HR Hibernation

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My office is situated in such a way that I have no direct view of the outside world. Oh I’m not complaining that I don’t have a window…I mean, I’m still thrilled to have an actual door. The downside is that unless I make a point of going to an area with a view or (*gasp*) leave the office for lunch, I really don’t know what is going on outside until I leave for the day.

And this was a bit of an embarrassment the other day. I was talking to a candidate on the phone and we were joking about people’s behaviour and he said, “It must be the sunshine – it’s making everyone giddy”.

I was stunned.

It was sunny outside?! It was cloudy when I came into the building…when did this happen? How is it that I didn’t know this had happened and I now I was missing it. How flippin’ pathetic was I?

And so it goes. We huddle down in our area and do good work. We generate, report, communicate, and produce like hell, but we remain oblivious to what’s happening outside our group, our immediate work area.

How many things are we missing? How many sunshine or snow storm moments have come and gone while I was comfortablly sheltered in my office. How flippin’ pathetic is that?

While I dream of hibernating the winter away like the bears: avoiding the cold and having to scrounge for food, I need to remind myself that there is so much going on that it would be a shame to miss it. A damn shame.

Wastoids of my time (redux)

On the theme of leftovers, I’m re-heating an old rant of mine (so if this looks familiar, you may have read it before…but I assure you it was mine). I am also adding a bit of “new” to it, so it doesn’t taste exactly the same…

Generally speaking, recruiting hasn’t been my favourite aspect of HR, but I still try to do a good job at it. And every once in a while, I start to get into a groove and I really don’t mind it.

Then something like this arrives in my email box.

(from actual cover letter, which was wittily called “Not a cover letter”)

I’m not really a cover letter kind of guy, I’ve read many in my day and to my experience, they’re usually quite narcissistic. My resume speaks for itself. If you find by my skills and experience that I’d be a fit for your company, I’d be more than happy to tell you how wonderful I am over the phone or in person.

Sincerely,

Now some people might think – hey this is different, it will make him stand out, and it will probably get him an interview since they will just want to meet the guy.

Sure. If I had nothing else to do in my day than to meet people for the sake of it.

Quite honestly this was stupid. Yes it got my attention. Hell, I’m even blogging about it, but I am certainly not calling him.

Why? Because this person wasn’t applying for some hip, creative, “out-of-the-box” position. He applied to a technical job that we need to fill; a job that we need to fill with someone who meets the professional requirement

My analysis: He sent me a cover letter (that isn’t a cover letter)that reads like his dad told him to apply for the job, but he didn’t really want to and is hoping like hell that his piss poor attempt at an application with be rejected.

Mission accomplished.

Since the original posting, I’ve added a few other tidbits:

– If the job posting says “please, no phone calls…” – we aren’t being coy, we mean it

– If you do call me up and ask me for information that is clearly identified in the job posting – this is not a good way of demonstrating your ability to read and understand instructions (and this is why I completely agree with TomTomHRGuy‘s post Hating the Phone)

– Channeling your inner-Zoolander in your CV…I know it gets boring using the same words over and over, but making them up…really?

– Applying to every single job posted may seem like it’s showing your interest in working with us, but it also shows that you are not taking the time to figure out what you want or whether you can do it.

– And while you are at it, send in five applications to the same job – if one shows you’re interested, five must show you are REALLY interested…yeah, “serial applicants” need not apply

These are the wastoids of my time.

So what are things that drive you batty?

What are you doing with your leftovers?

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When it comes to making meals – I’m pretty decent and have honed my spécialités: soups and leftovers.

Leftovers?

Oh yes – there is an art to being able to look into the fridge and pantry and pull together a meal that takes seemingly unrelated dishes and mashes them together into something that tastes good (albeit it may look like hell). From this, I get some pretty awesome lunches for work. Of course, not everyone in my house shares this view. So I get a bit irritable when food gets thrown out.

So I started thinking that maybe this type of vision to see potential in last night’s dinner is transferable to recruiting/retention.

Oh yeah, that’s right. I just compared people to re-heated food. All time high for my HR analogies.

(give me a minute to drag my soapbox out)

As a society we are ridiculously focused on consuming. And not just consuming any ole thing, but the new, the latest, the greatest. And when we’ve had a taste, we put it aside and try something else. It’s not often that you want to eat the exact same thing the next day…so we go out and buy more food and make a new recipe and we let the leftovers sit until they practically walk themselves to the garbage.

However, had you taken a moment to consider the potential in that meal – how else can you use that food…add different spices, cook it in another way, make it into a soup….you could have saved yourself some money, time, and come up with something better.

And so with candidates and employees, we may be doing the same. We need to have someone new and fresh, with the latest and greatest…when in reality, you might have someone in-house that, with a bit of coaching, training, and resources, could not only fill the role, but actually make it more than what you had anticipated.

Yes – some times it’s a big fail and you have to throw out your creation and order pizza, but in reality that can happen with any new recipe, regardless of how great the ingredients are.

As a recruiter, I’m often told by hiring managers that we need “new blood”. I get what they are saying, but I also look over their shoulder as they say this and see all the potential that might be overlooked.

And I really hate the idea of wasting good potential.

HR, bad relationships, and hockey – 3 things that get blamed for many things

Although I haven’t run out of inspiration on post topics, I thought it might be interesting to poll some of my friends, family and former colleagues on the subject of HR.

I realize that I might be too close to the topic and wanted to get an outside perspective.

Specifically, I asked the the following:

If you could ask your HR person or dept anything – what would it be?
By this I mean, what do they do that makes you scratch your head in confusion not why do they wear cardigans and like cats so much.

I didn’t expect a flurry of answers; however, there were a few that responded (and I knew they would) and I also knew they might make me regret having asked the question.

Truth be told – nothing was a surprise, but it was interesting to see how many things I immediately went pfffff…well, that’s ridiculous…why do they think that is HR’s responsibility.

The way I see it, bad HR experiences are not unlike bad relationship experiences – not only do they sting at the time they occur, but they leave a residual impression that can taint all further experiences.

For argument sake, let’s say you had a bad relationship with a guy who lives for hockey. It’s realistic to think that you might be hesitant about going down that road again if you were to meet a really great person, only to discover they are a big hockey fan. You might even avoid potential relationships based solely on this particular interest. You might even make unfair assumptions about people who like hockey.

Of course, this isn’t fair (unless, of course, they are a Leafs fan, then it’s totally fair…hehe).

So, it’s safe to assume that if you are “burnt” by your HR person, whether it’s because they screwed up your pay or didn’t maintain the level of confidentiality that you had expected, that you are going expect all future interactions with HR people to yield similar results. Your expectations that your concerns will be taken seriously and your issues dealt with to your satisfaction will be low. So, now what?

Well, what might really be missing is not HR’s ability to do their job, but clear communication of what exactly HR’s job entails and what your responsibility as an employee should be.

Oh yes, there are sucky HR people out there, but there are also decent HR people who are caught in and limited by their organization, or not supported by the senior management, or lacking the resources to do what they really need and want to do.

Bad HR rarely happens in isolation. Usually it’s planted, fertilized, and tended by a community of gardeners.

I would like to refer you to this brilliant manifesto put together by Laurie Ruettiman over at The Cynical Girl: The Employee & HR Handbook. What is important to take away from this is that both the employee and HR are responsible…everyone plays a part. Neither are above reproach nor should they be expected to be perfect.

I am not trying to diminish anyone’s bad experiences with HR – particularly when it showed a clear lack of good judgement on the part of the HR person involved or it occurred repeatedly, but like the situation with a bad relationship, ask yourself…it is really HR that’s the issue or is it that they are just the usual suspect.

The answers I got from my friends were very helpful – not so much in pointing out what might be wrong with HR, but in reminding me why I decided to tackle it.

Stepping Stones

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These rocks are from one of my favourite places in the world. I’ve only been to this exact spot once, but I just know that it’s always going to be on my Top 10.

The entire beach surrounding the cottage we rented was made up of these rocks, and although it may appear to be uninviting and not as glamorous as white sand – it was perfect.

The absolute variety of shapes and sizes of the rocks was incredibly. So much so that at times it was easy to forget there was a huge ocean in front of me, because I was so fixated on the rocks – looking for that perfect one.

I was often being called back to reality by my family – as they were fascinated by the crashing waves.

And that’s my default, seeing the rocks when there’s an ocean around. You know…trees for the forest.

Of course this doesn’t always bode well in a world of strategic planning, big pictures, and clouds…and that’s something that I’m learning to accept and work with.

Some of us are better suited to seeing the ocean, while some of us prefer to look at the stones. My consolation is that I’m less likely to stumble.

BTW – I won’t lie. Many of these stones hitched a ride home with us and now reside in my garden. I am completely unapologetic about this . (Should anyone be tempted to lecture me on altering the world’s ecosystem…Don’t worry, they are being well cared for.)

Golden opportunity

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Every morning while I drive into work I listen to the radio. I am fortunate to have a good station that actually plays music and minimizes the bantering. Oh and they do the news too.

Part of the news includes a run down of the financial markets and how they are behaving. While I won’t even profess to be proficient in finance and the markets, I do have an understanding that economies are easily influenced by external factors…some obvious and some not so obvious (like the moon?!).

So, it got me to thinking that it would be freakin great if we could have a similar market analysis and report every morning on the status of our employees and managers.

Here’s a sample:

At opening today, Janet is looking stable – no sign of the erratic behaviour demonstrated at yesterday’s meeting; however, today’s announcement about impending performance reviews being due may have a negative influence.

Hal is down today. His hockey team lost night and now he has to shovel his neighbour’s driveway for a week. We can expect performance to be sluggish today as he recovers.

Susan is showing signs of improvement. This may be the result of the training she took last week or the fact that that Jay from accounting finally asked her out. Those working around her issued a big sigh of relief.

Honestly…if I could have THAT scroll across the bottom of my monitor that would be awesome. I could be on top of the moods, quirks, downturns, and upturns of the various departments in our organization.

The value of this kind of information would be like gold (now trading at $1,645.00/oz)

Solving the obvious

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I like to solve puzzles and work out problems. Sometimes (okay, more than I want to admit) I even tackle those that don’t belong to me…I want to be that resource, that person that comes up with the obvious solution to an issue that others are struggling with.

And I do this at home. Especially with my kids.

My first reaction when they tell me about a problem they have is to offer suggestions or, at the very least, try to give them direction in how they can find the problem. This of course is not the right thing to do. One, because I’m a parent and as such, pretty much know nothing. And two, because in reality, they aren’t telling me so that I will solve their problems – they just want someone to listen to them.

Zip it. Check.

Then there is the matter of playing referee. Parents of more than one child will recognize that it’s really not fun to listen to bickering. All. The. Time. My kids are four years apart and in all honesty it might as well be 400 years. We are talking different worlds…boy, girl, pre-teen, teen….Yeah, no shortage of witty banter in our household.

My son in particular is a less tolerant of his older sister. He takes great pleasure in pointing out all her flaws, quirks, and things that generally annoy him. It is not unusual to hear them arguing and that is where I generally join the fray. Diplomatically, of course.

One evening I was at a loss with what to say and just asked my son what would help him potentially get along with his sister more. His response, “When we are arguing – just let us be. Let us sort it out. It makes it worse when you step in”.

Ouch. That was the feel of the obvious slapping me across the face.

So simple, so obvious and yet it was someone else who made the suggestion. Someone who was a participant, someone who was much more involved in the situation and understood the dynamics at play. Me? I was an outside person who was just mildly irritated by the noise and so sure that I knew how things should be. After all, I am the parent.

And how often do we do this at work? We have managers that come to us to talk and we assume that we need to take on the challenge of resolving issues in their department. Or when we become aware of tensions between employees/managers and assume we know the best course of action, we jump in uninvited. After all, we are in HR.

HR’s role is not to sit in the ivory tower and dole out words of wisdom, nor are we meant to put on the striped shirt of a referee. We are there as a sounding board and resource so that everyone else can deal with their own issues. As a parent, I need and want my kids to be capable of dealing with stuff on their own…as HR, I should expect no less from the managers/employees I work with.