What Professional Certification and Education Means to Me

New post from KolormeHR.

Johnny Taylor, President & CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) set some of the HR world on fire with his recent comments that “employers should require HR certification” and that if there were more certified HR professionals, #MeToo wouldn’t have happened. His comments ignited a healthy (at times) debate on whether  HR certifications and/or formal education guarantee competency or add value, and would they become watered down and pointless if everyone gets certified. Some were also concerned that pushing certifications is all about revenue for SHRM. HR professionals have their own feelings and opinions about this, and this post is about mine.

The professional certifications and education I have achieved are personal for me. The first certification I achieved was the Professional in Human Resources (PHR®) designation. When I was selected to serve on the International Association of Legal Administrators’ Board of Directors, I decided as a leader to walk the talk by trying for the Certified Legal Manager (CLM®) designation. A few years ago when SHRM introduced its own HR certification, I was grandfathered in for the certified professional designation (SHRM-CP). The journey of learning and preparing for these exams provided me with knowledge and new insights I didn’t have, and were worth it even if I didn’t pass (I’m thankful that I did). I enjoy learning and always earned more than the required credits for recertification every three years. The learning, more than anything, is what adds value to my personal and professional development, and makes a positive difference in my job performance.

As far as formal education, I came from a “working class” family and college was never discussed. After high school, I went to a technical school to learn how to be a secretary and those skills have been a good foundation for me. After I started working full time, thoughts of college entered my mind from time to time, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that a reality when my kids were young and we were scraping by. Several years ago, I researched evening degree programs and thought about it for several months. Then I decided to take the plunge and see if I could make it happen. The process was daunting including obtaining financing (FAFSA is not for the faint of heart), because although I received some tuition reimbursement from my employer, I needed full financing for school. Some people would think I was crazy for “wasting” money at this stage of my career, but even though I’ll be paying student loans long after retirement, it’s worth every penny to me. I graduated in 2011 with a B.S. in Human Resource Management and finally achieved my dream of a college education.

My certifications and education don’t make me instantly competent at everything – experience still counts for a lot. And they aren’t necessarily required for my job. But they are a definite plus because the more I learn, the better I am personally and professionally in everything I do. I’m not better than anyone else, and our personal choices are just that. Personal. If employers choose to make certifications a requirement for certain jobs, that’s their prerogative. If they choose to require a college degree, that’s their prerogative. In my opinion, unless a license or degree is absolutely essential to a position, I wouldn’t require it. Nor would I require certification. But I see both as an advantage and there’s nothing wrong with that. We are all on our own paths and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. There’s room for us all.

Even if certifications were required and everyone who had an interest and could pass an exam achieved one, it doesn’t take anything away from my achievement. It’s not any less valuable to me. Because these were my dreams, my achievements. Nobody can demean them unless I give them that power – and I don’t. Others feel differently and that’s ok. We all feel how we feel. This is my perspective and my opinion. I’m proud of the certifications I have and proud that I fulfilled my dream of a college education. And as my friend Steve Browne refers to in his book, HR On Purpose!, I own it and make no apologies for it.


Tribute to a Fantastic Boss

New post from KolormeHR.

The end of an era. I knew for months it was coming, but now that it’s here, reality is slowly sinking in. My boss for the past 28 years is retiring today. The turnout was fantastic at her retirement party as you would expect after 31 years with the firm. She is leaving a wonderful legacy.

It has been my honor and privilege to work with Diane. She has been a wonderful mentor, friend and boss, giving me tough love when needed along the way. She’s also given me many opportunities for personal and professional growth and I’ll always be grateful to her. She was very supportive of my involvement with local and national board leadership with the Association of Legal Administrators even though it involved significant work and time out of the office. Her support was priceless and I didn’t take it for granted. Not everyone has that.

While I haven’t always agreed with her decisions (and I’m sure she hasn’t always agreed with mine), I always supported her out of respect for her and her position. She deserved nothing less, and I appreciate that I was able to express my opinions candidly with her. Not everyone has that.

Many nice things were said about Diane at her party, and all of them really are true. She treats everyone with respect and courtesy and taught me to always leave people with their dignity, no matter what. She often said that people are a package (I’m sure she was specifically referring to me:), and not all packages are the same of course. She taught me humility through her leadership, always giving credit to others. She has terrific analytical and critical thinking skills, and I learned a lot from her. Diane is truly a class act and has always made me and others feel valued. Not everyone can say that about their boss.

I will forever be grateful to Diane for her leadership, guidance and opportunities. And I will greatly miss her. Happy retirement Diane!


Letting Go

New post from KolormeHR.

After a stormy night at the river a few weeks ago, my 3-year old grandson (my camping buddy) and I surveyed the damage the next day. A tree was down, a few chairs and a bike were wrecked, but that was the extent. Storms don’t usually bother me, but being in a camper is much different than the safety of my house. Hayden was a trooper through it all though and proceeded to play while I attempted to clean things up. He had on the last pair of clean clothes and looked so cute….until we were ready to head home. His shorts were soaked and muddy and I sighed, asking him why he had to get so dirty. He just smiled and said, “I’ll dry.” He was right of course.

It was a good reminder that I need to let these little things go. And in the grand scheme of things, they are little. I reframed my thinking and realized he was still cute even with muddy shorts. The shorts would dry and the mud could be washed out, so really, what was the problem? There wasn’t one until I almost made it one. We were camping for crying out loud. No one expects a spotless kid at the campground. He was healthy and happy and unscathed from the storm. Instead of being grateful for that, I focused on something of no importance. It took his two little words, “I’ll dry,” to jar me back to reality.

Most of us have heard the saying, “Stop making mountains out of molehills.” Think about this. How often have we done this at work, consciously or unconsciously? How often has something irritated us that we can’t or won’t let go of? At what lengths do we sometimes go to prove a point – to prove that we were right about something? How often do we let irritations grow out of proportion until we’ve created a problem that didn’t exist? Or caused others to doubt themselves or their work? It’s not pretty is it? As HR practitioners, leaders, and as human beings, let’s continually reframe our thinking so that we build others up and truly let the small things go. Mistakes happen, but most mistakes are fixable if we focus on a solution rather than stay fixated and irritated by the mistake.

This past weekend at the river, I didn’t hover over the kids quite as much, I looked past the messes, didn’t care that the screen door was open more than not (mosquitoes weren’t too bad), tried not to show my irritation when some whining occurred, and truly enjoyed time with my grandkids rather than stew over the small stuff. Letting go is truly freeing.





Age is Just a Number….Really

New post from KolormeHR.

People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Just because we get around (talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ’bout my generation)

I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
                                                   The Who

Age has never bothered me and I’ve never felt the need to be coy about it. It’s not that I enjoy getting older, but it’s a fact of life that happens to us all if we’re lucky. And it does have its advantages. I remember my mom being offended when a cashier offered her a senior citizen discount when she was a few years away from qualifying, and younger than I am today. I told her to take the damn discount next time😏.  I qualify for most family restaurant senior citizen menus and am not afraid to order from that section. I’m also much more comfortable in my skin and have a healthy sense of self-worth.

It’s funny how you don’t see yourself as others do though. Have you ever attended a wedding or funeral where you’ve seen people you haven’t in several years and thought how old looking they’ve gotten? Much older than you of course.🙂 I admit I’ve thought that and then it was pointed out that they were probably saying the same about me.

As for work, all the hype over the years about the different generations in the workplace, and how each generation should be handled, has been a disservice to all of us, no matter our age. Although it’s interesting to note the state of world events surrounding each generation, that’s where the advice should stop. Because many employers and managers take these stereotypes seriously and lose out (or exclude)  potential employees from all age ranges.

It’s time that employers, managers, employees, and individuals start seeing, and appreciating, others as the individuals they are. Look at what a particular person brings to the table rather than what our biases tell us they bring. We should not assume that 60-year olds are has-beens with no fresh ideas to offer. We should not assume that the 20 something fresh out of school has little to offer and will take up our time with training and constant reassurance. We should not assume that parents or grandparents don’t take their jobs seriously just because they have other obligations that need to be tended to during working hours. We should not assume that someone expects constant feedback because of their generation unless we have asked them their preference. We should not assume that someone does not want any feedback because their generation supposedly does not require it.  We should not assume that someone is not worthy of being hired or promoted because they’re too old or too young. We should not assume anything period. 

Everyone has something to offer in the workplace, and not everyone is right for every employer. But judge people on their merits or lack there of, and act accordingly. Don’t rely on your biases (we all have them) or what experts tell you.

At the playground today with my grandson, he called me grandma and a young girl said she didn’t see how I could be because I didn’t look old. I just smiled and said that I was that old. And I was fine with it. After all, age is just a number.




Breaking Down Barriers by Walking it Out

New post from KolormeHR.

Sometimes you just need to get away from work by yourself to collect your thoughts or to stop yourself from doing or saying something you’ll regret. Walking fits the bill. Sometimes you need to step away from a project to refresh and recharge before going back at it. Walking fits the bill. Sometimes you want to bounce ideas off of others in a casual setting. Walking fits the bill.

We all know that walking (or other means of mobility) offers many physical and mental health benefits. It’s also a great way of breaking down barriers at work. Let me explain.

Like many organizations, we’ve had a robust well-being program at work for several years and employee interest is as strong as ever. Our program offers many ways to earn points and walking is a big one. We offer structured walking groups with walk leaders at various times of day (early morning, two times around lunch, and mid-afternoon). Routes are mapped out and take 30 minutes. Most walks take place in the skyway so we can enjoy walking all year no matter the weather. One walk heads outside when the weather permits (above 40 degrees and not raining or snowing😊).

I’ve been a participant from the get go, and walk at various times that fits with my schedule. Sometimes I get two walks in during the day. Everyone is welcome to join in any of the walks whenever they want. Participants are from various departments and in various roles. Walking has given us opportunities to get to know people we might not otherwise interact with much at work. We talk about everything from the weather, work and our personal lives and interest. We encourage each other and truly enjoy this time together. It strengthens communication at work, and boosts employee morale.

If you don’t already offer this at your organization, I highly recommend it. It’s a low cost/no cost benefit that employees will enjoy. It helps break down barriers. It helps refresh and recharge people. It helps keep people interacting and engaged. Try it – you’ll like it.



Lessons Learned On the Playground

New post from KolormeHR.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than watching my grandkids play and hearing their sweet laughter. The camping season began this past weekend and they are part of it. It was sunny and a bit chilly, but that’s what sweatshirts are for. After opening and dewinterizing the camper, reactivating DirecTV (camping does not mean we have to rough it), unloading bedding and supplies, and the kids riding around the campground to see if their friends were up, it was time for the traditional ice cream cone at Log Cabin. With 32 flavors to choose from, this is a favorite tradition.

After ice cream, the kids wanted to go to the playground in town. There were other kids there and the two older (9 and 11) kids went straight to the zip line and the soon-to-be 3 year old headed to a jungle gym/slide where other kids were playing. He was the youngest but had no qualms about jumping in and playing with the kids. Of course, to make sure he didn’t get hurt, I was busy chasing after him so there was no sitting on any park bench for me. There were no hello’s exchanged between the kids in this group (2-7 age range) – they just instinctively played together. I noticed the older kids at the playground kept in their respective groups though.

On Sunday, we had lunch and ice cream at the Log Cabin and stopped again at the playground before heading home.  There was only one other family there with young children. My two oldest grandkids headed straight to the zip line again and my youngest instinctively gravitated towards the other two kids playing. He was again the youngest, but one of the kids was only slightly older by about 6 months to a year, and his sister was 4 or 5. They started playing together while their parents watched from a bench. At one point, their mom came over and asked her kids if they had introduced themselves saying that’s the way to make friends and get to know others. She was right of course, but the kids didn’t follow her lead. Instead, they just kept playing together on the jungle gym, sliding, chasing each other around, and playing musical chimes. Then my grandson suggested hide ‘n seek and just started doing it so the other kids followed his lead. At one point, they were standing together, and he said, let’s go this way.  I beamed with pride at the little leader he’s becoming.

We can all take a cue from their playbook and just do things without constantly over analyzing. A few lessons I’ve learned from watching kids play:

  • There is no right or wrong way to connect with others. Introducing yourself first is great, but sometimes adults get hung up on “rules” we’re not sure who invented in the first place, and what others will think. For example, on LinkedIn, posts crop up daily about the “proper” way to ask someone to connect, some more chastising than others. Adults can make their own choices and if someone doesn’t want to connect, they won’t. It’s really that simple.
  • Let people figure things out on their own first. I hovered over every move my young grandson made on the playground. Yes, safety is important, but some things didn’t require my constant presence. He watched the other kids on the kiddie rock climbing wall and attempted it himself. He faltered a bit, and I wanted to give him a little boost, but decided to let it play out. He figured it out himself, smiled and said “I did it” and proceeded to do it several more times. At work, do you give your team the space they need to figure things out before you jump in with the answer or direction? Most people want to think for themselves so please give them that courtesy.
  • Don’t just hang out with those you know. The older kids on the playground stayed in their little groups. I’m sure they probably wanted to play together after seeing the younger kids having fun, but something held them back. Maybe it’s worry about being rejected or ignored. Maybe it’s fear to ask to be included in the first place. Whatever it is, it’s a shame because we carry that into adulthood. Look around at conferences, professional and work events and you’ll see people tend to stay in groups of people they know. Please consider branching out and watching out for those who don’t have people to hang with. It can be hard to just interject yourself into a group, so the more open we are to seeing others around us and being welcoming will go a long way in making human connections.
  • Anyone can lead. When my young grandson stepped up to lead in a game of hide ‘n seek, the other kids happily followed. There was no rivalry going on because they had a common goal – to simply have fun. And that meant being open to suggestions and leads from other kids. The same thing happens in our professional lives. Each of us has an opportunity to take the lead on something if we choose to. And we also have the opportunity to follow someone’s lead, especially when it’s towards a common goal. Both are rewarding in their own ways.
  • Relax and have fun.  Being an adult does not mean we have to stop having fun. Work can and should be fun at times and taking the time to just enjoy people and activities without overthinking things can be so freeing.

So let’s take our cue from the playground and enjoy more and judge less in life. We’ll be the better for it.


Let’s Get Over Ourselves – Why Wouldn’t HR Pros Have Friendships at Work?

New post from KolormeHR.

Have you ever expected something for a long time and when it actually happens, it still feels like a knock-out blow? Like the world you know will never be the same? As I checked email this morning on the train to work, one immediately caught my eye, and I knew what it contained before opening it. Tears silently streamed down my face as I read that a dear friend and team member won’t be returning to work. I expected this day and was prepared for it….or so I thought. But we’re never as prepared as we think, whether a loved one dies after a lengthy illness, or a friend or family member retires or moves away. We know it’s coming, but when it does, it feels like a sucker punch all over again.

As I reflect on my friend and the wonderful years we worked together, I couldn’t help but think about the numerous articles and posts about how HR professionals shouldn’t have friends at work. And certainly we can’t be friends with people we supervise. Or if we do, we have to be very careful not to show favoritism or give the appearance we’re giving away company secrets. Let’s stop this insanity and call it what it is – total BS. Who decided that HR should stand on a pedestal in self-imposed isolation? Probably the same people who insist on practicing old school HR and play the enforcer of ridiculous amounts of policies. Most people are responsible adults and no matter what our role is in our organizations, we spend a lot of time at work. Why wouldn’t we get to know each other? Why wouldn’t we spend time together? Why wouldn’t we simply be human?

Some of my team and I have worked together for almost 20 years. If in all that time I kept myself at arm’s length and kept it strictly business, how demotivating would that be for them? How likely would they feel comfortable discussing issues or making suggestions? How likely would they be to give it their all for the firm and our clients? How likely would they want to stay? When situations arose that called for me to put the personal aside and put on my business hat, I did it. If HR never bothered to get to know other employees, how can it stay in-tune with the pulse of the organization? Isolating ourselves and being invisible does nothing but cause a sense of dread with people when they do see HR. I do not want nor will be part of this practice.

Another dear friend left our team last year to move to a warmer climate (go figure). It had been a dream of hers for a few years and we knew it would happen someday, but when the day came, it was still a knock-out blow. While I’m happy for her, I still miss her every day because she was an important part of my life, and I smile at the memories….and there are memories! I honestly don’t know how I could come to work every day without having friends here.

We spend more waking time at work than at home, so unless you’re in a bubble, take the time to get to know people. Become friends with them. It’s really that simple. Don’t overthink it or worry about it. Just do it. As my friend and HR guru Steve Browne wrote in his book, HR On Purpose!, HR professionals need to quit being apologists and own what we do. To that end, let me introduce myself. I’m Cheryl Nelson, an HR professional who makes friends at work. And I make no apologies.