Wednesday, May 30, 2012

HR is HR

At a recent family get-together someone asked me how my new job was going.  I said it was going really well.

I was asked whether I had more responsibility, more influence, more scope (blech)...what was it that made it better.

Truthfully, HR is HR. 

The fundamentals of what an organization needs from its HR group/ person are essentially the same.  The fundamentals of what an organization will try to get their HR group/person to do are also about the same.  It's really how well an organization recognizes what you are doing and accepts your push back when you don't do something that makes all the difference.

And where I am, they get it. 

Sure I'm doing stupid administrative tasks that doesn't really add value to my day.  But guess what? So is every other person here.  That's the world today, baby.  Print your own reports, do your own copies, and while you're at it, get yourself your own damn coffee (dark with two creams, no sugar). 

A real difference is in the fact that when I'm not processing new hire paperwork, I'm researching, I'm developing, and I'm proposing ideas that people are listening to.  They are not just nodding either, they are challenging me, forcing me to dig deeper, and then stepping out of the way to let me do it.

But the big thing for me is that when I say, "yeah, I don't see that happening", there is a discussion about it.  I can push back and say that I don't see that as HR's role (but I'll help), or that's not really a good direction for us to be heading (and provide sound rationale why).  And most of the time it works.

So, while HR is HR, not matter where you it's actually going to play out is always a variable.
And that variable is there difference between me being okay with my job and me actually liking my job.

Monday, May 28, 2012

50 Shades of Embarassed

Yes, I'm a sucker.

I'm a coffee snob, a chocolate snob, and until recently a book snob. 

I've recently allowed myself to indulge in e-reading which is much easier on the bus and, I hate to admit it, more economical when I want to read a new release.  I know. 

I still like to buy actual books, but they are now investment pieces - only those that I know that I'm going to want to see on my shelf, re-read, or by my favourite authors.

That's another bonus of the e-reader.  It's like the brown bag of booze and dirty mags.  I can read whatever I want and no one is the wiser.  And right now I'm eternally grateful for that.

I fell into the insidious and deprave world of really shitty writing on the basis of curiosity. And now, well, it's just plain ole addiction.  I like many, many other have been reading the 50 Shades of Grey series.  It's awful.  It's terrible. And I actually paid for it. 

I know, I know.  I'm embarrassed just writing it.

My hope is that by publicly admitting that I have a problem, it will help me from falling further. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reality Check

This morning I attended an off-site conference and it went well.  As the weather was so nice, I decided to walk back to the office.

As I walked back, feeling good about the morning - I had seen former colleagues and other HR pros that I like and admire - I got the impression that maybe some other pedestrians, and yes by this I mean men, were giving me a second look.

I don't generally do the "I-see-you-looking-at-me" kind of thing.  I'm usually too distracted to notice.  But I could swear that the passing looks were a bit longer.  I did a subtle glance to make sure no buttons or zippers were, maybe people were picking up on the vibe I was radianting.

I felt pretty frickin' fine.  And I was starting to think others might agree.

As a passed a building with a large window, I took a quick glance over to confirm that I was indeed excuding something....

And I was a bit surprised by what I saw.  A blonde 20-something year old in the hot pink sundress walking about 2 metres behind me.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dealing with change like an adult (or why you need to eat all the vegetables on your plate)

There are times in every job, but particularly HR, when you have to sell shit that people don't want to hear. And you know they don't want to hear it. But everyone agrees - we need to do it.  After all, communication is key, right?

Advising employees that previously enjoyed perqs are being modified, changed, or eliminated is not fun, but it can be a necessary part of the role.  I think you need to present it in an open, transparent (but not too transparent), concise way - no bullshit, no jazzy brochures, no HD PowerPoint presentations. 

Respect your audience's intelligence.

Most will just grumble and take it, others will ask questions, and even fewer will openly challenge.

But for those that just push too far,  a big part of my HR brain wants to scream out: Really?! There are thousands of public servants just across the street who have been notified that they are or will be out of work and you want to bitch about a perq.  Are. You. Serious?

I know that sounds like the starving-kids-in-Africa line that parents gave their kids when they didn't eat their dinner. And because of that,  I can also understand that if you've enjoyed something for many years and now you 've been told that you will no longer have it - it is not unreasonable for you to be disappointed.  It is not unreasonable for you to ask questions.  It is not unreasonable to even have you contemplate whether you want to stay here (although, for the record, if the ONLY thing that kept you here was this perq...I bid you a fond adieu)

What is unreasonable, in my view, is not getting over it.  Not moving on.  Not having a little perspective on what it is that you've "lost" compared to what you have retained.  If your true colours show you to be a petulant little child who is stamping their foot on the ground, well then you are going to be treated as such.

I've always hated when people said this, but it's true: if you don't want to work here, there are a lot of people who do.

And trust me, I have the résumés to prove it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Long Weekend Hangover

It was great to have a three day weekend.  I was even better to have a three day weekend when there was sun and warmth the entire three days.

It made sitting on the deck and reading so much better.
It made weeding the garden enjoyable.
It made pulling a back muscle (from said weeding) tolerable.
It made listening to the little shit who lives up the hill's crappy rap music each afternoon ok.
It even made a Saturday night family dinner less painful.

My goal for this shortened work week is to look for the "sun and warmth" here at work (no seriously, don't laugh) - anything to make this week's challenges that much easier to take.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What does fairness have to do with hiring someone

I am not going to blather one about best practices when it comes to recruiting - there are plenty of others who already do that.  Some of them actually know what they are talking about.

Besides, my recruiting "strategy" generally boils down to a 12 second scan of a CV and an opinion formed within 3 minutes of the interview solely on gut-feeling.  Or at least that's the general impression of how HR proceeds.

The truth is that we are making a judgement based on what we are presented.  Sure we can do some evaluation, but again that is in a test environment and not normally ideal conditions.  It doesn't factor in that some people need to warm up before they hit their stride. 

Interestingly enough we went through this same concept with my son.  Next year he starts instrumental music and all students need to be evaluated on different instruments to establish if they have a porficiency for any.

The evaluating process consisted of a 2 minute explanation on how to generate a sound from the instrument and then the kids were allowed a few attempts before they were scored.  For those students who have previously taken music lessons - this was probably a bit easier.  For those that haven't - it was much harder. 

I can't imagine that many (with no prior experience) showed actual skill.  I would think that most would need a bit more time to become comfortable not only with the instrument, but also the concept of what they are doing.  And then there's the whole aspect of performance anxiety.  Nothing brings out talent like having a line up of kids and parents behind you while you perform.

It hardly seems like a good way of determining skill and fit.  Dare I say it, it seems like it may not be fair.

But then I know about lack of resources, time constraints, and the need to eliminate many to get to the few.  And while we do our best to ensure that our methods are sound and defensible - they don't always seem that fair.

But then, what does fairness have to do with hiring someone?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shit storm brewing

As a parent, I have an opinion about just about everything to do with my kids.  As an HR professional, I have an opinion about just about everything to do with my work, HR, and society at large.  Can you spot the theme.

A part of both of those roles that I like is trouble-shooting and providing guidance, which is essentially cleverly disguised opinions.  I really do try to stay away from telling someone exactly what to do (unless there are legal repercussions or potential of blood). 

My daughter is fast approaching the time when she will need to decide what she wants to do after high school - college, university, or time-off.  We are trying to be supportive of her ideas, as most of them are very good; however, every once in awhile she tosses something into the mix that makes my eyebrows go up.

I should know better. 

She is exploring ideas and what she says today won't be the same tomorrow.  However, a part of me starts to present all the logical and practical reasons why that might not be a good decision...and then I catch myself....stop...and say, but it's up to you...sort of...with our input...and guidance...(and money).

She is torn between the idea of what she wants to do, where she wants to go, and which is better: university versus college.  She is fortunate in that her parents have experienced both realms and are open to either possibility, as long as what she is pursuing makes sense.  As much as I would love to see her go to university, I'm not going to be too keen on her studying Russian literature. 

So the storm is brewing. She is sensing that as much as we are being supportive and understanding parents - this might be conditional on her choices being in line with our vision.  And I hate to say this, but she might be right.

It's hard to turn off what you know - hard to not say, I know that it seems like a lot of work and/or not the coolest things, but you are going to hate going back to school to take another program later one.  And then in the same breath - you know you can always change your mind.

Many of her friends have limited options - their parents have told them flat out what they can/ cannot do.  I'm really not prepared to do that, but perhaps there is something to be said about having too many options...

We have just under two years before she needs to make her choices.  It's going to be challenging for her to look at the options, decide what she's interested in doing, what she sees herself doing, what she's prepared to do to get there, whether she wants to stay local or go away...and for us, it's going to be a challenge to watch this happen and offer guidance, not opinions.