sincere in the relationships we initiate in order to cultivate them into something authentic and mutually beneficial. This means we cannot and should not just amass thousands of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, Linked-In connections, Google circles and a book full of business cards only to let them sit and do nothing with them. We should reach out to each other to learn more about each other to figure out how we can help each other to become our best selves. If we’re not doing that, we’re failing — as human resources professionals and as human beings.
  • Care about people and remember they are individuals. I attended Dr. Tina Thomas’s session on dealing with difficult employee personalities. She reminded us that our personalities are imprinted by the time we are 6 years old and develops from there based on our experiences, positive or negative. People bring the personality and experiences with them to work each day, in addition to whatever things may be going on in their present circumstance. It impacts their work output and how they relate to others. HR has to be sensitive to this in their dealings with employees within the organization. Additionally, we have to remember our employees are influenced and motivated by many factors. Paul Hebert went into great depth about this in his session on influencing employee behavior. HR should not allow one-stop-shops for recognition and rewards with our employees. When we fail to recognize their individuality, we fail in finding the balance we need to successfully keep our employees engaged and productive.
  • Always use our power for good. In the afternoon keynote session with CEOs Rose Hudson of the Louisiana Lottery Corporation and Hugh Weber of the New Orleans Hornets, they spoke of being open and candid with employees. HR has to be the standard-bearer for this. Organizations have a responsibility to help employees get where they want to be, not just trap them in the role they were hired to perform. Feedback should be welcomed and taken seriously, not twisted and used to discourage or push people out. Jason Lauritsen expanded on this in his session on understanding and playing the game of power and politics. All workplaces have politics and power structures — they are not good or bad; they just are. We have to learn it and work within it to effect the changes we want to see.

And this is just what happened DAY ONE!!!

I will share the Day Two stuff tomorrow. Stay tuned …

HR is NOT your Friend

There’s been a lot of chatter online recently about employers asking employees for their Facebook passwords during the interview process. Most came out vehemently opposed to that as an unnecessary invasion of privacy. However, when the request switched to just “friending” candidates on Facebook, the consensus shifted and support split down the middle.

The argument in favor of becoming Facebook friends with employment candidates is that it will give you greater insight into the person. It tells you about out their interests and values. It tells more about their affiliations and types of things they support. It can also tell you if the person has any associations or tendencies that may be in conflict or problematic with the employer’s goals. And it may reveal a connection to a mutual acquaintance to serve as an additional reference that will tip the scales … At least according to THIS article recently published on the Huffington Post written by someone who admits he is “no HR expert.”

Well, I kinda am an HR expert. And I think that’s a bunch of crap and I want no parts of it — as a manager, consultant or potential applicant. The liability caused by the ambiguity and subjectivity of it is just too great. I want to stay far, far, far away from it for a long, long, long, long time to allow time for more research to be done and standards established.

And you should too. Here’s why:

  • Employment decisions should be based on a person’s experience, education and physical ability to do the job. These are determined using screening tools, checking references, performing background checks and conducting behavioral interviews. Not by perusing someone’s Facebook profile to see what things they “like” or what groups they are apart of or where they check-in or tagged photos of them doing the Electric slide at a wedding.
  • Not everyone is on Facebook. Or Twitter. One of my very best friends is an Attorney in Maryland where she has litigated and won landmark cases in her career. Another is a professor and department chair at a university here in North Carolina — she’s published groundbreaking research in her field. Neither one has a Facebook. They both down-right refuse. I was able to drag my attorney friend onto Twitter after months of badgering — but she participates moderately. It’s just not her thing! And that is OK. But an employer who based a final decision on Facebook friending would miss out on these awesome potential employees … Plus, not everyone on Facebook is an active user. Some people just login once in a while to see what their friends and family are up to without posting or liking much of anything … And then there’s that pesky thing called “the digital divide” that still keeps some people offline altogether.
  • There is a great likelihood hiring managers will misuse the tool. I don’t know about your organization but, in my experience, it’s hard enough to get a hiring manager to use the proper tools already at their disposal. Sending them off on some kind of wild-goose-chase on Facebook is not something I would do. Because chances are higher they will end up not hiring someone because they are a fan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians than because they are a fan of the KKK. Or that they will bring someone in for an interview because their profile picture is hottttt. Or not bring them in for an interview because they have kids or they are a Muslim or some other unlawful reason.

I’ve got more than enough employee relations issues to deal with because watching too much Judge Judy and reruns of The Practice has them thinking they can and should sue for everything that doesn’t go their way so they can make millions, never have to work again or end up owning the organization … Sorry. That was jaded. But true. I have more than my share of mess to sort through and I don’t want to add more.

Instead of friending candidates on Facebook to assist in hiring decisions, invest in developing hiring managers to conduct thorough behavioral interviews and identify red flags. Instead of using the acceptance of a friend request to tip the scales, invest in some proven professional skills and personality testing. And if you want to check out an online profile, connect on Linked In where professional networking is appropriate — then judge THAT profile based on how complete it is and who the candidate is linked with and what groups the candidate belongs to.

But unless part of the job is to manage the organization’s social media presence, don’t go friending or following employment candidates online.

And use caution even after they’re hired.

Leave Lammy Alone!!

I am a fan of NBA Basketball and I’ve hated the Lakers since the mid-90s. I am also a fan of pop-culture and I am completely enamored by the Kardashian phenomenon.

So I took a special interest in the trade which sent reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, from LA to the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks after the lockout.

Fast-forward a few months into the abbreviated season and Odom is struggling to find his rhythm and place in Dallas, on and off the court. Sports analysts and tabloids alike seem baffled and miffed by Odom’s inability to “get over” the trade and play to the level everyone has become accustomed to.

This all came to a head about two weeks ago in the Mavs locker-room when owner Mark Cuban confronts Odom, asking that he either commit or quit. The following day, Odom was declared “inactive” for the remainder of the season. He and wife Khloe packed up and headed back to LA.

Now, the analysts are calling Odom “soft” and blaming his newfound notoriety in the Kardashian machine for the collapse. Then I read this article calling Odom unprofessional for his actions and I had enough …

LEAVE LAMMY ALONE!

When was the last time your employer decided they didn’t want you to work for them anymore — and got to choose your next job for you without any input from you?? Probably never.

And I am guessing if your employer did that after you were a top performer for years, you’d be pretty upset. It might take you a little while to get over it — especially if you had a family and built a life for yourself in one place only to have to move a couple thousand miles and time zones away. And you wouldn’t take too kindly to people questioning your dedication to your profession because of it.

Yeah. That’s what I thought. So leave Lammy alone.

I am all for analogies between sports, management, business and HR. I’ve written quite a few posts about it, as a matter of fact. However, just like in real HR where we preach about not losing the “human in our resources”, the same rules have to apply when we’re analyzing other professions. And when it comes to trades, we should back off a little with our criticism and judgment of the players … Free agents who block off an hour of network time to announce their decision to leave a franchise? That’s fair game. But a guy who had no real choice in where he ended up and when? That’s not really comparing apples to oranges.

So leave Lammy alone.

The one HR lesson I do find surrounds the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Because if you’ve been paying attention, Odom has had some major life events going on in the last year that may be contributing to his performance problems on the court. He had death in his family and was involved in a car accident that killed a teenager on his way back from that funeral. He and Khloe are having fertility problems. He suffers from insomnia. He is late for practice and has been described as unfocused and melancholy … What does that sound like to you? Cuz it sounds like it could be depression to me. And that is a condition protected by quite a few laws!

The new ADA regulations are requiring employers to be more proactive in identifying, addressing and accommodating these types of issues. Terminating someone who runs into a rough patch after a series of person challenges could land you in some serious trouble if an employee pursues a claim.

Beyond that, why would anyone want to be the type of employer who would not allow employees time and opportunity to get help and heal? Whether it is a long-term employee who has consistently performed or a new employee whom you have invested a lot of time, money and effort to bring onboard — there is a case to be made on both accounts to work with employees to help them through their issues and bring them back to a place of productivity. Perhaps that’s why the Mavs chose not to send Odom to the D-League and make him inactive at this time … although, I kinda doubt that.

So either leave Lammy alone — or try to get him some help. But stop calling him names because you’re mad that he’s making millions and you’re not. Making a lot of money doesn’t mean you don’t get to hate your job, resent your employer or have personal crisis. And none of that makes you unprofessional. It makes you human.

Is It Your Business … Or Your Busy-Ness?

Matt was the new supervisor of the A/P department where Jenna had worked for the last 7 years. He was hired after the former supervisor retired. I always believed Jenna wanted the position — but she didn’t apply when it was posted so she was never considered.

Matt worked hard to try to understand innerworkings of the department and our organization’s culture. To gain more knowledge and understanding of who we were paying, when we were paying and how much we were paying, Matt required his approval on every invoice and every check before it was sent out. He also required auditing of the invoices and checks much more closely and regularly than what had been done by his predecessor.

Jenna didn’t like it. She felt like the approval and audit requirements were slowing everyone down. She brought her concerns to the attention of the Director of Finance, who told her that he would look into it. She said he never followed up with her and the requirements didn’t change, so Jenna brought her concerns to me.

I went to the Director to found out why he didn’t look into Jenna’s concerns. He said that he did. And he said he told Jenna that he’d looked into the issue but did not see the need to make changes. He said the new process slowed things down some but didn’t delay payments going out by more than a couple days. He also said the additional auditing was a good idea that he anticipated would save some money in the long-run. For due diligence, I asked him to walk me through these changes so I could be confident in what was happening and put Jenna’s concerns to rest.

Jenna didn’t feel at rest.

What’s the point in telling anyone about things when they aren’t going to fix it?? I am trying to be a concerned and conscientious employee! No one wants to listen to me! I guess I will just not care like everyone else around here.

Jenna made the classic mistake of confusing business with busy-ness. She thought she was being concerned and conscientious when she was really insolent and meddlesome. Jenna was on the path to becoming insubordinate … unmanageable … and eventually unemployed.

Nowadays, the line between conscientious and insubordination has become thin. The area between encouraging employees to speak candidly versus courting contemptousness has become very grey. I experienced this first hand not long ago (Read about it). It is hard sometimes to know when and how to address this.

  • If the action undermines someone’s authority or the integrity of a process for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness
  • If the action causes disruption to the flow of work for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness
  • If the action causes the discomfort of others for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness.

Work should be about the work. We all show up every day to complete tasks in order to advance the mission, vision, values, goals, strategies, etc of whatever business we serve. Anything that doesn’t seek to advance these things is NOT business — it’s busy-ness!

Busy-ness, gossip, insolence, meddling, negative talk and other kinds of passive-agressive behaviors are insubordinate. They may not be belligerent or flagrant, but they are still insubordinate. In fact, the subtlety makes these MORE dangerous than the blatant kinds of disobedience. We must identify and address these behaviors head on!

Which is exactly what I did with Jenna. I reminded her that addressing and looking into concerns does not equal changing things to be how she wanted. There is more than one way to manage a function — she didn’t need to like it or agree with it to comply. And I let her know that failure to comply or any further disruption could result in disciplinary action against her.

Last I heard, Jenna was still working there and Matt was still her manager. He was no longer approving every invoice and check — but the audits were still in place and had saved the company almost $100,000 total.

Now THAT’S what I call handling your business!

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