Strike Out Hunger at SHRM 2014

In what has become a much anticipated part of the SHRM Annual conference, the social team is once again taking time out on Sunday to benefit No Kid Hungry, this time hitting the lanes in tribute to The Big Lebowski and, of course, NKH mega-supporter Jeff Bridges.

This year, more than 16 million children in America will face hunger. That’s one in five. Share our Strength is working to connect hungry kids with the food they need to grow and thrive. We’re doing our part to connect kids to the healthy food they need every day.  Every dollar we raise will make a huge impact for kids. In fact, just $1 can help connect a child with 10 meals.  

The event is sponsored by Dovetail Software and  They have not only helped with providing the event but are also kicking in some sweet items for our silent auction.  We are honored and appreciative to have them on our side once again!  Last year we topped $11,000 in donations.  We’d like to see that number go up!

So, what’s your role?  (Get it?  Role?  Like roll?  Because it’s bowling?  Never mind.)

We have 100 tickets available.  You’ll notice the price is a very reasonable $0.  That’s because we are asking you to jump over to our No Kid Hungry portal and make your donation directly.  You can do that first, or do it after.  You can even do it on site if you really want. Or all of the above.  But please make sure you do it.  The reason we are set up this way is that 100% of the funds go directly to No Kid Hungry.  All of it.  Every dollar.

And since our love for sport and helping others is nearly matched by our love for playing dress up, we are taking the inspiration for the theme from one of the greatest bowling movies ever, The Big Lebowski.  And since it is a costume party, and we have little to no shame when it comes to NKH, for any donations over $500 we will re-enact a scene of your choosing from the film, and post it online for the world to see.  

Even if you can’t make the event, you can still make a difference.  Click here to go directly to the donation page.

So grab your bathrobe, your White Russian and a rug to pull the whole thing together, and help us make a difference!

Tension in the Room

I’ve noticed an odd trend over the last couple of years.  I wanted to share to see if anyone else has seen it, or if it is just me.

When you work in HR tech, you straddle the line between two functions.  I find myself in meetings with HR teams or with IT teams, though rarely are they mixed.  And the HR meetings are always, ALWAYS, more tense.

I don’t mean to say there is arguing or undue conflict.  Rather, it seems there is always some unspoken tension that hangs in the air.  The exception seems to be high level HR leaders who know how to command a room and run a meeting.  Their rooms are much less tense.

In contrast, I see IT meetings as being, in many cases, much more laid back.  Some number of people, each with a task to accomplish, and they quickly run through the list and talk about potential issues.  More often than not, the conflict is minimal.  When it does pop up, it is largely fact based and detail oriented.  (I’m not saying every IT meeting is this way, but a lot of them are.  Specifically the ones that are just IT.)

There are two differences between the groups I can see.  First is that, as you might imagine, the HR meetings are overwhelmingly made up of women, while the IT meetings are just as overwhelmingly made up of men.

Second, there seems to be a higher level of confidence on the IT side, as their work is in many ways fact based.  You know it or you don’t. HR work is more subjective, with as many different opinions on how succession planning should really be run as there are people running it.

To be clear, I’m not saying or implying that women are less confident or capable than men.  Nor am I saying that HR is somehow inferior.  But there is certainly a difference in the tone of the meetings, and a level of tension with HR that I just don’t see an much in IT.  Has anyone else seen this?  Or am I imagining it?

Why You Should STFU About SHRM

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.  If you want to be critical of SHRM, if you want to talk at length of how many things they get wrong, but you are not willing to pitch in and make it better?  STFU.

There has been a long standing and well documented amount of indifference, disdain and sometimes anger at the governing body of Human Resources.  They don’t do enough, they do too much, they aren’t listening, they listen to too many people, they can’t make decisions, they make the wrong decisions…essentially all the complaints you hear about large organizations, right or wrong.  But there is criticism aplenty, and much of it probably deserved.

What’s interesting, though, is that much of this criticism comes from those who are no longer members and/or no longer practitioners.  And rarely comes with a side of “maybe they should try this idea instead.”  And sometimes, just sometimes, those same critics will attend a state SHRM event or the big annual event, take the free pass, and consider the conference lucky to have them.  I’m not saying they have nothing to contribute.  In fact, I think they are some of our best and brightest minds, and could make a huge impact if they were actively engaged.  But for reasons too numerous to list, they are not.

I’d hesitate to say that I’ve been active with SHRM, though I keep my membership up, maintain my SPHR and speak at a lot of SHRM events, both state and regional.  When I go, though, I try to add a little value.  I try to hit the Twitter channel, write a post or two, work the social media desk to tutor attendees, speak or help with some kind of charity event.  There are a lot of ways to contribute, and I try to hit at least a couple of channels.  But I’ve been woefully inactive at the local level, and recently attended my first HRMA STL meeting.  Ever.

But there are those in our community who bust their hump to make a difference, and do so in their spare time.  I am regularly inspire by Steve Browne, a true HR leader/practitioner who puts in more hours that anyone would care to count with local, state and national SHRM.  He went and testified in front of Congress, and made us all proud.  He is one of the leaders who spoke up when SHRM lost their Social Media leader to make sure we didn’t lose ground.  He takes complaints from the masses and, believe it or not, shares it with the people who ARE ASKING FOR THAT FEEDBACK.  Crazy, right?  He takes responsibility to make the profession better, and he inspires me to be better.  He’s not the only one, of course, but there are far too many names to list.  (More on that in future posts, I promise.)

So this week, I was asked and agreed to take the role of Social Media Director for Missouri SHRM.  When I was offered the role, I didn’t know what all I would need to do or how much time it would require, but I knew that it was a chance to help out, spread the message of the state SHRM team and connect with more practitioners in my home state.  And a light bulb went off.  If I wasn’t willing to step up and be part of making things better, why should I expect others to do so?

So I’m taking the job.  And hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute something in the process.

If you are a naysayer, a critic, or a conscientious objector, I’d challenge you to get involved to make SHRM better as an organization.  Work at the local level, the state level, the national level, or any combination of those.  There is an entire profession waiting for help that needs your input, that needs you voice, that needs your energy.  You can choose to do as little or as much as you can handle, but it is only through those contributions that we can shape our community and make it better than it is today.  That’s the challenge.  That’s the opportunity.  That’s your chance to change the world.

And if not, STFU.  The rest of us have work to do.


Should Freedom of Speech Go to the Top?

I consider myself browser neutral (as long as it isn’t IE), and spend most of my day with both Firefox and Chrome running.  So news about either of them tends to catch my eye.  So when I see news that Mozilla employees are asking the CEO to step down via Twitter, it gets my attention.  After all, the guy just got the job a few days earlier.  So why all the fuss?

It seems that the CEO in question, Brendan Eich, donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8 initiative against same-sex marriage.  Four years ago.  (He also invented JavaScript and is, by all accounts, a pretty impressive tech brain.)  So there is outrage that he has been appointed CEO,  given his political beliefs, citing the Mozilla code of diversity and inclusion.

But here’s the thing.

Doesn’t diversity and inclusion sort of imply that a person is free to believe as they will, so long as it doesn’t lead to discrimination in the workplace?  Are we really going to expect someone to give up their professional ambition because they choose to donate their own money (and not an overwhelming amount, though not trivial) to a cause that is unpopular?  I expect there are C-level officers in almost every company in the world that don’t believe in same-sex marriage.  Just look at the list.  Feelings on this issue tend to run along age lines, and the more experienced business leaders tend to be older.  We can make a reasonable extrapolation, then, that there are a number of leaders who feel the same as Eich.  They also happen to be good at what they do, and capable of leading an organization.

Don’t misunderstand my view on the issue.  I find the ongoing movement to deny two consenting adults life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be archaic nonsense, free of both logic and compassion.  But I also imagine that were a CEO who had supported the opponents of Prop 8 been asked to resign over their beliefs, there would be outrage.  Rightfully so, I think.

As HR professionals, this is the kind of thing that we need to be able to step back and consider dispassionately.  Do the private donations of an individual to a legitimate political group have any bearing on their ability to lead?  Are we suggesting that diversity is only a positive thing when it meets our personal world views of equality?  Or can we build a truly inclusive workplace where even these kinds of divisive issues could be met not with demands of resignation, but instead with open dialogue and an attempt to understand the person on the other side of the issue.

I know which kind of workplace I’d rather join.

King IPO Disappoints. Here’s the Lesson.

King, who brought us the completely addicting Candy Crush, filed for their IPO yesterday.  It was not what you might call a success.  Day two did not start off better.  How could anyone have seen this coming?

King is, at this point, a one-trick pony. Not the kind of thing upon which successful companies are built.  Have you tried their other games?  Even worse, have you gone more than a week away from Candy Crush and actually missed it?  Didn’t think so.

What we see here is the flawed thinking that because people enjoy something, they will be willing to invest in it.  Sometimes it is true.  I’d gladly invest my own money for an Iron Man suit.  Or to hang out with Robert Downey Jr. for a few hours.  But I’m not likely to invest in a time-filler game that I’ve never spent a dime on.  Yes, there is revenue coming from in-app purchases.  But it doesn’t cry out as a long term upside like facebook or Twitter.  Long term being relative, I guess.

The lesson for the HR community (because you knew there was going to be one, right?) is that just because employees enjoy something doesn’t mean you can turn it into a program and expect instant success.  I’m thinking specifically about all those Employee Wellness programs that are rolled out to much fanfare and little response.  People love being outside!  We have three softball teams!  Why don’t employees want our program?

There is a huge difference psychologically between choosing to be active and being paid, essentially, to be active.  One is fun, the other is an obligation.  And people do not, in general, appreciate being bossed around.  That’s why even when you have employees who are active, they resist the idea of a wellness program.  That’s what limits adoption in many cases.

How do you fix it?  It varies by culture, of course, but one suggestion is to let the employees run the program.  Too often, the HR MANDATE is immediately looked upon with suspicion, just because of the source.  But an employee designed and led program that can help reduce insurance costs?  Say, that sounds a whole lot better!  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure the programs are easy to use and don’t require much in the way of tracking, logging, journaling, or writing-downing.

Give the people what they want.  Don’t ask them to buy into your own personal Candy Crush.

Michael Sam – What Most People Missed


I’m proud to be a Mizzou fan.  Even getting spanked outplayed outlasted by Auburn in the SEC title game was a pretty great moment.  But the coverage this week of SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam coming out?  Even more so.

Yes I’m proud that he’s a Tiger.  And yes I’m proud that the school and program have produced a young man willing to step up share who he is.  And yes I’m proud that he chose to do so before the NFL combine, knowing it could impact his draft position and his contract.  But that’s not what I’m really proud of.  What I’m really proud of is that he came out to his team at the start of the season.  Months ago.  And not only did it not cause any problems, but it also did not get any coverage.

No leaks.

No ugly incidents.

No turmoil.

Just a team.

It would have been easy in this season of Tiger football for someone to make an innocent remark that gets picked up by the press.  It would have been understandable if someone on the team decided to make a big show of their own homophobia and ignorance.  It would have been commonplace for Sam to keep his mouth shut and go through the season quietly, then let his teammates wonder later why he didn’t trust them enough to be honest about who he was.  But it was his trust in his teammates, their solidarity and support, and the way in which they acted as a team that is not only remarkable, but has been mostly missed (though not completely) in the coverage of this story.

We’ve all been members of teams, some of which we trusted, and some we didn’t.  The impact on our performance is noticeable, especially our long term engagement and productivity.  When we are surrounded by those we trust, who work to make our lives easier, and whom we know we can depend on day in and day out, we are better.  What’s more, we are programmed for reciprocity, so our inclination is to return trust and helpfulness.  This can snowball into an amazing cycle of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men (and women) if we let it.  I’ve been part of teams that defied all expectations of productivity and tenure, all because they truly enjoyed working together.  (As an aside, how together was this team?  Sam came out to his teammates in August.  He came out to his parents in January.)

It doesn’t always work that way, of course.  A breakdown of trust can sink a team faster than unrealistic expectations, a poor leader, or cement loafers.  I’ve seen teams that should succeed fail simply because of that lack of trust.  If the Tigers weren’t acting as a unit, this season could have quickly gone from SEC East Champion to complete disarray.  Credit to Gary Pinkel, the coaching staff, the university, and the young men who served as locker room leaders for not letting this happen.  It’s a great example of teamwork and togetherness overcoming adversity to succeed.

I won’t pretend to understand the burden carried by someone who has to hide who they are every day.  But I hope that this at least gives them comfort in the thought that coming out is not an event that you go through alone.  There are people around you that will support and uphold you.  Having a strong team can make even the biggest of mountains a molehill.

(And yes, I’ve heard the comments about “I don’t care if he’s gay, it shouldn’t be a big deal.”  You’re right.  It shouldn’t be.  But it is.  Let’s make it so in a positive light.  Because there are plenty of people out there who will take a opposing view, and do so very vocally.  These young men deserve all the positive reinforcement we can muster.)


From the Vault: What’s Missing From Diversity

It’s one of the most popular topics in the workplace.  Either you have a lot of resources being put toward diversity (A policy! A program! A diversity officer!) or you think you are already diverse and want to shout it from the rooftops (Metrics! Team photos! Recruiting strategies!).  And that’s great.  I don’t know many people who are willing to speak out against diversity.  Yes, there are some unintended consequences if not handled properly, but I think we can give organizations the benefit of the doubt in most cases.

What troubles me about diversity, though, is what we so often leave out.  Let’s think for a second about what generally falls into the “diversity” arena:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

All very traditional topics, and all traits that define who we are.  And all fairly easy to measure.  But there are so many other things that we never really talk about, and that are a little tougher to quantify, such as:

  • Personality
  • Work style
  • Learning style
  • Learning capacity
  • Drive

Ugly list, huh?  But they sure do more to define who you are, in my opinion, than the color of your skin.

A team that represents the all the colors of the rainbow isn’t necessarily a diverse team.  And a team made up of three sets of triplets could be one of the most diverse you’ve ever seen.  Diversity is about finding out looking for the bet talent, figuring out how people think, work and succeed, and then putting them in a position to best utilize those skills so that everyone gets ahead.

Kinda sounds like the foundation of good management to me.

Using Stretch Goals Wisely


In my last post, I talked about how using stretch goals can have a seriously negative effect on your employees.  There’s good news.  It doesn’t have to end like that.  There is at least one way to make them work where they not only aren’t a demotivater, but they can boost your overall morale and production.  Is that something you might be interested in?

So here’s the deal. The secret. The one weird trick that makes stretch goals work.

Stretch goals work really well for teams. Not as in “everyone on the team has one.” More like “everyone has a goal on their own, and the team has one shared stretch goal that they can only hit if they operate as a unit AND everyone hits their individual goal.”

As an example, you’ve got a sales team of ten.  Each has a goal of $100 in sales, meaning $1,000 total.  The team has a pool of support resources they share, so the work they do directly impacts their peers.  If they each hit their goal, they get a bonus.  But giving them each a stretch goal, let’s say $150, for a larger bonus means they fight for the support resources to sell more, which impacts other’s abilities, which then leads to infighting and an overall demotivated team.  Somewhere between a total goal of $1,000 and a total stretch goal of $1,500, the wheels might come flying off.

If, however, you give them each a $100 goal, and then a TEAM stretch goal of $1,500, everything changes.  Each member of the team getting their $1o0 is important to them, but making sure everyone succeeds is just as important.  They can’t up their bonus unless all members of the team reach the $100, and then they collectively pass $1,500.  Less fighting, better sharing of resources, and a motivated concern for the success of others.  Somewhere between a total goal of $1,000 and a total stretch goal of $1,500, something magical might happen.

Will this approach ensure teamwork?  Of course not.  But it sure does set up the right environment for it.

How Stretch Goals Kill Engagement


Stretch goals are great, aren’t they?  Don’t just do enough to get by, do something great!  Aim high!  Change the world!  Be the ball, Danny!

I’m a fan of great work.  I’m a fan of goals, metrics, measurable outcomes and continuous improvement.  But I’ve come to believe that stretch goals might be the biggest threat to employee engagement we inflict on ourselves.  The flash of insight came to me while running.  OK, jogging.  OK, OK, plodding.  But when you lace up, you should have a goal in mind.  How far are you going and/or how fast you are going to move.  So let’s say that you set a goal to do a mile, regardless of time.  Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound.  Good goal.

Once you get started you might feel pretty good and think, “A mile isn’t enough!  I’m going to do a 5k today! I feel great!”  Good for you.  Then you get through the first mile and think, “Did I say 5k?  Um…maybe not.  But I can do more than a mile, so let’s keep going!”  (By the way, your personal distances may vary here,but you get the idea.)  So let’s then say you double your planned output and put in a good solid two miles.

How do you feel at the end of that run?  You should feel elated, right?  You ran twice as far as you thought you would.  That’s worthy of a high five and a butt slap, no matter how far you planned to go in the first place.  Except….except there’s a little voice in your head that says, “Sure, but you didn’t do that 5k, did you?”

Now how do you feel?  Like you doubled your planned output, or like you failed to reach a goal?

Stretch goals can be a horrible demotivater if you aren’t careful.  By putting a blue sky target out there, you immediately introduce the very real chance of failure.  In fact, some people say that if you reach your stretch goal, it wasn’t high enough. So the odds of you feeling good about yourself at the end of the day are not just low, they are low by design.

It’s good to have goals.  Really.  But they should mean something.  They should be important to the business, and they should give you a sense of direction.  But adding a stretch goal that you know won’t be hit is no way to treat your employees.  Or yourself.

What’s Your Omaha?

As we gear up for the Super Bowl, we are inundated with the stories surrounding the game.  Will Manning be able to throw in cold weather?  Can the top offense beat the top defense?  Will Richard Sherman snap and  eat a baby?  Anything is possible!

One of the stories we have heard quite a bit is about Peyton Manning’s “Omaha” call.  What is it?  According to Manning, it could be a lot of things.

“Omaha is a run play, but it could be a pass play or a play-action pass depending on a couple things: the wind, which way we’re going, the quarter and the jerseys that we’re wearing. So it varies, really, play to play, so, that’s — there’s your answer to that one.”

The truth is, apparently, that Omaha is a hurry-up call to get the ball snapped.  Usually.  Unless it is a non-hurry-up call to try to draw the defense.  But let’s stick with the first use for a moment.

The idea of an audible around the need to move quickly or in a pre-defined way isn’t all that new.  Heck, we used them playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was in college high school junior high school.  Anyone called out “red flag,” everyone knew to turn their attention in that direction for one round, usually to deal with a wraith, dragon or Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.  So most of us know from an audible.  But are you using them in the workplace?

Often the default setting for letting people know something is important is to be REALLY LOUD about it.  That’s also the setting for being angry, working in high winds, or finding yourself  in a country where you do not speak the local language (though this includes speaking slowly as well).  How useful would it be to have your own Omaha that, when called, let’s everyone know “hey, this is really important, we need to move quickly, and I’d really appreciate if anyone with a free moment could jump in to help take care of it, knowing that I will have your back as well should the situation ever call for it.”  Think of all the hurt feelings and misunderstandings that you could avoid, not to mention the productivity surges on critical items with no need for long project meetings.

You aren’t required to use Omaha, of course.  Feel free to use any Nebraska town or Counting Crows song.  You’ll be better for it.




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