CategoryHR Wisdom

2015 Best of the Buzz

I didn’t write much on this site in 2015. I let the stuff of life zap my time and creativity so much that I missed the mark on many of my goals. That’s a bummer for me … But 2015 is over now. There’s nothing to be gained from continuing to beat myself up. So I move forward and commit to do better in 2016.

Unfortunately, not writing much didn’t leave me with many posts to choose from for the Best of Buzz 2015 countdown. Another bummer.

However, I continued to write monthly with the Performance I Create team even when I wasn’t posting here … If you don’t know, PIC is a multi-contributor blog where professionals share knowledge and information about improving performance and productivity through human performance improvement, training/learning and development, process improvement, instructional design, human resources, communication, social media, leadership, or productivity. Our contributors are an awesome group of HR professionals, managers, professors, researchers and entrepreneurs.

In addition to writing at PIC, I worked with the team to create, launch and host a monthly Podcast. Each episode features a roundtable discussion with the PIC team and other professionals in the social HR space discussing headlines and hot topics from a human resource management perspective. Check out our first 4 episodes on BlogTalkRadio and iTunes!

As for writing, here are my Top 15 Posts combined from The Buzz on HR and from PIC in 2015:


15. Don’t Get It Twisted — Busyness Does NOT Equal Productivity


14. You Know It’s Time to Make a Job Change If …


13. How to Ensure Mediocre Performance


12. Stop Whining and Start Winning at Work


11. Finding the Flow at Work


10. Nothing Left to Ponder


9. HR is Headed for Self Destruction


8. The 5 Phrases that are Hurting Your Reputation


7. You Know It’s Time To Contact HR If …


6. 2016 HR Trends to Watch


5. The NFL Got It Wrong — and Leaders Should Pay Attention (Deflate-Gate)


4. How I Would #MakeHRBetter


3. No, You Cannot Define Culture


2. The Art of Conflict Maintenance


1. HR and Sorority Sisters


Thank you for your support of me and this blog. Happy New Year!




What HR Is To Me … Now

Each year, on the Anniversary of the launch of my The Buzz on HR, I look back at my very first post and reflect on how my views on the profession have changed.

This is my very first post ever.

Here’s the post for my 1st bloggiversary.

Here’s the post for my 2nd bloggiversary.

Sadly, I missed my 3rd bloggiversary because I was in a bad head space and y’all really didn’t want to know what I was thinking then. It was nothing nice!

Instead, I’m going to take this day to reflect. Because it is my actual birthday — and there’s no better time to think about where you’ve been and where you’re going than on the day you’re born.

So here goes … What HR is to Me – the 2014 Edition

I still believe the function of Human Resources is to balance the rights of the employee with the needs of the employer in order to ensure the protection and productivity of the employer. As hard as many have tried to tell me otherwise, I just don’t think that will ever change for me. The reason any job exists is first and foremost to enthusiastically excel the goals of the company. If you can’t deal with that, find a way to become self-employed. You’ll be much happier — and so will your boss.

I still believe in sharing knowledge, caring about our companies and the people in them, actively practicing, proper timing in our planning as well as professional development/networking. These are crucial things for any professional who wants to stay positive and progressive in their career. Nothing and no one benefits when you don’t put forth effort to get better and help others.

Now I’m ready to add these items to the list:

  • Metrics … It still baffles me to see HR professionals fighting against providing detailed reports and data to back up their recommendations and requests surrounding trends and department needs. It befuddles me when we get shocked and disappointed when we don’t get the approvals and support because of this. It’s past time for HR to show and prove our stuff through tangible, irrefutable data.
  • Money … This one is two-fold. First, HR needs to pay attention to how much money is being spent. The initiatives and projects we propose, create and maintain cost thousands and thousands of dollars. We should know these costs and whether this is a good or poor investment of resources. We should be as involved and enthusiastic about budget decisions as any other in our function… Second, HR needs to look out for compensation. Both the people in the organization — as well as their own. Far too often, HR fails to fight to the battle for fair, appropriate wages across the board. Money talks; HR needs to holla back!
  • Mindfulness … HR has a responsibility to speak up and out when appropriate. We must be direct and candid. We should be guard our reputation and impressions we make without losing our authenticity. We should not hide our criticism and disappointment in sarcasm. We should share our truth while still being considerate of others, the environment and the situation. The day of the uptight, handbook toting, policy quoting, condescending, aloof HR person is dead. Rest in peace.

As I start a new journey, I am excited to put these things into practice and see success. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. I will learn, I will grow and I’ll be better because of it. And I will share the wisdom nuggets every step of the way.

It’s True! She’s Really Retiring!

After over 40 years as a Human Resources professional, my mother is retiring on September 30th.

For real this time.

My mom has always been my secret HR weapon. One of my very first and most popular posts ever was a summary of her advice (Read that HERE). Having mentors and colleagues is great — but there’s nothing like being able to pick up the phone and call your momma for workplace advice. Because she not only knows the HR struggle is real, but she also knows me and my history and motivation like no one else in the world. It has been invaluable to me and makes our relationship even more awesome.

More recently, she’s actually called me for advice a few times. She’s used my tips and recommendations — then come back later to tell me they worked. That was even more awesome. I valued and looked forward to our conversations. It’s meant more to me than she’ll ever know. I’ll miss it.

But I am so happy for her! If anyone deserves to rest and do everything or nothing that she wants to do, it’s my mom … So please join me in wishing her all the best as she closes this chapter and begins the next. And take a moment to re-read her guest post “HR After 40 Years Along the Way”


I am officially a senior citizen.  I have an AARP membership.  I should be basking in the sun on the beach in Aruba or playing the slots in Las Vegas.

Instead, I am in charge of one of the largest Social Services agencies in the nation, overseeing Employee Services (our new, fancy name for HR) and many other things for 1200 employees and social services benefits for close to 150,000 active clients, after 40+ years as a career public servant.  Along the way, I have been the “first” this, “first” that, “only” this, and “only” that … Still am sometimes.

It has been, as Paul McCartney said, “a long and winding road”.

Why am I still working?  Because I believe I make a difference in people’s lives.  I believe that if I bless you, I have blessed myself.  If I help you, I have helped myself.  The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  I believe I can help the world, one person at a time.

I am a linguist.  I fell in love with all things Hispanic at the age of 13.  My degree is in Spanish.  I also speak French … a little German … and a lot of profanity.  I love people and their diversity.  I’ve been “different” all my life and I celebrate the individuality of people and their life stories.  I know words can bring us together or tear us apart, start wars or bring world peace, harm or heal.  What better place to communicate than in HR — where people’s lives and livelihoods are within your oversight … where secrets are shared and kept … where you can coach and teach and learn something new every day about yourself and people…

Along the way, I’ve become a resident expert in Disciplinary Action, Performance Appraisal, Equal Opportunity, Staff Development, and Labor Relations.  I’ve learned that discipline is a last, painful resort.  That most people have no self-awareness regarding their performance.  That we should use every opportunity to create a teaching moment, and that there is usually one alternative to every circumstance.

In 40 years, I’ve welcomed new babies — and in later years, I’ve hired them.  I’ve made lifelong friends — and said farewell far too many times.  I have let people go who didn’t fit — and have mentored those with potential.  Along the way, I’ve met three people I truly disliked.  I blessed them, too.

I will retire.  Moses took 40 years and only glimpsed the Promised Land.  He showed his people they could have more, be more, parted the Red Sea, and left!  I have worn out my ears listening, enriched my soul with empathy, led with wisdom and compassion, and hopefully, blazed a path which others can follow.

I can leave confident that I have helped many people, along the way.

HR is like Tightrope Dancing

What HR is to me? Well, from the very depths of my soul, my answer is: “A job that pays the bills.” But I have a feeling that won’t suffice for a whole blog post. So I guess I would have to say, HR to me is the ultimate balancing act of professions in all of the professions in organisations.

Maria Spelterini crossing Niagara Rapids 1876


The very best things in life are all about opposites co-operating.  Life partnerships for instance are about a person being your best friend, your reliable daily business partner and rock of stability, yet they also require explosive attraction with spontaneity, unpredictability and danger. You know what I mean… the relationship that’s about having milk in the fridge, being supportive, folding the washing, plus jealousy, flirting and selfishness. We want to know everything about them, but get most excited about their hidden side. Does anyone else scratch their head at the sheer stupidity of our inbuilt expectations, and then think “sounds about right for this ‘life’ thing”? I cottoned on to it all after watching this Ted Talk which captured that dynamic perfectly, but if you’re not faint of heart (and I mean that Very Seriously), Eddie Murphy took that 19 minute Ted Talk and nailed it in 30 seconds (MAJOR crude factor though – so Not Safe For Work or for delicate ears).


It’s not surprising then that the one function in business that is entirely about human beings is also the function that must rock this opposites-play-nice game. Profits vs rewards. Productivity vs flexibility. Ethics vs achievements. Feelings vs science. Emotions vs maths. Fairness vs affordability. I mean, don’t we come into this opposites-play-nice thing simply when we enter a job? We expect to be treated like a professional (someone who can suppress emotion and get the job done), while being given allowances for our human-ness (with all the flaws and craziness that entails). And as employment has evolved to include that element of highly professional human, the job of HR has become increasingly about helping the opposing forces of running a business to play nicely.


So I guess I see good HR as the ultimate set of scales. Or better yet, as the ultimate tightrope walker. Constantly weighing and balancing the ways to effectively run an organisation and be a good employer. Going about our high risk manoeuvres on a daily basis, so often and with such skill that it looks like a walk in the park (maybe that’s why everyone thinks they can do it too).


Step right up ladies and gentlemen, let me walk you through some HR tightrope exercises:

  • Since one side will lose out if a perfect balance is not struck, it doesn’t make for a popular position in the organisation. HR needs to care genuinely about people, but disregard popularity.
  • To give good HR advice, there needs to be some scepticism, but not negativity. HR needs to mediate between having an overly investigative nature (nothing ever gets done) and being a suspicious jerk (too much blaming gets done).
  • To be credible, HR needs to have strong documentation, but also be of benefit to the other business units. HR can have the best admin this side of the moon but not to the detriment of flexibility.
  • For effective communication, HR must speak fluent emotions and argue hard facts. It’s no use justifying staff numbers with Full Time Equivalency models when the supervisor demanding extra staff feels unappreciated.
  • To be accessible (and perhaps accepted), HR must be open and willing and enthusiastic and ready! But it also needs to be assertive and strategic and rationed with its resources.


Watch, ladies and gentlemen, as your HR manager perilously walks on a razor thin wire, but as an observer has been quoted to say, “I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’—because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’.”


hr is like tightrope walking 2










Maria Spelterini

And that’s what HR entails to me, a place for my mind to be challenged, and to delight in that challenge. To go to that point of hard work that is compelling, terrifying and beautiful. It’s really not a bad way to pay the bills, and if I get to wear a mohawke like Ms Spelterina, then all I can say is “bring it on!”


This post was written by Sarah Miller.

In addition to having a fantastic first name, Sarah is at the start of her HR career, writing in some thoughtful way on her blog Whipper Snapper HR and with little thought on her twitter account @whippasnappahr. She just got a G+ account too! Apart from Social Media shenanigans, Sarah is a South Australian living and working in Singapore. Previous career aspirations included being a plumber, and being a ferry driver who sang to passengers on the morning commute. Thankfully, HR seems to be working out well for her.

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