Under the influence

How easily influenced are you?  If you are like most people who I know, you will think that you have out-grown the tendency to do things just because everyone else is doing it.

In fact, I would put myself in this category – I would like to think that I have my own set of values and principles that guide me and prevent me from doing stupid things like lining up the night before at the Outlet Malls because I have the chance to save money on something that I wasn’t planning on buying in the first place.  Just because it seems like the thing to do.

But I’ve realized that my ability to be influenced is still very much there, but it’s not the overt and 2 x 4 to the head things that get me.  It’s those subtle and practically undetectable things that I fail to see have affected me until it’s too late.  And what gets me almost every time?  Reading fiction.

I’m serious.  Whatever I’m reading influences me innocently and insidiously.  It seeps into my brain, influences my word choices, determines my food and drink choices.  It’s like I become a book zombie.

I’m a big fan of Mad Men and I take great delight in mocking the advertisements on the television and in print.  (As if I think eating your brand of  yogurt is going to solve my digestive issues, make me a belly dancer AND taste good).  And beauty products…please…

But give me a novel where the main character is always drinking coffee and BAM…I’m lying awake at 3:00 am because I too heard the siren call of the java.  Any Scandinavian-based book is sure to keep me up for days.  Not because of the actual story line, but because they drink so much damn coffee and I’m powerless to not join in.  It’s like a sick and twisted drinking game that I’ve unwillingly joined.

And so, because of this, I will not read HR-related books.

I’m afraid that I’m so easily influenced by the written word that I’m apt to jump on to the latest and greatest idea.  Employee engagement…HR analytics…performance management programs…recognition rewards…team-building…leadership excellence…who knows what dangers lurk in those pages.  There is way too much loaded potential that I’m afraid I might be overcome and start blindly applying them.

So no way I’m going to risk falling under the influence…I will stick to sitting back and watching it unfold in front of me.  All the better to openly mock and judge.






Why interviews are important to HR

We have a new HR grad working with our group on a contract.  She is awesome.

She is awesome because she is still really keen on doing good HR.  She is awesome because she asks a million questions.  And she is awesome because her filter isn’t fully formed, so she says some pretty memorable things.

She is similar enough to my daughter than I feel comfortable around her, but not enough that I want to start lecturing her.

As with many new grads that I encounter – I am only too happy to have my brain picked about HR, about jobs, about careers, about life.  I enjoy sharing what I know and asking them questions that will make them think about their own lives.

When it comes to HR, I’m a big believer in getting as much experience on the other side of the desk.  Nothing will help develop your brand of HR faster than experiencing it as a candidate or employee.  You will go through things that will stay in your head and you will not forget them when it comes times to be on the other side of the desk.

This is especially true for the whole recruitment process.  The young woman I’m working with is actively looking for work and has been going to interviews.  We typically debrief afterwards and there are usually two streams of thoughts: 1) about how she did and whether she thinks she will like it there and 2) how they did and based on that whether it’s the right place for her.

She is learning so much about how to treat candidates by being one.  So far, she has realized:

  • What it’s like to be left waiting past your scheduled interview time
  • What’s it like to be speed interviewed
  • How much the physical workplace can influence your impression of the company
  • How disconcerting it is to have an interviewer not have questions in front of them or make any kind of notes
  • How big a deal fit is
  • How not hearing anything is the worst
  • How having a disorganized process, where the various interviewers don’t appear to have any clue what the others are doing can make you feel lost
  • How utterly frustrating it is to hear no and not get any kind of feedback

Like a kid that vows that they “will never yell at their kids” when they are parents – she is starting to form her commitment to what kind of HR she is going to provide.

Of course this isn’t realistic, I mean we all slip – workloads increase, resources are decreased, pressure is applied… it’s hard to maintain perfect service 100% of the time.  However, the experiences that we go through and the knowledge we develop can become empathy.  And empathy is the lifeblood of good HR.

So while it’s a great idea to go to a lot interviews to practice your presentation skills,  hone your answers, and ultimately find a job.  It’s just as important to go to these so that you learn and remember what it’s like to be a candidate.

For every reaction…there’s an equal and opposite policy or protest

Hey, did you know it’s almost Christmas?  Really – I think there needs to be just a few more reminders out there.  The retail industry and media are failing us.

I would like to reassure you that I’m not going to talk about Christmas – I came out of the Grinch closet last year, and this post still accurately reflects my feelings on this time of year.  So enough about that.

I lied.

I am going to say something: People, simmer down. Stop over-reacting.  Stop buying into the hype and go back to how you were feeling 30 seconds before you heard that radio announcement.

You know what?  This goes beyond Christmas and all it’s related chaos.  This goes for work.  This goes for HR.  This goes for the world in general.

In the workplace, we call it being “best in class” (a term I’m not overly fond of).  One company comes up with an idea that works for them and suddenly your VP is asking how we can be more Google, Zappos, or like anyone on the Top 100 Employers of 2014.

The idea is that if it works for them…it will work for us.  Except that we are a not-for-profit service-based organization of 90 people with extremely close ties to the tax-paying Canadian with cubicle layout that bear a striking resemblance to a maze in a mouse experiment.  I’m really not sure where we would put the foosball table…but we need to get on-board.  Now.  Make it happen…right-size it and put a bow on it.

Stop over-reacting and over-generalizing things.


Hey, on the list of things I’m grateful for, I would add that I’m not working in the HR department at CBC right now…seriously, no one wants to have to deal with the sideshow that the whole Jian Ghomesi situation has become.

Oh yes – there are takeaways.  What the situation has created is a dialogue and awareness on topics that needed to happen regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, the stigma and blame-culture that surround victims, and the roles and responsibilities of employers that are in the know.

But what this situation should not have created is a knee-jerk reaction by every other employer to throw together and implement an exhaustive policy by the end of the week.


And protests?

I know I’m treading on dangerous ground with this one, but protests are becoming the ultimate in over-reaction.  Bear with me a moment before you go calling (do people still call people…I mean texting) all your friends to organize a sit in to protest my blog post.

First of all – I don’t mean that people are over-reacting in terms of being frustrated, disgusted, outraged, or devastated by recent events.  Particularly those who are directly impacted – I cannot imagine how they feel, but I would think that they might have a burning desire to do something.  To say something.  To take action.

What I have a harder time with is when this “action” becomes an automatic reaction.  When things become automatic, they start to lose their impact.  When an action becomes predictable and expected, it has become diluted and controlled.  Some will say it is a show of solidarity.  I’m not sure that’s always the case.

An immediate response to an issue, a concern, or a situation should not be a canned, right-sized version of a best in class.  Nor should it be a knee-jerk-but-that’s what-everyone-else-I see-on-CNN-is-doing.

So I repeat myself: People, simmer down.  Stop over-reacting. Stop buying into the hype and go back to how you were feeling 30 seconds before you heard that radio announcement.