#SHRMDIV – How Do You Get People to Talk?

brandonDay One of the 2018 SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference began with a keynote address from Brandon Stanton, creator of the wildly popular (it reaches 25 million people) blog, Humans of New York. I’m a fan of the site because I like hearing/reading people’s stories. Everyone has one. I care about people so it would follow that I care about their stories.

If you’re not familiar with Humans of New York, Brandon travels the world taking photos of people and on the site he shares those photos along with some part of their story. As he discussed how he is able to accomplish this, something he said really resonated with me as an HR professional. He said one of the questions he is often asked is “How do you get people to talk?” After all, these people do not know him, they have no previous relationship with him, yet they often share intimate details of their lives with him. His response – “I just ask.”

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He followed up noting the importance of getting to a place where a person is examining and unpacking an emotional, impactful part of their life. It involves intent listening, asking follow-up questions and not thinking about himself or having an agenda. This reminded me of what HR professionals are charged with doing when an employee comes to us with an issue/concern. Before we can address the concern, we need to know what it is and what’s behind it. Just as Brandon does with his photo subjects, we need to listen intently and ask follow-up questions without having an agenda. We need to make the individual feel safe enough to share with us. Psychological safety is a key component of inclusion.

The first question Brandon usually asks a person is “What is your greatest struggle right now?” I immediately thought of how helpful it would be to HR professionals to know the answer to this question when speaking with an employee who has a concern. Actually, it would be good for us to know even if they aren’t having an issue. Understanding what people are experiencing is critical to developing and maintaining an inclusive culture. People are often reluctant to talk out of fear of being exposed; however, they will also have a deep appreciation for being listened to and having their concerns validated. At the end of the day, validation outweighs fear. Ask (with genuine concern) and you will probably receive the answer. People have an innate desire to be heard and understood. PRO TIP: Employees are people.

Are-You-ListeningAnother comment that resonated with me was “The world is all about sharing right now; but we’re really not listening.” Between work life, home life, social life, social media, etc., the world is full of noise. Full of it. We hear a lot; but we actually listen to very little. This also relates directly to our roles in HR. On any given day we hear a lot of information and we have to make sure that we take the time to listen to what’s critical, particularly employee concerns and complaints. Not only do we need to listen but we need to ask the right questions, follow-up and check-in. We need to have open lines of communication. To do this effectively, we need to ensure people feel safe enough to be vulnerable.

“Safety is about intent; not content. Learn to monitor and manage safety and you can talk to anyone about anything.” – Emily Gregory, VitalSmarts

 

 

Give me an ‘S’! … #SHRM18 Blog Squad

cheerleading-clip-art-13As you may know by now, I have been selected to be a member of the SHRM18 Blogger Team. Members of the team will be sharing information and content about the SHRM 2018 Annual Conference on social media (blogs, Twitter, etc.) before and during the conference. We are basically cheerleaders for the conference, without the matching uniforms and acrobatic stunts. Maybe we should get pom poms though. Because why not?

This is my first year being a member of the blogger team and I’m super excited about it. I even posted a video about it on Instagram which, if you know me, was major. LOL. One of my fellow team members, Michael Vandevort, is doing an interview series for his podcast, DriveThru HR. The point of the series is to get to know each of us a bit as well as discuss the conference and what we’re looking forward to about it. The episode featuring me is below (click image.) Check it out. While you’re at it, check out the other blogger team episodes too. We are one great group of inspired and inspiring HR professionals! When you see us at the conference, be sure to say hello.

See you in Chicago!

drivethruhr

 

When Did ‘Advocate’ Become a Dirty Word? 

Recently I posed a question on Twitter that stemmed from a comment I received at work.

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I’m not gonna lie. I thought most of the responses would lean towards “Of course not! Who ever suggested such craziness?”  To my surprise, there were quite a few responses of the “Well, yes; it does come off as kind of negative” variety. There was even a suggestion that considering oneself an employee advocate implies a lack of business acumen and ability to be a strategic partner. To that, my initial thought was “Who ever suggested such craziness?”

It appears the word ‘advocate’ is thought by many to mean someone who speaks for the voiceless and incapable. Therefore, being an employee advocate would imply that your employees have no voice or are unable to speak for themselves. I’m right about a lot of things but I’m not right about everything, so I consulted my good friend, Merriam-Webster, to see if maybe I was somehow mistaken about the meaning of the word.

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M-W assured me that I was not wrong. So now my question became, I wonder why this negative connotation of the word has developed in terms of an HR professional being an employee advocate? I think it stems from the outdated belief that HR is “for the employer, not for the people.” #PROTIP – The ’employer’ is comprised of people.

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Sometimes I wonder if I’m living in a fairytale world that doesn’t exist. A world in which everyone is (or at least should be) respected and valued equally at work. A world in which there is no “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to senior executive staff and non-senior executive staff. A world in which being an advocate for employees is viewed as a positive thing because there is an understanding that we are ALL employees. Everyone who draws a paycheck from an organization is an employee, regardless of the number of zeros on the paycheck.

So when I think of being an employee advocate I am not saying I am an advocate for ‘the minion’ against ‘the man’ because I don’t believe in having that type of delineation among staff. It serves no positive purpose. I am saying employee advocate in terms of providing guidance and support and working towards the best interests of the employee group as a whole. I certainly don’t see how being an advocate implies a lack of business acumen or the ability to be strategic. That is honestly just insulting.

I was disheartened to see so many of my peers align with this “advocate is a dirty word” mentality. Some agreed. Some didn’t necessarily agree, but they understood. I just shook my head in disamazement. (Yes; I made that word up.)

There was a speaker at #SHRM17 that said, in so many words, in order to get ahead, we have to speak to people in their language. So I guess that means I have to stop referring to myself as an employee advocate because apparently, it is a vastly misunderstood term that is perceived negatively. But my heart knows. My heart and Merriam-Webster.

#NotAThoughtLeader

 

Doing the Right Thing: Being a Good (#HR) Person

michael j fox

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fine, sometimes blurry, line between maintaining confidentiality and being a decent, genuine, HONEST, person in the world of human resources.  I’m not talking about not sharing personal information such as health issues, employee relations matters or pay (although a very strong  argument can certainly be made for pay transparency.) I’m talking about not being at liberty to speak on something that will impact an employee because it would be frowned upon from a business perspective even though from a human perspective it would be the right thing to do. In other words, if it was me, I would want to know. Wait. It IS me. I’m an employee too!

Is it just me or do other HR professionals struggle with this as well?

A while ago I saw the tweet below and honestly, I was offended by it. ben watts tweet

The premise being that HR should be outsourced because internal HR lets emotion get in the way. So…emotion is inherently wrong and/or HR consultants should be automatons with no feelings? I’ve been both and while I can understand why internal HR may be somewhat more invested because actions and policies affect them as well, if you’re a consultant that has no feelings, or doesn’t ever let emotion or empathy enter the picture, I wouldn’t want to work with you.

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How do you/we/I balance humanity and transparency with maintaining confidentiality regarding business matters while still feeling like we’re doing the right thing not only as HR professionals but as human beings? I’d like to think I do a pretty good job of obtaining and maintaining that balance, but I’d be lying if I said some scenarios don’t weigh heavy on my heart at times. It’s important to me to be good at my job; but it’s even more important to me to be a good person. I believe part of bringing humanity into the workplace is treating people how you would want to be treated which translates to how and when you communicate with them as well as what you communicate about. After all, ‘do unto others…’ IS the golden rule. Maybe it should be the ONLY rule.

#NotAThoughtLeader

Let’s Start with Decency

Lately I have engaged in several conversations (online and IRL) surrounding race, racism, diversity and inclusion, as I’m sure many of you have given today’s political and social climate. These conversations have been with friends, colleagues and fellow HR professionals. Thankfully I associate with some pretty intelligent, thoughtful, decent individuals who can discuss heated topics without becoming heated (passionate maybe, but not heated) and/or resorting to insults or name-calling. Thankfully. But for many, these types of conversations can often devolve into a free-for-all that becomes focused on the individual rather than on the topic. Or facts.

decency4During these conversations I’ve heard many stories of “true colors” being shown by folks people considered friends or at least decent associates. It seems this past presidential election and the current White House inhabitant have made vile and divisive words and actions against the “other” (race, gender, physical ability, sexuality, you name it) more acceptable and folks are feeling free to let their bigotry flag fly. Nowhere does that flag fly higher than online where folks develop superhero levels of courage from behind the keyboard. What does this say about us as a society? What does it mean for us in the workplace? What does it mean for HR professionals? More pointedly, what impact do these beliefs, when held by HR professionals, have on the rest of us?

If you’re a recruiter or hiring manager who believes black people are intellectually inferior, or that immigrants don’t deserve to be here, or that homosexuality is a sin, or that people with disabilities are somehow less than capable, or that women should stay home barefoot and pregnant, that has to affect your decisions in the workplace, right? How could it not?

If you’re a speaker who speaks on HR topics at conferences, or a consultant, or write an HR blog, how do your views not seep into your work? And if they don’t what type of a psychopath are you? I jest. But, seriously.

This topic is heavy on my mind. Not just because I’m headed to SHRM’s Diversity & Inclusion Conference next week (yay!) But also because I feel this pattern of hateful thoughts, beliefs and discourse will only get worse before it gets better. On a grand scale. However on a smaller scale, on the scale that is within my own little sphere of influence, I commit to do my part to make the world, the HR profession and the workplace a better place to be. For everyone.

I’m far from perfect but I know I’m a good, decent person and I truly believe all of this starts from there. Decency, empathy, and compassion are the building blocks of humanity. The more we infuse those into HR, it will in turn have an impact on our workplaces (WorkHuman, anyone?) which are composed of individuals who are a part of the world community. It’s all connected.

I know this was a bit of a ramble but thank you for making it this far. More to come!

(Posted on SHRM Blog October 23, 2017)

#NotAThoughtLeader

Should HR Pros Be Held to a Higher Standard?

As you know, I attended SHRM17 in New Orleans and had a blast. I’m so glad I took the plunge and invested in my professional development. Luckily I was able to take advantage of a discounted rate because I volunteered at SHRM16.

Screen-Shot-2014-05-15-at-11.54.06-AMThe entertainment for this year’s concert was Harry Connick, Jr. I like HCJ as much as the next person but I wanted to get out and explore New Orleans a bit rather than sit in the convention center after being there all day so I didn’t attend the concert. However, I did see quite a few comments about it on the conference community site. These comments were less about the concert itself and more about the behavior of the concertgoers. Behavior such as rushing the stage, standing in the aisles, taking photos – you know, typical concert behavior.

“Oh my goodness, I can’t believe HR professionals would behave this way!”

“HR professionals shouldn’t rush the stage to take photos! Photos weren’t allowed. How can you enforce rules at work and not follow them here??”

“I’ve never been so disappointed in a group of HR professionals!”

You get the gist. So I’m reading these comments thinking “are y’all serious?” Apparently, they were based on the responses to my query. This got me thinking – is there an expectation that people who work in HR should behave differently than others when outside of work? Are we, or should we be, held to a higher standard in our private/social lives because of our chosen profession? To add another layer to this, if this expectation exists, is it widely held or is it only held in some HR circles?

Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of concerts lined up this year that I paid good money for and if folks decide to stand in the way and block my view, I’m gonna be peeved, to say the least. So I get that part. I definitely believe in exercising common courtesy and a basic level of decorum. Not because I work in HR, but because I’m a somewhat decent human being. Do unto others and all that jazz. But this mindset that working in HR should somehow influence your behavior outside of work threw me for a loop. Especially because I saw it from multiple people. That has never occurred to me.

So what say you, readers? HR by day, at night we play? HR always in all ways?

Let me know your thoughts.

#SHRM17 – ALL IN(SPIRED)

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Beignets from Sunday brunch at Blake’s on Poydras. DELICIOUS!

SHRM 2017 ended last week and I’m experiencing withdrawal. The people, the sessions, the music, the BEIGNETS! What’s not to love? If you missed it, you missed something big. Literally. It was the biggest SHRM conference ever! Between the concurrent sessions, the Smart Stage, the Take 10s and the General Sessions, you could soak up a wealth of information without even trying.

 

Many of the sessions I attended shared the common theme of building trust, shifting culture, HR influence and putting people first. This was deliberate as these are topics that really speak to me and that I believe in fully. (Full disclosure: I ended up in Richard Fagerlin’s session because I was tired of walking that behemoth of a convention center. It was a great session though and I’m glad I attended it.)

I have a ton of takeaways from SHRM17. (I concur with Steve Browne’s statement that if you leave a session without any takeaways, it’s YOUR fault, not the speaker’s.) Some of my favorites are below.

TRUST YOUR PEOPLE.

laszloIf you believe people are fundamentally good, you will treat them that way. (Laszlo Bock)

How many times have you encountered designated leaders who don’t trust the people they hire to do their jobs? You know who I’m talking about. The folks who want to micromanage their employees to death. Perhaps you are (gasp!) one of those people. If you are, stop it right now! That’s no way to inspire or motivate folks to be productive.

Another great Bock statement: FREEDOM IS FREE. Meaning, it costs nothing for you to allow your employees the freedom and autonomy to be effective. Let’s face it – if you don’t trust the people you hire, that says way more about you than it says about them.

CULTURE IS THE SUM OF WHAT YOU PERMIT AND WHAT YOU PROMOTE.

culture

Another way to think about culture. Steve Browne said this in his session as well.

Consider the mic dropped.  This comment on culture from Richard Fagerlin’s session, Creating a Culture of High Trust : 10 Things Every Organization Must Do to Experience High Trust was probably my most retweeted tweet from the conference. Obviously it resonates.

 

We’ve all seen it. You have an organization that prides itself on its core values of  <insert  buzzwords of the moment> but in practice it’s a whole different story. They say they believe in diversity & inclusion, but the leadership team looks the same and thinks the same. They say they believe in innovation but new ideas are always shot down. They say harassment won’t be tolerated but a known harasser gets promoted because they are a high performer. They say they believe in work/life balance but pitch a fit if an employee has to leave early. I call shenanigans! Your culture isn’t what you say it is, it’s what it is.

Another good Fagerlin quote: EVERY ORGANIZATION IS PERFECTLY DESIGNED TO GET THE RESULTS IT GETS. Just let that marinate for a minute while thinking about some of your past (maybe present) work experiences. It’s all starting to make sense now, right? #MajorKey

THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE, NOT AUTHORITY.* 

20170626_172813In her session, Influencing Others: 8 Steps to Get Results When You Don’t Have Direct AuthorityValerie Grubb spoke about how to influence others when you don’t have direct authority. Again, this really boiled down to trust. Trust and communication style.

In order to influence someone when you don’t have authority over them i.e. when you can’t say “because I said so,” they have to trust you (see above) and you have to communicate concisely. Speak to the WHY of what you’re trying to accomplish and gain a reputation for getting to the point. This is something I really need to practice. I can get wordy at times. (Don’t say it. LOL. Just keep reading.) WHEN TRYING TO INFLUENCE SOMEONE THEY HAVE TO HEAR YOU FIRST. If they don’t trust you, chances are they aren’t listening.

DON’T KEEP FOLLOWING THE RULES; CHANGE THEM!

20170626_172212You probably guessed this quote came from Steve Browne without me having to say it. He has a bit of a reputation as a rule breaker. In a good way. Make that a GREAT way. Steve is so freakin’ inspirational and his passion for HR and people is contagious.

I attended Steve’s Brand Name HR: Giving Your Function Life & Purpose session. He spoke a lot about pushing boundaries and not letting yourself (and your career) be confined to what HR is “supposed to do” or “should be doing.” We need to challenge the status quo and not be afraid to shake things up for the betterment of the folks we’re here to support.

We can’t be afraid to bring our whole selves to work and we must encourage others to do the same.  We spend too much time at work to have to shut off or hide major parts of ourselves during the workday. For example, I like to change my hair color a lot and I have visible tattoos. Neither of which impacts my ability to do my job. Get over it.

Steve also talked about HR being out and among the people as opposed to always making them come to us. I’m proud to say I do a pretty good job of this. The people are the reason I do what I do. Why would I want to keep my distance from them? I have never been “Ms. Stuffy, Scary, Uncaring HR lady” and I never will be. Let’s not be confined by others’ preconceived notions of HR. IF YOU’RE NOT MAKING PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE YOU’RE NOT DOING YOUR JOB. (Thanks for the reminder, Steve!)

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IRL connection w/ @tgweeded – photobomb courtesy of @cescobar78

This was just a small taste of my #SHRM17 experience. There’s no way I can cover it all in one blog post. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how fabulous and fun it was to make IRL connections with the folks I know from #nextchat. (Not familiar? Get into it! Every Wed. 3pm EST on Twitter.) It was so great to put a human-sized face to a tiny Twitter avatar face and take our conversations offline. That was easily one of the best parts of the conference.

 

So SHRM17 has come and gone. Beignet cravings notwithstanding, I’m excited about sharing and implementing what I learned and continuing to connect with other HR professionals, online and off. I went ALL IN and came out truly INspired. Kudos to the entire SHRM team for a WONDERFUL conference!! I hope to see everyone at #SHRM18 next year. (I wonder if there’s any chance of having a batch of beignets shipped to Chicago.) 

BONUS ROUND: If you attended SHRM17, share your favorite part in the comments and/or reach out to me on Twitter @tmrasberry.

*Ken Blanchard quote

(Posted on SHRM Blog June 28, 2017)

#HR: Let’s Lead the Way in Promoting #MentalHealth Awareness

So…it’s been a long minute since I published a blog post. I have several draft posts on topics I really wanted to share with my legions of readers (lol) but for some reason, I’ll get halfway through and stop. Then weeks will go by and I feel like it’s not fresh anymore. For example, I STILL have a draft post about #SHRM16 – as I’m preparing to attend #SHRM17 next month. I know, I know.

1in5

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI,) 1 in 5 Americans is affected by a mental health issue.

At any rate, I’m hitting ‘publish’ on this one for sure because the topic is near and dear to me on both a personal and professional level. Mental Health. MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH MONTH. Having been personally affected by mental illness and super aware of the impact it can have on life activities, I am hyper vigilant about others taking care of their own mental health. This, of course, extends to my co-workers/colleagues, or as I like to call them “my people.” I believe HR professionals are in a unique position to promote positive mental health; however, this in no way lets leadership and management off the hook.

A few days ago I sent an all staff email about mental health awareness which included a few mental illness stats, a reminder about the Employee Assistance Program and the availability of mental health professionals through our insurance plan. I work at a nonprofit and I love a good “mission-driven organization” as much as the next person but I also realize the tendency for many employees to be underpaid, overworked, overwhelmed and stressed out trying to fulfill that mission.

Stress is a leading cause of chronic health problems, both mental and physical. If you are already dealing with a mental illness, it will only exacerbate the issue.

In the workplace, this has an impact not only on the individual, but on teams, departments, working relationships, morale, benefits costs, absenteeism, and the bottom line. In other words, it would behoove ANY employer to take this issue seriously. As HR professionals especially, we have to always remember that our employees are people first and deal with a plethora of issues that don’t just go away during work hours.

Offering an EAP is a great first step but we also need to genuinely care about our employees and create supportive environments in which people can be their best selves and therefore utilize their knowledge, skills and abilities (i.e what we hired them for) to their best capabilities. Of course I’m not saying there won’t ever be bad days, stressful periods, times when everyone is stretched a bit thin, etc, but these should be the exception, not the rule.

Mental Health Facts 2017

(Infographic – Mental Health America)

Your assignment today, my fellow HR professionals, is to educate your colleagues and organization leadership on the importance of mental health awareness (not just this month but on a consistent basis,) provide resources for employees to get help (if not already doing so,) and work to create (or maintain should you be so lucky) a  stigma-free workplace.

Remember, there’s no health without mental health.

Resources:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mental Health America (provides an employer toolkit)

National Institute of Mental Health

nostigI have #NoStigmas

Strong (HR) Women Lift Each Other Up

mobamaMarch is Women’s History Month. Since this is a blog (primarily) about HR, I started thinking about the women I have known throughout the history of my HR career. See what I did there? All of my previous managers (for full-time jobs) have been women. That makes sense considering 76% of Human Resources Managers are women, according to 2014 statistics from the US Department of Labor. However, the manager who started me on this HR road was a male manager I had for a non-HR job. To this day I remember him as my most supportive manager. He saw something special in me and committed to helping me succeed in my career, to the point that when he switched agencies, he found a job for me in his new agency. That job was my  first HR position (though it was called personnel.)

As I sit here pondering the significance of women in my career, I realize I’ve never had a woman manager who did the same. Don’t get me wrong- I pretty much owe my career to women because it’s been a woman who has hired me for each position I’ve held. But after that male manager I had many moons ago, I haven’t had one who really seemed invested in my career or in seeing me grow/get ahead, outside of how it would benefit them. I’ve often wondered if the outcome would have been different if I’d had more male managers.

Which leads me to this – HR is a woman-heavy industry but are there too many women? Wait, before you hate.  I have some AMAZING women HR professionals in my network who have been quite encouraging. However, when it comes to actually working with women in the same workplace, I really haven’t felt the same level of support. The women who look out for me most in my career are typically not in HR. Odd, right?

Maybe this experience is unique to me. I don’t know. Sometimes I just wonder if too many women in HR are so busy fighting for respect, equality, a voice, and a crack in the glass ceiling that the time isn’t there to nurture and support. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a fear of perceived competition. Not so fun fact: Even though we work to establish salary ranges and attempt to ensure pay equity for others, we’re STILL paid far less than our male counterparts (40% less for Managers and 38% less for other HR Professionals based on the aforementioned 2014 DOL statistics.) So yeah, I get it. Times are hard.

Of course I don’t really think there are too many women in HR. At least I don’t think I really think that.  As I said,  this whole experience could be unique to me and/or the people I’ve worked with. Perhaps everyone else has had amazing, supportive women mentors in their HR careers. Or been one. But I wonder…

If you’re reading this and you’re an HR professional, particularly if you’re a woman, I encourage you to reflect on the women who have helped/encouraged you in your career as well as the women you have helped/encouraged. If that number is small, or zero, there’s an opportunity for change.

       Image result for women supporting each other quotesImage result for women supporting each other quotesImage result for women supporting each other quotes

I leave you with the following video of rapper Remy Ma which was posted by Marie Claire in celebration of Women’s History Month. The video inspired me to write this post because women have enough problems in the world, the least we can do is help each other when we have the chance, in our personal and professional lives.

DISCLAIMER: Mild adult language. Don’t watch if you have easily offended sensibilities. Might be NSFW depending on where you work. If you’re in an open office space, wear earphones.

 

 

 

8 Tips for Excelling in HR

This handy, dandy, list came into my inbox today and I felt compelled to share. There’s so much amazing information to be parsed from HR professionals who have been in the game much longer than I and I am here for it! Alan Collins is one of them. His site, SuccessInHR.com, is chock full of info on how to grow and succeed as an HR professional.  One thing I really appreciate is that he is straight-to-the-point. No beating around the bush. No hand-holding. Just straight talk on how to become the best you can be in your HR career. I printed this out and am going to post it in my office.

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