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.
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?
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.
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.
New post from KolormeHR: Be Relevant – Stay Relevant
“Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for, and my time was running’ wild……..ch ch changes…..” David Bowie.
Change. The word most people are sick of hearing. But change happens every day whether we like it or not. How we react and adapt (or not) to changes in our workplace not only show what we’re made of, but it either helps or hinders our success. To me, it’s not really about change per se, but rather continually moving forward in a fast-paced world. Unless we are completely oblivious to what goes on around us, we know change is coming. Why then do we act surprised when it gets here? When it touches us? Why then do we think maybe we should have done something different sooner, like learn a new skill or enhance a rusty one? Why then do we feel like we should have taken control of our career sooner?
Don’t let this be you. Take control of your career now. Take control of your learning. Make a plan and put that plan into action. While we may not always be able to alter the course the way we’d like, we have a better chance of staying relevant and marketable. Relevancy matters. We were hired because we had relevant skills for the job. And that’s great if we were hired recently. But what if we were hired 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago or more? Some of those skills still matter of course, and hopefully we’ve enhanced them. But have we taken the time to develop new skills needed to help us stay relevant in a fast-changing world and help move our organizations forward? Or have we stayed in a bubble and not kept up on what’s happening in our respective industries and professions?
I’m celebrating 28 years at my firm on April 2nd. Longevity can be viewed as a great thing…..or not so great depending on your viewpoint. I didn’t envision being here that long, but many things kept me here. Executive leadership has consistently been strong. Personal and professional development has been encouraged and supported by my boss, and that is priceless to me. I continually sought to enhance and change job responsibilities as time marched on to keep stretching myself for personal job satisfaction. And I learned….and kept learning by getting involved in industry associations, eventually moving into leadership at the local and national levels, completing a college degree, attaining professional certifications, soaking up information from publications and blogs, attending workshops, conferences, webinars, connecting with peers, and the list goes on. These things have not only helped me enhance already solid skills, but gain new skills that are relevant in today’s world. And it keeps me hungry for more.
Bob (names have been changed to protect the innocent) arrived to the interview with boots laced around his neck. John continually mopped his forehead while sweating profusely during his interview. Tom abruptly stood up moments into his interview and announced he was going home because he missed his cat. In the middle of her interview, Sally pulled out family photos….many many photos. During his second interview with us, Jack revealed the prank he played at his law firm while working in the mail room (took a check that came in the mail outside and ran over it several times with his car). Harry told me about a nickname his co-workers gave him – Chester Chester the child molester. Sue had a lovely phone voice but that was overshadowed by the rats nest in her hair.
These are just a few memorable interviews I’ve conducted over the years. Yes, I smile when I think of these, but not for the reason you might think. I smile because when you’ve interviewed as much as I have, you learn that some candidates reveal who they are early on and others you find out about after the hire. I smile because even if someone isn’t right for our organization, they may be a great fit for someone else. I smile because no matter what candidates bring to the table or how they present themselves, they all have one thing in common. They put themselves out there applying for jobs. They took the steps to better their employment situation and lives. And that takes courage. They all deserve courtesy and respect and for HR professionals and hiring managers to see and hear them fully before making a hiring decision.
HR professionals and hiring managers have an awesome responsibility to find top talent for their organizations. We have the power to move people through the process … or not. We have the power to give hope to someone. We have the power to change someone’s life. We have the power to bring more diversity to our organizations. We cannot and should not abuse that power.
We abuse that power by feeling and acting superior to candidates. We abuse that power by looking for anything and everything to disqualify candidates. For example, in discussions with others with recruiting and hiring responsibilities, some have indicated that even one typo immediately puts that candidate in the “no” pile. It didn’t matter that they had a great cover letter and resume with solid skills. Some people can’t get beyond employment gaps as if those candidates are marked for life and don’t deserve a job. Have we forgotten the recession that cost lots of good people their jobs? Of course there are employment gaps people! Some candidates have had the audacity to take time out for families. Why are they not snapped up is beyond me.
I’m not saying every candidate is a fit for our organizations. I’m not saying that attention to detail doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that I don’t try to “find where the bodies are buried” because I’m responsible to my firm to be thoughtful and careful with who we bring in the door. But a typo here and there is not the end of the world for me. A letter or resume riddled with typos is another matter, but sometimes we just don’t catch everything. If a resume isn’t formatted the best, that’s not an automatic rejection from me (although it should be presented in an easy way to read). An employment gap doesn’t bring immediate suspicion because we’re in a different world from 20 years ago. To let some of these things rule out good candidates is short-sighted and not always in the best interest of our organizations.
Recruiting is fun and I enjoy it. I love representing our firm to candidates because it’s a fantastic firm. I love meeting with people and hearing their stories and admiring their skills. I love putting them at ease and having a great conversation. Not all candidates are right for our organizations. But all candidates deserve respect and courtesy. I encourage HR professionals and hiring managers to view the recruiting process through the lens of the candidate. I challenge us to apply for jobs so we can experience first-hand what candidates experience today, and change our procedures if applicable. It’s not only the right thing to do, but we never know when we’ll be on the other side of the desk. And that can be more humbling than anything.
Desperately running through the Minneapolis airport to catch a flight, realizing three to a room wasn’t feasible in Chicago, being driven on a bicycle cart through the streets of San Diego dressed in Village People headgear, playing washboards in New Orleans, trying to pay a toll for the car behind us only to end up looking like something from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in Florida, being chastised by citizens in Seattle for jaywalking, learning that your friends totally had your back in Las Vegas, visiting Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, suffering through one operating elevator in Manhattan, exploring a haunted hotel in Chicago (and seeing a ghost😳), being drenched in torrential rains in D.C., and using a towel under my door as a ‘snake guard’ in Arizona. These are only a handful of memories from conferences I’ve attended. And of course, plenty of learning occurred too🙂.
It’s fun seeing the exciting hype SHRM18 bloggers are writing about leading up to the SHRM conference, and ALA’s annual conference is right around the corner. I’m heading to Ultimate Software’s Ultimate Connections conference next week. Conference attendance has been a big part of my life and has enriched my career more than I can adequately portray. My first conference was an HR/Payroll conference and it hooked me. I remember preparing a recap of sessions attended and what I got out of them for my bosses after the first two conferences. They told me the recaps were nice but not necessary – they understood the value of learning.
The support of my ambitions and continual learning from them and my firm has been priceless. It has led to tremendous personal and professional growth and increased job satisfaction. It has provided me opportunities to get involved in leadership and make connections across the globe. It has made me a better leader and employee and it can do the same for you if you want it enough.
While I have plenty of fun at conferences, I have never taken my firm’s investment in me for granted. I get full days of sessions in, and keep meal and transportation costs reasonable. My rule of thumb is to not order or pay for something I wouldn’t spend my own money on.
If you’re considering whether a conference is worth it, my advice is just do it, understanding that you will get out of it what you put into it. Expect to learn something and you will. Expect to meet people and keep those connections going and you will. Expect that no matter your experience level, there’s always an idea or practice you can bring back to your organization, and you will. Expect to have fun and you will.
Now go do it.