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I’ve Been Raptured . . . Will You Join Me?

April 20, 2012

It finally happened.

I made up my mind, hoisted up my big girl panties and moved from the world of blog-partner sites to an actual honest-to-god self hosted site.

Thanks to the encouragement of Laurie Ruettimann and the web genius talent of Lance Haun I’m getting set to put this site to rest as I’ve moved on over to And really, the two of them (along with an able assist from Lizzie Smithson) did all the heavy lifting while I merely sat back and enjoyed a refreshing pina colada.

I started this blog in September 2010 and a year and a half-later am moving into a new abode.  I would say it’s about time.

If you subscribe to my RSS feed never fear – I’ll continue to pop up in your reader-of-choice.  If, however, you are one of my subscribers – you will want to re-subscribe to the HR Schoolhouse.

Come along for the journey.  It’s rapture time.

The HR Solar System

April 17, 2012
solar system

Here’s one I’ve pulled out from the dusty archives… (November 2010)


I was witness to an interesting phenomenon not too long ago – a round of “HR Solar System.” Also known as “I’m in HR and I think the planets revolve around me.”

At a recent workshop, the speaker posed the following question: “if an employee is getting off track, whose job is it to get them back on board?”

So while I ticked through some answers in my mind – “the employee, the manager” – I really wasn’t surprised to hear an answer bubbling up from throughout the audience – “it’s HR’s job.”

Seriously HR? Really?


One thing that always makes me wince is when HR colleagues make statements along the line of “I have to meet with Sally Sue Employee to issue her write-up/written warning/PIP.” And Sally Sue works in Accounting. Or Marketing. In other words, Sally Sue is NOT having this performance discussion with her manager – she is having it with HR.

Stop it HR.

HR’s role is not to insert itself into every single employee interaction. Our role is to assist the managers by providing them with the coaching, support and guidance so that THEY can have performance discussions with employees who report to them.

Our role is to assist in supporting a culture where employees are treated with dignity and in which there is adherence to laws, regulations and policies. Our role is to work to ensure that our organizations provide the foundational structure and the environment in which the employees can succeed. And ultimately our role is to do all these things in order to impact our organization’s performance and success.


The quickness of these workshop attendees to respond “that’s HR’s role to get an employee back on track” points to a continuing desire to be acknowledged and validated. I saw it happen live. I hear stories about it on a regular basis. Jason Lauritsen wrote a great post about this syndrome over at Practicing HR after the conclusion of the HR Reinvention Experiment in Omaha. He made some great points and readers chimed in with some super comments. Go check it out and then let me know —

—- does HR still view itself as the center of the universe? Do we suffer from Solar System Syndrome?

Like Nailing Jell-O® to a Tree

April 11, 2012

My grandma was a big fan of Jell-O® – bowls, parfaits, dessert cups and even “Jell-O® Salad” which she loaded with all kinds of stuff.  One of her favorite concoctions had shredded carrots and cabbage suspended in lime gelatin which carried the none-too-appetizing name of Vitamin Salad.

I was never the biggest fan.

Now I do to admit to whipping up a batch or two of Jell-O® in my life – sans floating morsels of vegetables of course. The recipe directions on the box are fairly idiot-proof and I’ve managed to get it right a few times over the years; not too runny, not too chewy – just right. I have, however, learned one lesson over the years – if attempting to add fruit (think strawberries) it’s crucial to make sure the fruit is well-dried before mixing it in; too much moisture will throw off that delicate balance of 1 cup hot water/1 cup cold water and leave one with a bowl of liquid that refuses to ‘set.’


Nailing Jell-O® to a tree has come to be a metaphor for attempting an impossible task.

  • “Trying to get your mother to understand how to use Skype?” “Like nailing Jell-O® to a tree.”
  • “Convincing the-powers-that-be that tele-work may be a viable option for the workforce?” “Like nailing Jello-O® to a tree.”
  • “Increasing the robust use of social channels and networks among HR practitioners?” “Like nailing Jello-O® to a tree.”


But as with many things in life, sometimes we give up before exploring other options.  Does the difficulty in accomplishing a particular task arise due to our own inadequate specifications/details?  Do we have an inherent problem when working to move-the-needle forward because we’re using imprecise language? Have we identified, and attempted to nail that slippery Jell-O®, in the right sweet spot?

So how DO we nail that elusive gelatinous mess to the tree?  If we take a spoonful right from the bowl and hoist the hammer we’re bound to fail.  But perhaps we:

  • Put the Jell-O® in a Ziploc® baggie and then nail the baggie to the tree
  • Whip up some Jell-O® Jigglers which are a bit sturdier and may adhere better
  • Chop down the tree so it’s laying on its side before we commence the hammering
  • Cook up a batch of Jell-O® shots, drink them down, and stop worrying about nailing anything to that damn piece of timber


There’s not much that’s impossible.  Sometimes we just need to approach it in a new way.

And one interesting side note – in the UK and some other parts of the world, people call this stuff “jelly.”  Jelly with carrots and cabbage sounds just as loathsome.

Shopping in your Closet – the HR Dress Code

April 10, 2012
Welcome SHRM!!

You know I love the Women of HR, right?  I am one.  And last week I had a post run over at the site wherein I chatted about dress codes, foolishness, and common sense.  Men vs. Women?  More like corporate silliness run amok. (post script – that picture, inviting conference attendees to enter an establishment, was taken at the SHRM Annual Conference (2009) in New Orleans.  Boo yah!)


The Dress Code policy. There are very few managers or HR professionals who haven’t participated in a dress code conversation.

Sadly, in many organizations, when faced with conundrums such as: “How do I tell Sally she needs to wear a bra?” (answer: “Hey Sally, you need to wear a bra.”) or “What are we going to do so that Bob irons his shirts? (answer: “Hey Bob, iron your shirts.”), the easy lazy answer has always been “Let’s write a dress code policy!”

Many years ago, when I was fresh-faced and eager in my new HR career, the organization I worked for felt the need to move from a common-sense (for the most part) one page Dress Code Policy to a FIVE PAGE policy that spelled out everything from the length of one’s skirt to the banning of pants/skirts that had pockets on the back. The enforcement of this policy would have necessitated, more than likely, the hiring of Sister Mary Agnes to join our staff and roam about measuring skirt lengths with her ruler. As it was, we were already a tad foolish, differentiating the proper attire based on what floor of the building you worked on. If you were a female, and your office was on the 2nd floor, you were forbidden from wearing pants. Why? That was the Executive Floor (all-male C-Suite at the time) and, apparently, it had been determined that the gals needed to remember their place in the hierarchy.

Now this was a financial institution with drive-through banking stations in the Midwest and in the winter it was not uncommon to hit (and sustain) temperatures well below zero. And as you may recall from the last time you went to a drive-through banking facility the tellers were f-a-r a-w-a-y from you and you probably could have cared less about what they were wearing. Nevertheless, back in the day, the company I worked for decided that these employees were dressing inappropriately when they wore cardigan sweaters over a nice shirt or blouse. Never mind the fact that they wore the cardigan sweaters because working in those drive-thru facilities was like coming down the wind tunnel at Lambeau Field in the middle of January.

Sorry Joanie; time to ditch the sweater. Common sense is no match for our dress code policy.


The other day while Googling some random HR stuff, I came across the slide deck for a New Employee Orientation circa 2007.

There were a number of slides devoted to what to wear/what not to wear. (Spaghetti strap tops and athletic shoes were out; pressed khakis and blazers were in). I guess it was particularly helpful for this organization to point out that while skirts and dresses were always appropriate for women – “Female executives and their assistants may choose to wear suits.” I wonder what happened when Grace, the lowly mid-level Purchasing Manager decided to wear a suit? Scandalous!

That, of course, was on the Do/Don’t slide for women. And naturally there was a Do/Don’t slide for men. The headers of these two slides:

Men Should Look Nice” and “Women Should Look Pretty.”

I am not kidding.


I think about a new employee sitting in a conference room in 2007 (that’s only 5 years ago!) with other newbies. She was excited to start her new job, perhaps even making a bit more money than in her last gig. She had been through numerous interviews, got a good vibe from her soon-to-be-boss and felt she made the right decision for her career when she accepted the job offer.

And then she learned what this company considers important for the success of its female employees when she’s told She Should Look Pretty.

I wonder how long I would have lasted?

C’mon Folks – Join the #RadicalNation

April 9, 2012
thumbs up

I’m all for getting radical…at home, at work, in the greater HR/Recruiting landscape.  Just about anywhere.

And if you, like me, work in HR or Recruiting and can dig that vibe – you need to embrace it.   My friend Geoff Webb, living large up there in Toronto, has launched two phenomenal training programs – the BlueBelt in Internet Recruitment and the Social Media Bootcamp for HR.   If you attend either one you receive an honest-to-baby-jesus actual certification which is recognized in Europe and North America.

But the thing is – what Geoff and his team will teach you to do is not just radical – it’s necessary!  When pursuing your Blue Belt, you’ll find out how to source candidates (or find job leads) and effectively use social networks when searching for candidates.  And if you want to send your HR team to Boot Camp, they’ll leave camp with a solid understanding of how HR practitioners can use channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Video, Blogging and Google Plus – for knowledge, understanding and engagement.

Check it out because these are awesome – details of the programs can be found at Radical Events.  Geoff can be reached via email or on the Twitterz

p.s.  once upon a time in the land known as Orlando, Florida (HR Florida 2010 SHRM Conference), Geoff was one of the people who helped me birth-this-blog.    I may have bought him a drink for his efforts; I don’t remember.  I was being way too rad.


thumbs up courtesy of this guy

Master This – The Old Boys Club

April 6, 2012

For those who are die hard lovers of golf, this weekend is a highlight of the year as the world’s best players gather in Augusta, GA for The Masters Tournament. I can tell you that Mr. S. is among those who will be glued to the television coverage.

There’s an intriguing aspect however to this year’s tournament.  The Augusta National Golf Club, a private club mind you, is exclusive and traditional.  They are famously known for having no women among their 300 or so members and the issue rises to the forefront of the news practically every year around tournament time.

But one tradition may cause a bit of heartburn this year for the Club.  Historically, the CEOs of the major sponsors (IBM, AT&T and ExxonMobil) have been granted membership – a bunch of middle-aged white guys joining up with 300 or so other middle-aged white guys to enjoy the privilege of paying exorbitant annual dues and swill $18 cocktails on the 19th hole.

But…IBM has a new CEO.  Earlier this year (New Year’s Day 2012), Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, a woman, was named as IBM CEO.  As of yet, no invitation for membership has been offered to Ms. Rometty.  So the debate rages on (both President Obama and Mitt Romney were asked this week to weigh in on the matter) and apparently Ginni Rometty is planning to attend the tournament this week but has yet to offer any statement on behalf of IBM.

Now Augusta National is a private club and they can do what they want.  But I, for one, am interested to see how this plays out. Will they extend a membership invitation to her, let the male/female dividing wall come tumbling down, and send a message that times have changed?  Or, by refusing to invite her to join, will they send a very clear message of a different sort?


You’re Working Too Hard

April 5, 2012

I like to think that most of us head into the office every day with the desire (and the dedication) to do our best. We like to tackle each day with vim and vigor; we want to solve problems and feel a sense of accomplishment as the day draws to a close.  I know I sure do.

But just the other day I had a conversation with a friend named Jeff who told me he’s in a work environment where most of his team members live by the rule of let’s-do- just-enough-to-get-by.

“You don’t have to give that much effort” a co-worker told him. “You’re making the rest of us look bad.”


“Take your time getting it done; we need to fill up the day so they don’t cut our positions” said another cubicle-mate.

“You’re working too hard” chimed in a third.


This is a fairly small work group and the supervisor is right in the trenches so there’s no possible way (absent total obliviousness) that he’s not aware of these conversations … or these work habits.  The necessary work is getting done – no question there – but it’s apparently minimal output. 

And poor Jeff feels caught in the middle.  He’s got the desire and the dedication to do his best each day.  He heads into the office loaded with vim and vigor and gusto, ready to learn and contribute even more.  But he’s getting the message that it’s perfectly acceptable, and somewhat preferable, to do just-enough-to-get-by.  And it frustrates him…to the point where he’s starting the search for another job.

Just a tad freakin’ insane that a department and an organization could potentially lose people BECAUSE they want to work…and are being held back from doing their best.  Am I right?


I dunno.  Maybe even after all these years in the People Business I’m still a bit of a Pollyanna – always able to find something to be “glad” about no matter the circumstances.  So in this case I guess I can be glad that hard-working Jeff is putting himself out on the market – and may be available to fill a position at my company.