Generally speaking

One of the most difficult questions for me to answer is in what areas to do want to develop, learn or want training.

It’s not for lack of wanting to develop, but rather from a fear of boxing myself in. I have a hard time choosing – I want to learn and dabble in just about all areas.

Of course there are things I prefer to do more than others. I mean, I am happy to watch from the sidelines when the compensation team hits the field; however, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to understand the rules of the game or player stats.

And then there are areas that I dive in and don’t climb out of those waters until I’m seriously waterlogged and have prune fingers.

Every Christmas (well to be truthful it’s really in August) my mother starts hounding me about gift ideas. I refuse to cooperate until around mid-October and even then I’m stingy. Perhaps this speaks to some lingering adolescent petulance (and that might be the case), but it’s also because I get almost paralyzed by coming up with a few ideas.  I don’t even know what I want to get myself…how can I possible tell someone else what I want them to get me.

I’ve been very frank about my feelings around Christmas, so you can only imagine how my head spins around performance objective setting time.  It is really challenging for me because it’s just so damn hard to narrow my choices down. How do I pick only a few – there’s so much out there ?

I often wondered whether it would be better to specialize or remain a generalist in HR. I had an inkling that I should find some key area, latch on to it, and rock the shit out of it. After all, “generalist” sounds so sale, so ordinary, so middle of the road.   So I made my pro / cons lists, weighed my options, evaluated my motivational level, and did a bit of soul-searching and realized that I’m cool with staying in the Generalist role.

After all, as The Pretenders so aptly put it, “in the middle of the road you see the darndest things”.

The data behind Accidental HR

Every year on my birthday I sit back and reflect on where I’m at and do a check-in on how things are going.  This year I decided to be a bit more analytic about it.

So for the past year, here are the numbers and facts behind the woman:

The basics:

  • Years on this planet: 43 (today)
  • Years married: 20.4167
  • Number of kids: 2 (unless you include my young-at-heart husband, in which case it’s 3)
  • Number of pets: 1 (unless you count geckos as pets, in which case I would bump it up to 1.25)
  • Number of family milestones: 5 (2 graduations, 1 big anniversary, 1 kid moving out, 1 sibling expecting his first!)

Education:

  • Number of degrees/ certificates: 2 (plus another in progress)
  • Average number of times I think I should do another: 1/month
  • Frequency that I learn something new: every. single. day.

Work

  • Total years in the workforce: 29
  • Years of full-time employment: 17
  • Years in HR: 6
  • Average number of times that I think I should get out of dodge: 1x/ week
  • Average number of times I think I am where I should be: 3x/week
  • Number of times that I have googled: “jobs that don’t involve working with people”: 3

Social

  • Number of LinkedIn connections: 462
  • Number of Twitter followers: 886
  • Number of Facebook friends: 50
  • Number of people who I would tell anything to / do anything for: 2
  • Estimated percentage of waking time I spend checking my feeds: 15
  • Average frequency of blog posts: 2 per month
  • Desired frequency of blog posts: 4 per month
  • Odds that the desired frequency will occur any time soon: 1 in 5

The important stuff

  • Number of countries I have visited: 2
  • Average number of coffees/day: 3
  • Estimated time that I spend procrastinating on Pinterest: 1 hour / day
  • Number of books I read so far this year: 20
  • Percentage of clothing that is the colour black or grey: 70%
  • Average number of times in a week that I use maple syrup in some way: 7 (that one is for you @ChristopherinHR)
  • Number of times I reference Harry Potter in every day conversations: countless
  • Number of different copies of Alice in Wonderland I own: 5

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So there you have it – another year…one stat at a time.

Undoing kindergarten: You don’t have to share everything

There was a time when information was THE ultimate currency.  It was so precious that it in some instance “a little knowledge’ was considered “a dangerous thing”.

Today – information is like a Starbucks.  You can find it anywhere and in ridiculous combinations and sizes.

Big data?! Whatever.  You can have Venti data.

And because of this over abundance of easily accessed information – there has been a serious devaluation.

People treat information like it means nothing, particularly when it is of the personal nature.  Oh I am sure there are many who will call it knowledge-sharing.  All in the name of the greater good.  More often than not, I see it as one-upping.  As in, who can provide the latest and greatest news before anyone else.

Today, if I so desired, I could share just about anything I wanted with my immediate circle or the whole wide (connected) world in a matter of seconds.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, this blog, Instagram, email, …. click, click, click. Shared

What I ate for breakfast, where I am standing, who I’m with, my state of mind, my opinion, a photo of someone else, my opinion on the photo of someone else, the weather, self-promotion, promotion of someone else, someone else’s opinion, my opinion on someone else’s opinion, love, hate, frustration, anger, melancholy.

All of it.  All of the time.

No boundaries.

You know, I could also re-paint the exterior of my house hot pink. It would take a little longer, but it would be out there for all those that pass by to see. I would be sharing it – whether they want to see it or.

Of course I’m not likely to repaint the house (at least not hot pink) anytime soon – it takes effort and quite honestly the novelty would wear off pretty quick and I’m stuck with my Barbie house until I undo the damage.

Sharing my information via the interweb however…well that takes no effort whatsoever.   I don’t have to even think about it.  However the lasting effect and impact is a lot longer.

And before anyone feels like I’m about to launch into an after school special about the dangers of posting things online, I’m not.  If you are reading this blog then you are likely an intelligent adult and know all the playground rules about social media.

What I’m trying to establish is that we have become so incredibly accustomed to sharing information that I think we are losing touch with  whether or not it should be shared.

It never ceases to amaze me when employees share personal information about their pay, about their performance reviews, about conversations they had with others.  Think it’s all just hearsay? Nope – I’ve seen the texts that back it up. It boggles my mind.

A transparent process or workplace does not mean that you should draft an email about what your colleague told me she got as a performance review.  An equitable and inclusive workplace does not mean ensuring that you share everyone’s information equally.

Repeat after me: ” I do not have to share everything.  I am not obligated to pass along every tidbit of information I overhear or come by. It is not necessary to reveal every last detail about all aspects of my personal and professional life.”

Now copy and paste the last statement and post that on all your accounts.

 

 

 

Attention. Attention please.

It goes without saying that if I’m aiming to write an HR blog, then I should be the one giving advice, telling people how it is, and griping about the reality of things.

Oh and where’s my seat at the table?

And how about them engagement scores.

To clarify, this isn’t a formal HR blog (fortunately for me), it’s a blog that frequently refers to HR-related things.  This variation allows me a ridiculous amount of freedom in saying stuff like…I think management has it backwards, it’s not the employees that have an over-developed sense of entitlement, it’s themselves.  Really – you pay people to work.  You don’t own them.  You are not entitled to every ounce of time and attention that they possess.

It makes me think of the scene in The Social Network where Mark Zuckerburg zones out and is called on it by being asked, “Do I have your full attention?” and his rebuttal includes this gem “…you have part of my attention, you have the minimum amount…the rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook…”

You have to understand that a some time or another that’s how most of us feel.  Some week’s it might be more than less.  Sometimes that’s how we feel at work.  Sometimes it’s how we feel at home.

Picture this : You are sitting in yet another meeting and your mind is back in your work space thinking about the 150 emails and requests that are coming in, how you need to get the day-to-day done, what glorious objectives we are going to set for yourself this year, and well, whether there will be a next year.

Meantime, you catch yourself zoning out and realize that when you re-join the meeting 15 minutes later, nothing has happened.  So then you zone out again, but this time you are thinking about what you are going to make for dinner, how you are going to be in two places at once at 6:30 pm, and whether or not your teen is just going through a “phase” or whether it’s something more serious.

You are then snapped back to reality when someone asks you a question and you don’t know what it was – so you ask them to repeat it.

Do you have an opinion on the project?

Yes, you have concerns about a few of the keys functions that will not meet your requirements – sure they look good and might do part of the job, but it won’t necessarily be more efficient – it will be the same, in a fancier box….

(Blank looks, blinking eyes)

Okay – Alright then. So it’s go then.

….

And THAT is why employees check out.  That is why their focus is easily diverted to other areas and concerns that have seemingly more meaning and impact in our lives.

Presuming that you deserve your employee’s complete and full attention at all times is unrealistic at best.  Particularly if the attention that is given is disregarded.

Happy Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween

I don’t usually post things about sentimental holidays like Halloween, but I just had to.

It’s always been a blast in our household – although this year seems to be the exception. It’s the first year where we have not decorated and have pretty much been oblivious to it.

How sad.

We have a ton of excuses: we are busy, we are working, we are doing renovations, the kids are too old, we don’t get any kids visiting the house.  Yes, we have a ton of lame excuses.

What we forgot was that we did “Halloween-ie” stuff for us, not because it was expected.  We loved the planning, the cheezy decorations, the bowls filled with candy that we ended up eating.

Somehow we forgot that.  And now, anything we do is just pitiful and half-assed.

I get that some of these annual rituals may seem outdated and overdone…maybe you think you should dtop because you’ve been doing them for too long and that they really don’t add value.  However, before you make that call – try to remember why you were doing them in the first place.  And if the reason is anything along the lines of “because it’s fun”…well, then maybe it’s not time to let it go.

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Gap Analysis

I’m all over the place these days – literally and figuratively.

Take this blog for example.

One minute I’m sharing how I feel like I’ve lost my creative mojo, then I’m comparing your work team to onions, and then the next I’m building a pedestal for the best candidate experience that I’ve had.  That makes sense, right?

Well, this post is following the same unpredictable trajectory.  Today I’m talking about Millennials.  Why? Because no one talks about Millennials.

I’ve put it out there here and here that labeling, especially regarding generations in the workforce, seems like a big ole cop out to me.  Want to bitch about the people younger than you…want to complain about the people older than you…want to justify why you and your friends are getting a raw deal.  Must be a generational thing.

Oh I know there is some truth in them there words, but like all over-generalizations, there is so much that is lost.

So all that aside, I recently went to a seminar that was talking about Millenials, but not from the perspective of recruiting, or managing, or retaining (entertaining) them.  This presentation spoke to the reality that we are so past that part – now we need to talk about this age group moving into leadership roles.

I read once that a blog is much more respected if it provides stats.

  • At the moment, Millennials make up 29% of the Canadian workforce.
  • By 2025, a mere 10 years away, they will be hovering around the 75%.

If those numbers don’t scare the crap out of you, well…then you are likely a Millennial.  For the rest of us, yikes.  Let me clarify though, what scares me about this number is that I worry that we are not giving them the development and opportunities to succeed in leadership roles.

It’s that catch-22 of needing experience, but not being able to get it…because you don’t have experience.

I went into this seminar armed with a secret weapon.  A Millennial.  I needed some sort of validation that what I was hearing was reflective of how some 20-somethings might be feeling and that it wasn’t just a bunch of bitter Gen-X-ers and Boomers ragging on the new kids.  I often get that impression and find myself becoming defensive.

After all, when you list out what Millennials are supposedly looking for, well they are what I’m looking for, and likely what those older than me are looking for; however, how we define these values and what they look like to each us is where things get blurry.

Flexibility, feedback, collaboration, transparency, work-life balance

These are not new buzz words that were created to accommodate a new generation…but what they mean and how they are asked for (or expected) is different.

Let’s take “flexibility”.  When I talk about flexibility in the workplace – I mean that I want to have the option to work from home when I feel I need or want to. I don’t want to feel that someone is glancing at their watch if I leave 30 minutes early. And really, if I can do my work in four days instead of five – isn’t that a good thing?

But if you talk to my senior management about flexibility – they would agree that we should allow employees to work from home…on an exceptional basis, and with pre-approval.  And flexibility means letting employees choose whether they start at 7:30am or come in at 8:00am…as long as they work 8 hours and stick to a consistent time.

And finally, if you were to poll our intern – she might say that flexibility to her means something similar to what I want, but magnified.  It might mean working when and where she wants – being able to leave mid-day and flexibility, well it means so much more than work schedules to her.

Generation gap? I say so.

Organizations need to go beyond the cool social media blitzes and hip employee handbooks to recognize that saying you offer flexibility may be interpreted differently by many.  In fact, using buzz words without any thought of how these will be applied to employees of varying ages is useless.

So back to my fear for the future leaders. The speed of delivery has increased, the speed of access to information, the speed of communication…they have all ramped up significantly.  And yet, many organizations still feel that career progression needs to take the tortoise route.

Considering that most employees, particularly Millenials, are not going to stay with one organization for 10-15 years, how can you expect their career development to take that long?

I’m not talking about fast-tracking people from entry-level to Director-level in 12 easy steps, but we really need to get past the “pay their dues / earn their keep / do the time” mentality.  Side note: I had a Director that constantly told me that she had more “battle scars” than I did.  This irritated the crap out of me – it was the business equivalent of saying “you don’t know what the hell you are talking about”.

Let’s sit back a minute and consider that whether we like it or not, whether we think they are ready or not, these young come-uppers are going to transition into leadership positions really, really soon.  You can fight it or you can get on-board, understand the gaps, what needs to happen, and then help make it happen.

And that is what I would consider being flexible.

Layers: Onions, ogres and your team

Okay.  Here is where I am at.

I’ve been percolating blog posts in my head for weeks.  At one point I think I had about five partially formulated posts and I wanted to write them out.  I truly did. But I didn’t and now I’m down to one idea.  Sigh.

I wanted to write, but

  • My bed was too cozy
  • There were movies to watch
  • Work is busy
  • We are doing renovations
  • I had chores to do, food to eat and books to read…

I’m thinking that the book I thought I might write someday, well it’s not happening anytime soon.  Oh the pressure of being a little-known blogger.

Seriously though, I would like to talk about layers.

Here in the great white north, layering is a must for two reasons: 1) it keeps you warm and 2) it hides the weight you gain in preparation for hibernation.  (BTW – that second reason may or may not be applicable only to me).  It’s true – layers have a purpose, but they can also hide a multitude of sins.

Every work group, team and department is composed of layers of people.  One quick glance at an organizational chart will confirm this.  There are layers defined by titles and responsibilities.  There are layers established by technical experience and years of service.  And then there are hidden layers that are created by a pecking order and ability to fly under the radar.

Ask a manager to tag his or her employees in terms of whatever ranking you see fit (A-players/ B-players; 1st line/ 4th line; Stars / Space debris) and they can do it.  They know who is the “one to watch” and who is dead weight. Or at least they think they do.

I find in interesting when employees leave (or are asked to leave) and the assumptions that were made about this person suddenly fall apart.  The golden boy…you know the one, the one you HAD to keep because of the amount of corporate knowledge he had…the one that would cause absolute chaos for the rest of the team if he wasn’t there….the one that when you started going through his files and work you realized that there were some serious issues…issues that are now going to bite you in the ass not only because they exist, but you didn’t even know about them.  That’s how good that golden boy was.

And there’s the opposite.  When you finally manage to rid your team of that toxic person, the slacker, the negative Nellie…there is a collective sigh of relief among your employees (led by yourself). That is until the next in line – the second most toxic slacker emerges.  The one that you didn’t know about because the departed employee was taking up your time, allowing others to stay off your radar.

What’s my point? My point is that you don’t know your team as well as you think you do.  My point is that your team is composed of defined and subtle layers and that until you remove or peel back these layers – you likely will never know what’s really in there.

Layers have a purpose, but they can also hide a lot of things.