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.

 

Weathering the Storm

New post from KolormeHR.

Minnesota experienced a blizzard this past Saturday, along with continual snowfall on Sunday. It’s nothing we’re not used to and we’re well-equipped to handle the aftermath. That’s not to say there aren’t major inconveniences, especially for air travelers, but we can either choose to handle things gracefully, and realize we’re all in the same boat, or behave immaturely and let the world know just how put out we are. Weather happens everywhere, every day, and we need to deal with it as best we can and move on.

Minnesotans love to complain about our weather (winter and summer), but when push comes to shove, we generally embrace it. Since we didn’t have to travel anywhere on Saturday, my family enjoyed the respite from the usual hustle and bustle of weekends. It was a relaxing and lazy day, and I was grateful that we had warm shelter, when so many do not. Even though it snowed continually on Sunday, conditions were better and we ventured out for errands. In our numerous stops, I noticed that people were extra cheerful (you would have thought it was a holiday) and helpful, and even nicer on the roads (Minnesota nice only goes so far….until we get behind the wheel).

Weather brought out the best in customer service and I appreciated the effort it took many to get to work in the first place, let alone on time. While in line at the grocery store, the manager walked up to the cashier with a smile, thanked her for being there and and gave her a card. She beamed and told us that when the card was scanned, she’d get anywhere from a candy bar to $5 off a purchase of $5 (the cashier next to her got one with $5). It’s a simple thing, but she basked in the acknowledgment and affirmation from the manager that he appreciated her efforts to get to work. He noticed….and that’s a powerful message. You can bet her customer service excelled the rest of her shift. And kudos to the manager. He led by example, handling things professionally and calmly, even though he was short-staffed in a busy grocery store.

How we react to adversity speaks volumes. How we lead through adversity speaks volumes. When stormy weather next hits your personal or professional life, how will you respond?

 

 

 

 

What I learned from a High School Student

New post from KolormeHR.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALAMN) held its 4th annual career fair on April 13 for students from two local high schools. This is a pipeline project that educates students on the various career opportunities in the legal industry. It’s always a rewarding experience, and this year was no exception.

Students were given incentives to visit each booth, and they did. Many asked thoughtful questions, and some were refreshingly honest about their disinterest in some of the jobs. Students were also encouraged to participate in mock interviews. Some were apprehensive, but overcame their fears and learned interviewing skills that will serve them well in the future.

I can’t stop thinking about a young man I interviewed. If he was nervous, he didn’t show it. I started out with a few canned questions, and his answers were thoughtful and candid, turning our interview to a conversation. The time flew quickly as I became more and more intrigued and in awe of this high school senior.

Here’s what I learned:

  • He moved with his family from Somalia to Minnesota a few years ago.
  • He likes a lot about Minnesota, especially the opportunities for kids like him. He was pleasantly surprised that not only were there other students like him, but teachers as well. He said there were no opportunities for his family in Somalia.
  • He’s not crazy about our winters😏. He experienced the first snow he had ever seen in person and at first, he was excited. He played in it, he tasted it, he enjoyed it…..for about a month. After that, he said he could do without it.
  • He has a full-time security job while attending school full time. He is never tardy and has regular attendance at both.
  • He likes everything about his job. It’s easy for the most part, and he enjoys when he has to think fast on his feet.
  • His favorite school subject is biology.
  • He has been independent since he was young. His parents knew little English and     weren’t helpful with school work.
  • He washes his own clothes and basically takes care of himself.
  • He values his independence and relying on himself to be successful.
  • He is college-bound and has scholarships and funding all set.
  • He doesn’t know yet what he will major in, but definitely wants a career that will interest him and be financially lucrative. Minimum wage is not for him in the long haul.
  • He’s completing his generals at a community college in Columbus, Ohio to save money, and then will transfer to another college when he decides on a major.
  • When he completes college, he plans on returning to the Twin Cities because of the opportunities here.

Most of all, what I learned from this determined and focused young man is that he is going to be an outstanding employee for an aware employer. You can teach job skills, but you can’t teach what he has. I told him what a privilege it was to interview him and that I’d love to have him at our firm one day.

Our country’s future is in good hands with students like this.

 

 

 

What’s In Your Backpack?

New post from KolormeHR.

While I’m generally an upbeat person and look forward to each week with enthusiasm and anticipation, a friend and colleague recently retired and last week was a tough week for me. Thankfully I didn’t have much time to dwell on it, but my heart was a little heavier. I’m happy for her that she can now spend her time how she chooses, but selfishly I miss her being here.

As I stuffed my backpack last night with gym clothes (one is hopeful they’ll get used this week) and other work necessities, I started smiling and my heart was full again. Why? The simple and pure pleasure on my soon-to-be 3-year old grandson’s face this weekend when I bought him a backpack that he picked out. Never mind that the backpack is almost bigger than he is. Never mind that there wasn’t anything yet in it. He proudly showed his new treasure to Grandpa and his brother and sister when we got home from shopping. When he displayed how it looked on him, he was beaming and mentioned the bus thinking he was now ready for the school bus like his brother and sister.

I smiled thinking of what my own backpack represents and that I need to keep it filled with tools that will help me have a fun and successful week at work. Aside from the gym clothes that may or may not get used, I pack my iPhone so I can start my day by seeing what the #hrtribe is up to on social media (makes me wish my train commute was longer). Check them out on twitter and join in on the comraderie and knowledge sharing. It’s refreshing how we celebrate each other’s successes and encourage each other to greater heights. It’s great for the soul my friends. I also check out articles and blogs through sources such as feedly.com. A favorite item in my backpack is a copy of HR On Purpose! by Steve Browne (check out his blog Everyday People at http://sbrownehr.com/). It’s the perfect size and I refer to it frequently because it’s loaded with powerful stories and tips, and reminds me why I love HR. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mentally pack my attitude of gratitude. Gratitude for everyone and everything in my life.We all have tools to help us be successful – it’s up to us to use them wisely.

Every night when I stuff my backpack for work, I will see a beaming face of what that pack represents, and it will remind me of the many tools available to be successful. It will remind me of the important things in life.