A not so happy anniversary

April 12, 2011 by

This post has nothing to do with HR (or does it?), so please indulge me.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, the opening shot of the Civil War. No event, with possible exception of the Revolutionary War, has had the impact on the US that the Civil War had.

The Civil War was the first “modern” war with a long list of innovations that changed the face of warfare for ever.  Included in this are the use of telegraph and railroads, ironclads and hospital ships,  machine guns and organized field hospitals.  It had changed the government by introducing income tax, voting for soldiers on active duty, the first cigarette tax and the Secret Service.  Media changed as it had the first use of press coverage from battlefields as well as the first battle photography.

The political fallout from the war lasted well into the 20th century and some say hasn’t ended.  The Civil Rights Act and the attached voting rights bills of the 60’s still fought for the freedom of African-Americans that supposedly was solved with emancipation.  Regional politics, especially in the South, can be directly tied to the Civil War.  We are still arguing the best way to tax income in the US that started during the Civil War.

It resulted in the death of a huge chunk of American men in that era.  Over 620,000 men died in battle with many more dying due to illness, hunger and non-battle related causes.  More died in the Civil War than died in both World Wars combined.

The Civil War has had influence on management.  There have been books published on lessons learned during the war and even specific battles.  The Conference Board even has a seminar on leadership lessons learned at the Battle of Gettysburg.  For those interested in hearing about that experience, see Trish McFarlane’s blog, HR Ringleader, and do a search for her entries on the subject Gettysburg.

Those of you who know me know I am passionate about Civil War history.  This is probably not the last you will hear from me on the subject so indulge me.


The future of the profession

April 11, 2011 by

I spent last weekend volunteering as a presentation judge for the North Central SHRM Student Case Competition at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL. It is an event where SHRM Student chapters throughout the 10 state region sent members to compete as teams in an event where they receive a case study in the morning and after a short 4 hour prep time, present a 2 page executive summary and a 15 minute presentation on their solution to the study. In addition to the competition, there were sessions presented by HR pros on networking, strategic HR and the HR profession, as well as opportunities for the students to network among themselves and the HR professionals there as volunteers.

I have been a volunteer in student competitions for years, mostly in the HR Games format.  That format (think HR jeopardy) was great for recitation of knowledge but those of us who have done this for a while realized it is just not remembering what FMLA stands for or what Griggs vs Duke Power decided.  It is taking that knowledge and applying it to our work.  While definitely not as exciting, the case competition is truly more real world.  Hopefully, both can coexist at the state and regional level.

I was impressed to see the professionalism shown in the presentations and presence of the students under such situations.  They all pulled together coherent thoughts and analysis on short notice.  It goes to the preparation and education given them by their advisors and professors.  It does give me hope that those coming into the field will add to the professionalism and quality of the profession.  Props to my friends  like Matt Stollack from St. Norberts, Jeffrey Walls from Indiana Institute of Technology and  Joseph Goodman from Illinois State University for taking their jobs and responsibility to heart.

Also kudos go to the professionals who gave up part or most of their weekend to support the future of HR.  Thank you Donna, Dave, Jodi, Michelle, Carolyn, Mel, Kraig, Janelle and the rest of you who sat inside on a nice Saturday to do what you did.  Finally thanks to the SHRM staff for their effort in running the event.  Always good to see Pam, Martha, Laurie, Maureen, Kristine and Chuck.  I know it is your job, but you do it with passion and energy.

If you ever get a change to get involved with HR students, do it.  It will energize and give you hope.

What an amazing effort…

March 20, 2011 by

This post has nothing to do with Human Resources but everything to do with human achievement.

I’ve just witnessed one of the most amazing moments of achievement I’ve seen in my life. I am a fan of amateur wrestling, especially at the collegiate level. Tonight is the championships matches of the NCAA season and the first match was just….unbelievable. Anthony Robles, a 125 lb competitor, won his final match of his college career, winning the weight class for himself and his school, Arizona State. That by itself is a truly great accomplishment.

What makes this totally amazing is that Anthony Robles was born without a right leg. To reach that level of athletic championship with a fully functioning body is an achievement of extraordinary feat but to do while dealing such a “handicap” is unparalleled in my memory. The dedication and discipline that would be required by him to reach that level of skill, strength and conditioning is beyond my comprehension.   I would encourage anyone looking for an inspiration to deal with your troubles or problems in life to check out Anthony’s story and hopefully find his final match on the web.  It brought chills to me to be able to see such an event.

It was so inspiring that it even brought me to the point of cheering for an athlete to defeat a Hawkeye athlete….for those who know me hopefully realize how much it meant for me to be inspired by Mark Robles achievement.  Thanks to that wrestler for the inspiration.

Just a quick update, Anthony was given the award for Most Outstanding Wrestler for the NCAA Division I tournament.  Outside of an Olympic gold medal or world championship, this is the most prestigious award a wrestle can attain.

You can see a short clip of ESPN’s coverage of Anthony’s amazing effort here.

Is there nothing good with Social Media?

February 9, 2011 by

Not a week goes by that I don’t receive an e-mail announcement or two from various organizations or law firms proclaiming a new seminar or webinar aimed at businesses or organizations on the evils, minefields or snake pits that businesses face with social media. Ugh, is it that bad?

Whether it is the possibility of the employees wasting time, doing damage to an employer’s brand, information technology breaches or privacy issues, social media seems to being blamed for everything up to and including the destruction of the Hindenburg.  Yes there are some issues that need to be addressed, but isn’t that always the case with new technologies or ways of doing business?  I remember that the internet was looked at as the end of the business world if it was allowed into the work place.  Well, it was but in a very good way.

Social media allows for the promotion of ideas, extensions of brands, advertising products and different ways of doing business.  What companies have to do is embrace the technology and platforms, learn how to use it in a productive manner, train employees on how to use it and, yes unfortunately, set up some type of measures and safeguards if necessary.  I just don’t see enough of that type of training or programming out there.  Hopefully that will be changing on a much larger scale than it has been currently occuring. 

Also, social media has allowed HR proffessionals from across the world to better network,  share ideas and solve problems.  Personally, I can vouch for Twitter as a tool I have used in the last 2 years that have allowed me to create many new relationships with some of the best HR folks I have ever met.

ILSHRM will be one of those organizations hopefully be offering that type of offering as part of the 12th Annual State SHRM Conference this August.  A whole new track will be introduced this year in order to education HR professionals on how to harness the world of social media for good, while protecting companies from the bad.  Hopefully, we will be covering everything from the basics to more advanced problem solving.  Look for a couple of announcements soon on the Illinois SHRM blog.

Are you expecting steak or bbq?

February 2, 2011 by

 I was talking with a fellow HR pro the other day about organizational and culture change and the topic of time to enact change came up and some folk’s unrealistic expectations.  Way too many in the HR field and other business disciplines think it can be done in a relatively quick manner and be successful.

While cooking dinner the other night, I came up with a comparison related to the food theme of this current HR Carnival.  Too many expect a “steak” solution to the culture issues within a company.  Go to the store, pick up the best looking solution (steak) off the shelf, slap it on a hot grill….a few minutes later, problem solved.  That may be fine for a quick dinner but it is no way to change a problem that has been evolving for quite a while.

Because it is a much lengthier, complex and complicated situation, I compare the process to smoking meat or true bbq.   You must do research approaching the problem, talk to some experts on how to solve the problem, find some methods and tools to use and take a preliminary look at time line for the solution.  Smoking meat is similar in that first, you need to decide on the meat of choice.  Is it beef brisket, pork shoulder, whole turkeys?  Once that is decided, off to the butchers (experts) to pick out the best solution for the task. 

Once you have selected the meat, then it is time to look at the tools needed to get it to the desired completion.  Do you need a good seasoning rub (software)?  How about the wood you will use to create the smoke (training/focus groups)?  Then you also need to look at the size of the meat to determine an anticipated completion time.  Time to fire up the smoker and put the meat on.

Once the process starts, it is no time to ignore it.  You must monitor progress almost constantly.  Does it need more heat (pressure/more commitment from management), more water in the drip pan (additional resources), is it not cooking fast enough (more time to complete the project)?  The only way to tell is by checking the temperature on a regular basis.

Once the temperature is reached, you just don’t assume it is done.  You have to let the meat rest to let the seasonings/juices set.  If you assume it is ready and cut into it, you will lose a lot of flavor.  In a project, you can’t assume the results are what come immediately after completion.  You have to see if the results are what you need after letting it sink in.

Change is not a quick tasty process like a steak.  It is a much more complex process that takes time to develop the “flavor” that you expect in the end.

Is it turning yet?

January 17, 2011 by

Back in November, I was thrilled to be included as a writer for a series of articles the Voice of HR did on suggestions on how SHRM should be approaching the new year. I wrote a piece call Turning An Aircraft Carrier.   It was based on a sight I saw at the Annual SHRM Conference in San Diego of an aircraft carrier sailing by and my thoughts of turning a large item such as that.  Since that was published, a couple of months passed and both the national and state SHRM Leadership conferences have occurred, so I figured it was time for a look back at it.

My first suggestion was quicker movements.  That is a probably a pipe dream for SHRM, based on its size and culture.  There has been and will be some things done fairly quickly but they will be “minor” things.  I guess anything is better than nothing.

Second was more transparency.  That has been addressed in that the Board talked about some of the decisions recently made in a session at Leadership.  The audience was limited to State Directors and Directors-elect.  I wished the audience had been larger and/or been done in writing.  However, after hearing the acting CEO, Board Chair and Chair-Elect discuss the issue, I feel comfortable in the decisions that the Board made from a business angle.  Still not thrilled with the total transparency issue as far as those included.

SHRM should be more pro-active.  I pointed out a couple of areas in social media.  It looks like SHRM is making an effort there by adding a staff member to as its Manager of Social Networking and Online Communities to address things like SHRM Connect.  Good luck with that Anne-Margaret.

Communicate.  The best I can say there is it seems that SHRM is trying.  I don’t recall a new SHRM Board Chair reaching out like Jose Barrios did recently.  A step in the right direction hopefully.

Next, I said SHRM should give volunteer leaders new/better tools and improve transactional service.  I did hear somethings at Leadership that should improve that area.  Hopefully there will be more and soon.

Finally, I encouraged SHRM to think outside of the box.  I have seen some movement there (such as HRCI offering recertification credit for blogging as a start).  Hopefully there will be more to follow but a good start.

I think I see some movement in the turning process.  Having seen large ships turn, I know it will take a while but at least the helm is moving.

2011 Predictions We Would Like to See

December 30, 2010 by

After reading one too many posts on predictions for HR in the year 2011, I decided that we needed to get to the “real” predictions.  So I turned to some HR thoughts leaders on what they really thought would happen in the next year.  Let’s check back in a year and see how many came true:

“Seat at the table” will be replaced with “engaging in strategic workforce initiatives by leveraging ideation.” 

The HR blogosphere will generate hundreds of articles full of amazing, useful, and witty content. All ten of their readers will rejoice. 

A handful of (slightly crazy) people will visit HR conferences. Every. Single. One. The sad part is that the content is 90% the same across all of them.

HRevolution will break away from the US and start its own country. Capital city: Baconville

In 2011, the SHRM Board of Directors will vote to decrease their pay by 20%… 

In 2011, the term “HR Bloggers” will be outlawed and replaced with “Social Media Personalities”…

In 2011, most HR leaders will focus on the Top Performers leaving… this will create much angst for the folks right behind the top performers.  Let’s call them the “Under Top Performers”.  Just wait until they get calls from recruiters.  Gone baby gone…

In 2011, HRgonewild.com will become a huge sensation… leading to a reality TV show no doubt…

In 2011, SHRM will reach out to urban/hip hop community and book Lil Wayne (AKA Weezy F Baby) as the main keynote speaker for SHRM National 2012…

In 2011, Marijuana will be legalized nationally… leaving many drug screening companies and HR leaders in a quandary.  What will be the new gateway drug?  Scotch?

In 2011, entrepreneurship as we know it will die because all of the folks that were forced into becoming entrepreneurs will get “real” jobs / careers…  

In 2011, consolidation of HR communities will happen… HR.com, SHRM, HCI, IHRIM will all form one dysfunctional HR community rather than keeping them all separate….

Snuggie sales will skyrocket in 2011 after the release of the much-awaited book ‘Snuggie Sutra’.

2011 will be the year of real fingernails and not carrying Coach bags for the HR ladies.  That was so 2010.

SHRM will not only provide recert credits for listening to the HR Happy Hour, they will ask the hosts to MC the annual conference!

There will be an iPhone app where employees can anonymously tell managers to get out of the way of productivity. Maybe your phone buzzes every time your employees see you operating as a jerk, a negative force, or a roadblock.

SHRM will explore ways to recruit members from outside of our solar system in order to truly demonstrate it is the voice of the HR profession

The heads of HRCI Re-certification Reps will explode as they try to appropriately “judge” whether submitted HR blog posts meet the stated criteria for HRCI re-cert credit

HR departments will refuse to write any silly policies to eliminate knee jerks from health care claims.

SHRM will do nothing to tick off any of its 250,000 members….but not accomplish anything.

I would like to thank the distinguished panel of Robin Schooling, Tara Arthur, Laurie Ruettimann, Shaunna Moerke, April Dowling, Trish McFarlane, William Tincup, Ben Eubanks and Steve Browne for consulting their crystal or Magic 8 balls.  Feel free to add your predictions, the more the merrier.

Merry Christmas…Happy Holidays

December 24, 2010 by

Just a happy holidays wish from me to you.  May your holidays be filled with family, friends, food and joy…oh yeah, some blues would be good too.

Turning the “table” on the CEO

December 15, 2010 by

I attended a SHRM chapter meeting last night with the subject being an age-old classic, a panel discussion by a bunch of CEOs on what they expect from HR. It was a nice mix of industries, 2 manufacturers, a health-care provider and a consulting group. The only initial problem I saw was it was all male, but that may the subject of another post.

They were all asked to describe their respective organizations with references to size, product or service and a bit of their own background. They were then subjected to questions from the moderator (handled very nicely by a lawyer of all things) on various aspects of how they viewed HR, what their definition of HR was, how HR was a valued part of their company etc. I heard way too many usages of the good old “seat at the table” line. Other lines they used included “HR is the guardian of culture”, “HR keeps me informed of the mood of the employees”, “they keep us out of trouble as far as compliance goes” and the usual things that most CEOs would say when placed in such a situation.

After the moderator’s questions, it was thrown open to questions from the floor. There were many good questions but they were all of the usual “what do you look for in a HR person”, “how can HR get a seat at the table” (I know, any more if you have to ask, forget it), and others.

I was somehow fortunate to be able to ask the last question and it was one I have never heard asked in such a panel presentation: “What can HR expect from you?”  After a couple of seconds of complete silence from the head table (and a smattering of murmurs from the audience), a couple of the CEOs commented by saying such things “support”, “an open door” and other generalities.

My question to my fellow HR practitioners, especially those in the trenches, is what you you expect from your CEO?  If your CEO was on the panel, what did you want to hear him or her answer?

A Job to Die For?

December 7, 2010 by

In prepping to teach a class in safety and risk management for Northern Illinois University’s SHRM Learning System program, I stumbled across a disturbing number. In 2009, 4340 workers died on American jobs. That, my friends, is a shame.

Granted the numbers have dropped from the previous year (5214), it is still a number to be concerned about. Those 4340 deaths in the single year is almost more than the total number of US deaths in Iraq (4429) since the start of that war in 2001.  It is more than 3 times the number of US deaths in Afghanistan (1418) since the start of operations there.

In a historical perspective, it is many more than died at Pearl Harbor (2402) on December 7, 1941 by almost 2000.  Compared to the bloodiest day of on the Western Hemisphere, the battle of Antietam in the Civil War (over 3500 dead), it is almost 800 more workplace deaths.  A more recent comparison, deaths on 9/11 were 2977 compared to the 4340 and 5214 workplace deaths in 2009 and 2008.

My point in showing these comparisons is that for the most part, all workplace deaths are avoidable.  Throughout my HR career (mostly in manufacturing), safety has been part of my job descriptions and duties.  It is one I take very seriously because while all other HR duties are important, safety IS a life and death matter.  If a worker’s check gets screwed up, they will still go home that night.  If something drastically goes wrong in safety, someone can die.  Granted many HR professionals do not handle safety, I still believe it needs to be a stronger emphasis in the profession, especially taking into consideration the increase of workplace violence and bullying over the last few years.

As I said, I believe that most (if not all) workplace deaths and injuries can be prevented.  HR, especially trench HR, needs to be trained better to spot and correct safety issues and eliminate unsafe conditions and acts.