Thursday, July 6, 2017

Workforce Report - 2017

Moments after stepping off the plane from New Orleans I headed into San Francisco to present at the Northern California Human Resources Association's Compensation Conference.

After a week of interacting with 10's of thousands of HR Professionals, a few questions remained:
1. Why aren't things changing at a more expedient rate?
2. What is something new we can do that will actually work?

I left SHRM17 with a mission to help organization find their Utopian Employee Experience.

... The concept was immediately applied at NCHRA's Compensation Conference. 

What is Your Employee Value Proposition?
We asked attendees to answer this question... answered varied.

In essence, your Employee Value Proposition addresses a single and all-important question:
Why would I want to work at your company more than anywhere else?
  • Do you have a better compensation package?
    • Is optimal pay enough to create an irreplaceable Employee Experience?
  • Is there a clearly defined opportunity for advancement?
  • How is working at your company like no other professional experience?

How Do You Know?
After reviewing an extensive research project, I heard a couple of attendees express their distaste with surveys.

Nobody cares about having a best friend at work, but it is a far better experience working with people who you like.

People will not answer questions honestly if they know their answers will be analyzed and held against them.

If a survey comes from HR, one will not express candor if it will only get them in hot water.

Why are you asking the same questions over and over and only on an annual basis?

You can gather employee insight through:
  • Idea sharing portals (or even a suggestion box)
  • Light touch, frequently administered, pulse surveys
  • Conversation.... (this is the ability to leave your office and engage Employees in face-to-face communication :()

What Are You Gonna Do About It?
Anyone can ask questions and/or gather opinion. Action Planning is a strategic necessity that commonly remains unmet.

A company I worked for once decided to alter their performance management process by having employees evaluate their managers. HR gave the results to said manager and asked that person to take action to improve their approach. Several managers embraced the concept and used the feedback to fuel their development. A few, however, tried to find out who said what about them.... their ego and tenured entitlement fueling their mission to keep their incompetence private (which was the intent of the process restructuring in the first place).
  • Managers who failed to comply scared all their employees from submitting candid feedback going forward.
  • HR did not follow up with employees to understand the managers method for benefiting from workforce feedback.
  • Many quit.... except the managers in denial who continue to drive great talent away to this day.
This is a prime example of a good idea having an adverse effect:

~ You can spend a million dollars on tie tacks, but if nobody wears ties this "reward" will do more harm than good.

~ If you ask for opinion but do not take action, employees will fail to trust.

~ Without HR Intervention in workforce planning, incompetent middle managers will continue to drive away the leaders of tomorrow. 

Opportunity Missed
I was emailed an annual survey by our VP of HR accompanied by a diatribe of all the great programs our company offered. Authenticity was impossible, results would not be a cause for action planning and a workforce conduit positioned himself as a shill for upper management's lack of workforce understanding.

Collection of information should present a GAP analysis to understand areas of improvement.

If you are only asking for employee opinion to put a "best place to work" trophy on your receptionists desk, you are missing an opportunity to evolve.

Micro-Management has given way to Purpose-Driven Leadership!

For planning purposes, the opinion from the trenches matters more than those of the C-Suite.

Innovation is a human practice with a defined, strategic path.

Employees would rather have opportunity for advancement than pats on the back.

It is imperative that we are crystal clear in reforming our company purpose, that we validate through feedback and action plan for the future with transparency at the forefront.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, June 23, 2017

SHRM17 Take Aways

The Society for Human Resource Management have concluded our 69th Annual Conference. Ideas were shared, people spoke and exhibitors exhibited while HR Pros braved the rain and well-functioning air conditioning.

This having been my 10th SHRM Annual Conference, finding new and intriguing information was a bit of a challenge.

Points of Intrigue:
Vivek Patel's Guide to Vendor Selection
Laszlo Bock's Theory of Compensation: Pay Unfairly
The awe inspiring Ryan Estis, Steve Browne & Jason Lauritsen
Nextgen People's Exploration of Performance Management
Zen Workplace's exploration of Mindfulness in the workplace

What's the difference between attending SHRM17 & going All In?

This, we are called upon to explore.

Converting Employee Engagement into Employee Experience

We've been beating the Employee Engagement horse for a decade. She has taken us places we never thought possible, but it's time to put her our to pasture.

Where Employee Engagement was the employee's obligation to recognize and utilize organizational resources, Employee Experience focuses on the moments in-between.

What is your organization's Employee Value Proposition? In essence, what do you have to offer to ensure someone would rather work at your organization more than anywhere else?

More specifically, how can you ensure your employee's would be willing to pour their discretionary effort back into your organization?

If I've completed my tasks for the day with an hour remaining on the clock, what will I do with that time?

Snap My Chat?
Binge watch Silicon Valley on my lap top?

... or ....

Might I get more work done?
Help someone else complete their project?
Ask for a new project?

Herein lie the elements that accentuate the Employee Experience.

What am I ALL IN for?

My mission is to help organizations and individuals find their Utopian Employee Experience.

... So Here We Go ....

See you in Chicago for #SHRM18 !

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Live From SHRM17 - Day Three

The rain has come to New Orleans and it may be possible to hold #SHRM18 before the end of the week with the amount of HR rock stars who may be stranded in the airport... :(

Day 3 had a very direct theme: Performance Management (and the need to improve upon the process)

Here's What We Know:
1. Annual Reviews are too infrequent
2. Rating by Number does not motivate
3. Suggestions for Behavior Change will drive better performance
4. We need a system to streamline the process in a simple, lightweight fashion
5. This problem is still not solved

.... And Then Things Got Human ....

My friend Jason Lauritsen knows how to engage a crowd. He enchanted those around the Smart Stage on Tuesday by taking us off the Grid and into a place of Human Interaction.

Simple Fact: Steve Browne is the greatest Human Resource in Human Resources!

We laughed, We Cried, We Vowed to be Troll Hunters!

There are No Easy Answers
I came to SHRM17 with a wish list. I must admit I haven't been dazzled by a system or an organizational strategy. The PEOPLE have, as always, dazzled me!


Do we reflect upon how lucky we are to be in the people business? Probably not enough.

Do we allow "the stuff" to get between us and the PEOPLE? Yes, we do.

Are people difficult? Is life difficult? Is HR difficult? Yes, Yes & Yes!

With some questions still unanswered, this I do know:

There are more than 20,000 Human Beings in a conference hall who are willing to be better people so the people they represent can grow into better people.

Our hearts get a system upgrade every time someone bold enough holds us obligated to understand our true potential... and that it is lost if we do not share it!

See you tomorrow,

... Kovacovich: Out ... 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Live From SHRM17 - Day Two

It was a wildly informative and highly engaged day here in New Orleans as the Convention Center was buzzing early and stayed open late!

HR Pros had the opportunity to take in speaking engagements from the industry's best and check out the latest in HR Products/Services while rubbing elbows with the World Leaders in Human Resources.

Here are just a few things we learned:

Pay Unfairly
Laszlo Bock has no shortage of Fans in HR and for good reason. He shared his experience growing Google into a People Company as their CPO while adding stories from his personal network.

Yup.... Sometimes you have to smack people in the face with the truth. While HR Pros are consistently fighting for equal pay, when it comes to performance the ground is uneven.

Laszlo Bock suggested that top performers should be getting paid up to 200% more than sub-standard performers. If pay scales do not afford room for continual growth, your all star performers will plateau and ultimately have no choice but to leave.

Don't Kill The Meaning
Ryan Estis is among the most engaging speakers in the HR Profession. Part HR Pro, Part Tech Advocate, All Human Being; Ryan delivered content that was compelling and relevant while relentlessly pulling on our heart strings!

Ryan performed a pretty simple exercise:
Who can remember their companies Core Values?
- Several Volunteered

It is so true. Ask anyone to think back on a past employer and I'm sure they will not remember their stretch goal or the coding sequence for their platform population.... odds are they will remember at least a few of that companies core values.

We need to consistently reinforce the values that formulate our organization's core existence.


It is 2017 and there a still HR Professionals who are afraid of Social Media....

Ryan did an excellent job explaining the purpose of the SHRM Blog Squad and the infinite knowledge that awaits HR Pros in the blogosphere.

In addition to a bunch of statistics from the Employee Engagement Network, Bob Kelleher mirrored a simple truth that Ryan Estis touched upon:

If your work life sucks, so will your personal life. If your personal life is great, your work will thrive!

So swings the boomerang of Reciprocity!

You can put systems in place, survey your employees and reward them with all the cash under the sun; but if their spouse is dying they are incapable of engagement.

We've learned that money does not buy engagement.

We know that meaningful work, opportunity for advancement and a thriving workplace culture is what truly engages employees!

A Challenge from Pat Wadors

Pat Wadors is an #HRPitBull who has been tackling the best talent in Silicon Valley since 1986. She has remained relevant through her self-assigned inability to hit neutral. It is no small coincidence that Pat is of the most respected in the HR profession, her courage and intensity speak volumes.

See you all in the Conference Hall tomorrow!

... Kovacovich: Out...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About HR Tech from Vivek Patel

I don’t believe there is a more-progressive suite in the tech space than that of Human Resource related technology. Call it HCM or HRIS or HRIT, so much has happened so fast and there is a technical solution for every employee support function.

The questions can be daunting for an HR Professional seemingly forced to turn IT expert:
  • Cloud or not to Cloud?
  • SSO or SAML?
  • Which system integrates with what?
  • Is there are element of gamification to jazz up the user experience?

Who better to address these questions than the non-partisan Society for Human Resource Management Director of Technical Solutions, Mr. Vivek Patel?

Vivek will be conducting a session for SHRM17 attendees on Sunday (6.18 ) from 8am – 12pm. SHRM17 attendees eager to implement new HR Tech will leave this session ready to tackle the Exhibitor Hall with all the knowledge of a Human Capital Management Maverick.

We caught up with Vivek as he was packing his bags for New Orleans.

1.       Tell us a little bit about the pre-conference workshop you are facilitating? Can anyone attend?
a.       Over the last few years we have heard a lot from our members express their need to understand and participate in their respective organizations’ technology processes – be it the selection of the platform or operationalizing the technology for optimum benefit. This session presents such individuals an opportunity to participate in discussions with their peers and learn from their experience. Aliah Wright and I will share insights and specific information which can aide them in being more involved from a technical perspective to collaboratively work with their technology departments.

2.       How has the relationship between IT & HR evolved? What can HR Pros do to better assist their colleagues in IT?
a.       I have seen this relationship grow stronger and evolve over the last few years. Over the last decade rapid changes in technology have had a huge impact on businesses. Specifically within HR, major adjustments have presented huge demand around flexible work arrangements, fluid leave policies, comprehensive performance reviews etc. HR departments have realized the need to be closely tied with their IT staff in bringing in newer platforms and systems while at the same time getting more technology savvy themselves. In my opinion HR pros should make their IT department part of projects from the very beginning, bring them in early and let them help you fit the needs within the overall technology strategy from an organizational perspective. Also with advent of Cloud, Analytics, Big Data etc., there are huge concerns around privacy and security – having your IT teams as your equal partners may help you avoid some obvious pitfalls.

3.       What trends have you see developing in Human Capital Management software space?
a.       The biggest trend that I see in HCM software (and one that is going to be vital) is the idea of ‘self-service’. The concept of self-service becomes a bit tricky in the field of HR but all software generally is moving towards users managing their own ‘profiles’ and need within the system. I am excited to see how this aspect and demand is balanced within HCM.
b.      The other trend that I am excited to see evolve is the idea of collaboration. With a geographically displaced workforce on the rise and social media bringing a whole new sophistication to ‘collaboration’, I want to see how the HR software evolves to balance this need.

4.       When choosing a vendor, what are the key components HR Pros can use as evaluation criteria?
a.       This would be true for anyone who is evaluating vendors or systems but more so for an HR Pro. While other technology selections and vendor relationships mostly deal with business processes, HR related vendors/technologies deal with actual ‘people’ within an organization. Some key things to keep in mind while evaluating vendors would be:
                                                               i.      Integration – how will the new system interact and integrate with your existing technology?
                                                             ii.      Consolidation – if the goal is to consolidate systems and/or processes how well does the new system achieve that goal?
                                                            iii.      Automation – how far does the new system go in terms of eliminating manual work?
                                                           iv.      Security – is the new system secure from a data privacy and privilege perspective?
                                                             v.      Data – this is one is of the utmost importance! Do you own all your data that you will ‘upload’ into the system? How flexible is the system in letting you pull your data out of it on-demand? This is often overlooked and a major ‘money drain’ once the system is in operation.

5.       Any advice for HR Pros courting new vendors at SHRM17?
a.       I would suggest 2 things
                                                               i.      Do your MoSCoW matrix – in others words prioritize your base requirements. To the extent possible, know things/features that are critical ‘Must Haves’ vs. features that you ‘Should Have’. Additionally, there are features that are desirable and ‘Could Have’ and things that you are willing to live without and ‘Wont Have’. This will help you not to chase every shiny new thing out there
                                                             ii.      Also if possible, have a discussion with your IT teams to understand the current systems landscape within your organization. This will help you ask intelligent questions of the vendors in terms of system integration, automation etc.

I feel better already!

Check out Vivek Patel’s Preconference Workshop:

Can’t attend this session? Need help evaluating your next HC Tech upgrade or installation? Feel free to submit your questions for Vivek in the comments section.

See you in New Orleans!

Dave Kovacovich

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My #SHRM17 Wish List

It’s been a decade since I first attended The Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference. While there are always new buzz words and evolving trends, many of the HR related topics from 2007 are still on the #SHRM17 agenda.

If I may voice my concern:

While the aforementioned questions may not have simple answers, allow me to pose a few challenges to SHRM17 Exhibitors, Speakers and Attendees alike.

Fear of Transparency (?)
It seems to be universally accepted that annual performance reviews are a means to exile more than motivate. A paper trail may be necessary in the firing process but that seldom amplifies performance. We’ve seen payment processing vendors streamline attainment processes and there are others who created great technology only to have their system compromised by industry behemoths.

Show me a system that will:
  • Track Goals
  • Allow Multiple Career Advisors to Provide Input
  • Publicize Goal Attainment
  • Promote Soft Skills to Build the Internal Talent Pool

What If We Never Had to Hire Again?
I know a large majority of #SHRM17 attendees are hiring professionals (all of whom I find delightful).

Humor me….

  • How much does it cost when an employee leaves your company?
  • How much does it cost to hire a new employee?

Employees leave for a few reasons:
a) They dislike their manager
b) They see no opportunity for advancement
c) They do not believe in the organizational mission

We fail to identify the future leaders in our organization because their managers fail to publicize their potential or inability to master core job function cast them away as universally inept.

Managers seldom promote their best employees because they wish to continually benefit from their contributions. Star performers who don’t possess proper leadership skills are often told they are not ready instead of being coached in soft skill development. Those who are the best programmers are seldom the best managers.

Tell me how we can:
  • Help reallocate miscast employees
  • Build high potential performers into people leaders
  • Expose poor managers for protecting their flock

Wants vs Revenue
Do your employees still receive trophies because you’ve always done it that way?

Are your benefit offerings impressive enough that employees would accept less money to stick around?

How does a first day employee make an impact?

Replacing a technical application takes hours and hours. Hiring experience is more defensible than building leadership organically. At some point, we need to evaluate the programs we afford our employees to understand if they are doing more harm than good.

Last Requests:
  • Help us understand the reward in change
  • Show us a way to determine the value of our Total Rewards portfolio

I’ll be in the Bloggers Lounge. Come find me or tweet me @

I Dare You To Engage!

Don't Forget to Remember!
      Dave Kovacovich

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How I Got to SHRM17

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference is a month away. This is the largest gathering of HR Professionals on earth and a seminal opportunity to network, find new ideas and gather certification credits.

I attended my first SHRM Annual Conference in 2008 in Chicago. Having come from the world of Information Management, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people in the Human Resources profession who were dependent upon this annual industry event to fuel their career development. This conference has been the cornerstone of the profession for 4 reasons:
  1. To achieve re-certification credits
  2. To hear from industry thought leaders
  3. To understand the latest outsourced solutions in the space
  4. To rub elbows with people who understood the daunting responsibility of being an HR Professional
My first five years attending the SHRM annual conference were spent in the exhibitor hall. It's a tough job.... you stand on your feet for 10 hours a day, introduce yourself to 1,000 people and do your best to make conversation with strangers seem interesting... all while wearing an uncomfortable logo-ed shirt.

If I am being honest, I recall the experience of working a vendor booth to be extremely challenging. Those you seek to engage in conversation are politely disengaged. Most people wander the Exhibitor Hall to grab a few stuffed animals for their kids (I don't blame them). But, in every session I made a genuine connection with someone. They had a problem that needed fixing and I believed we could fix it. The exhibitor hall starts as a numbers game but it can produce life long partnerships.

The following year in San Diego, My boss allowed me to use his badge to attend a speaker session. I got there early and sat next to a woman who immediately engaged me in conversation as if I were her peer... this never happened in the exhibitor hall.

A light shined upon me.....

If I was going to be a salesman in the Human Capital Management space I was going to stop selling and start understanding every nuance of the HR Profession.... I went all in!

I discovered that the socially protected Human Resource world had a whole team of advisers who were sharing their lives on social media.

I read a post written by Lance Haun on a blog hosted by Laurie Ruettimann,  I was astonished by the degree of candor and transparency. In the same way I wrote fan letters to rock stars, I wrote Laurie an email asking if I could contribute to her blog. When I told her the subject matter I had in mind, she said she would post it the next day.

10 years later, I've spent half a decade on the SHRM Social Media team. Curtis Midkiff had a vision to bring together a diverse group of thought leaders who were lead by Charlie Judy, China Gorman and Jessica Merrell. Their mission was to provide an alternative voice to those attending the conference and a lens to those who could not.

It Worked!

The SHRM Blog Squad now thrives under the leadership of Mary Kaylor. Our opinions vary, some of us are experts, others are hacks and there are those of us who are simply proud to be part of the HR Circus!

I recall a morning in San Diego after working a booth for several hours. My wife sent me a picture of my daughter in her Snow White costume enjoying her first visit to Disneyland (which I was unable to witness in-person). I remember at the the time thinking I should show that picture to the 100's of HR Professionals who rolled their eyes at me when I approached them in front of our booth in my ugly shirt.

When you board the plane to visit The Big Easy this summer, keep this in mind.....

1. Your comfort zone is your enemy
2. Everyone has something to teach
3. Vendors are people too

"Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right"
- Jerry Garcia

See You in New Orleans!

Dave Kovacovich      

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Becoming a Brain Scientist

I had heard it told that hard work requires no talent. I'm not sure I completely agree with that. Sure, anyone can get up and put their body into motion without having a Doctorate in Brain Science (is that a thing?). However, the difference between success and failure is execution. Many people do not take control of their lives because they do not execute on their intuition to ignite change.

Without action, things will remain in steady state, for better or for worse.

I'm in the people business. The heavy lifting for me involves dealing with people. I used to get so annoyed with all the hang ups of human interaction but at some point I made a conscious choice to engage.

How did I make the transition from Eternal Pessimist to Brain Scientist?

1. I Learned The Art of Deconstruction
2. I Developed an Understanding of Behavioral Economics
3. I Learned to Connect Numerical Reason to Map Results

Chapter Two
The second chapter of my book Don't Forget to Remember is entitled Deconstruction.

Traditional methods of psychological research may require that we look at painful experiences and seek to understand the provocation of pain. That's also a total bummer.

Why not reflect upon what we've done well, revisit the dopamine we've acquired from that experience and use the positive vibration to drive our motivation?
The Why Behind The What 
An essential part of the creative design process is understanding WHY people are motivated. Behavioral Economics will explain the rivalry between the right and left brain with an appreciation for balance. We tend to bucket personalities as Type A (linear) or Type B (creative); one being logical the other weird. The thinking that you are either programmed or disorganized.

The brain is a diverse and under-utilized tool. Here's why:

We are culturally programmed to stay in our assigned bucket. Which is why movies where the straight-laced guy takes off his tie to put on a Rolling Stones T-Shirt are so popular. We also love to see the story of the guy who sobers up and finds somebody to love.

The Math     
People take action based in evidence. In this age of Big Data, people are far less likely to take risks. Proof is no longer an end game but a precursor.

The Brain Scientist Formula is Simple:
1. Create a An Inspired Mission
2. Base Your Practice in Behavioral Science
3. Use Predictive Results Modeling

Here's How it Works:

Mission: Create an Employee Value Proposition that makes hiring and retaining elite talent an inarguable foregone conclusion.

Behavioral Theory: People Don't Buy What You Do They Buy Why You Do It!

1. It costs roughly $75k for a company to hire, train and retain a minimum wage employee.
2. Employees turn down job offers and or leave companies for 12 reasons.
3. Create a Cultural Model that bolsters:
  • Transparency
  • Trust
  • Social Promotion (without filters)
  • A clear path to promotion based in equal parts on quantifiable soft skill development and direct-to-position performance metrics.
End Game: 
1. Eliminate Recruiting All Together
2. Save The Company $7,500,000 annually
3. Develop an Outstanding Culture

See.... Becoming a Brain Scientist is So Easy!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Success in Simple Steps

I detest Generational Stereotyping so I do not find myself entitled to give advice to incoming or outgoing professionals. We live in a complex time when anyone can publish a strategic plan thus clouding the relevance of any publication.

I've been selling Human Capital Management software and supporting services for a decade. The space once crowded is now less-crowded due to the number of companies who have failed to understand the difference between Employee Engagement and Employee Recognition.

I have worked with the largest companies in the world in my 20 years of sales. With every year in the sales profession come new strategies and new ideas.

There is social selling and lead generation and CRM and strong mail.

It can be incredibly intimidating for a sales professional to understand the tools that have been created to expedite the sales process.

So, whether you are 80 and trying to stay relevant or 20 and trying to break in, allow me to introduce a few points of consideration:
  1. Be Informed
  2. Be Insightful
  3. Be Polite
The Moment My Life Changed
I went to every sales training class offered to me. I networked with the top sales reps in our company. I read every sales blog and e-newsletter and went to seminars on how to sell.

I stood in booths at trade shows for a decade: scanning badges, demoing technology, referring those with impressive titles to subject matter experts. We who were called upon to "man the booth" did so with pride.

The average sales professional receives negative feedback over 100 times a day. If you make 12 call connects an hour and work 10 hours a day, that means more than 80% of people with whom you actually interact will hang up on you. A minimal percentage of those people will also threaten your children's lives.

Still Want To Try It?

Still think the Salespeople get all the credit?

The Element of Surprise
I was at a trade show when my boss handed me a badge and told me to attend a conference presentation. I got there 30 minutes early to get a good seat. I sat down and the girl next to me immediately started conversing with me about a competitor of ours, their platforms and how bad she assumed the presentation would suck. I met 10 other people who gave me feedback with similar candor before the presentation even began.

In the 100 hours I had worked at booths on trade show floors, I had very few genuine conversations. By "sitting with our audience" I learned more in 30 minutes than I had in the five years prior of attending sales seminars.

"You Are Not Like Most Sales People"

Turns out, our buyers perspective doesn't always align with the sales training ethos. I didn't have to overcome objections, I was merely telling a story about a business I knew inside and out. Suddenly, they started taking notes... and asking questions... and requesting follow up meetings.

The single most important element of selling is providing Commercial Insight. This means you have to do your research: by meeting people with the intent of intimately understanding business strategy (and how your solution can improve upon it).

Manners Matter
In the time you spent memorizing your pitch, did you forget how to be reasonable?

More than knowing how your widget works, how to advance to the proposal stage or what you can do to "control the sales cycle"... here are 6 simple concepts:
  1. Call people by their name
  2. Listen
  3. When asked a Yes/No questions answer "Yes" or "No"
  4. If you do not know something, admit it
  5. Be compulsively responsive
  6. Be a person that other people would not mind being around
You can throw all the fancy technology out the window, stop charting statistics for advancement and forget writing intriguing copy for e-mail blasts. All you really need to do is pick up a phone, ask someone what they need and develop enough intelligence to articulate how your solution fits their need.

We tend to want to show off our expertise by knowing more than anyone. Sometimes all you have to say if "I know what you mean".

Many will tell you your sales career will not endure the shift in the workplace if you are not up on technology and social selling. Said tools will never replace human interaction.

You can have all the industry knowledge in the world, but if you cannot explain why your solution works, your research is wasted.

Don't "go sell something", Go Make a Difference!

Don't Forget to Remember,


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Thankful Forgotten

I've been vocal regarding Generational Stereotyping in the workplace. The tug-of-talent between Baby Boomers and Millennials as succession planning ushers in the leaders of tomorrow has been recognizable.

... Then there's me and all my friends known as Generation X.

With the exception of Reality Bites and the Real World (neither of which offended me), I don't recall any onslaught of Generational Stereotyping when I entered the workforce.

It took me 6 years to graduate college. I went to class, worked at a bar and was a lead singer in a rock band all while being our Fraternity President. I gained a ton of life experience while meeting a ton of amazing people (young and old). Three things served my success:

1. I was willing to try new things.
2. I worked my ass off.
3. I was creative.

I got an internship in sales while still in college. It was an inside sales gig and my territory was East Coast. I was required to be in the office at 5am. 5am was the finish line, not the starting point, during that point of my life. The first day on the job, I got in my piece of shit car and headed up to grown up people land (Scottsdale). This, while a well-intention young lady threw up on my front lawn (exercising the demons of the night before). In the same way the Wrestling team was my home in High School and the Fraternity was my home in college; work created an alternate support group. I met people from all over with different lifestyles and they all put a rock on the path that created my life.

After I graduated, I got a job in sales at the Coca-Cola Company. There was no CRM or Social Media or Lead Development or even a Training class..... I was given a phone book and told to get to work. I made 200 calls a day asking people if they'd be willing to accept a vending machine in their business. Everyone in the Dot Com perk heavy Silicon Valley told me to get bent. I loved it... all of it.... the people I met, the persistence I acquired and the reward I felt when "No" finally turned into "Yes". While my process has become more defined over the years, people still tell me to get bent... every day! It's a tough racket.

I wasn't born to be a salesman but I was never afraid to try new things or to have my failures broadcast.

It sucks when you lose, It rules when you win.... and so goes the story of how I found my way in the corporate world. It had nothing to do with when I was born, before I was embarrassed of my own bravado, I had smashed my head into a wall for 10,000 hours.

I dislike young people who are too self-aware to try.

I dislike old people who think they are self-aware because they punched a clock for 30 years.

It's pretty simple: 
~ Entitled parents produce entitled kids.
~ Those who haven't achieved anything have a boat load of excuses that they call advice.
~ He/She who dies with the most toys does not win.


I got lucky.

I had extremely supportive parents. I had a group of friends who recognized my intensity as motivation (not anger), I met a few people along the way who appreciated my ambition, and (ultimately) I met a girl who was unimpressed by the character I pretended to be.... and instead helped me develop my true character!

My friends and I rode skateboards and wrote songs and drove cars through the alleys we had no business inhabiting. We'd of laid down in traffic for one another until we realized that being in the middle of the street was a bad idea.

When one is born is not nearly as significant as the path they are directed toward. I'm tired of professionals seeking to understand workforce motivation by bucketing people by birth certificate.

To understand a collective we must seek to understand the individuals who compose the whole. Habitat is more important than origin.

There lives a few certainties in work (and life):
1. People want to be challenged
2. People want to learn
3. People want to blaze their own trail

We deter individual empowerment for fear that a lack of structure can only lead to chaos. That individuals cannot be trusted.... That only process can yield results.... That one must be managed in-order to perform.

What if people could take the skills they had acquired through their life experience and apply them to their profession? What if personal passion could drive professional progress?

It Can!

We all just want to know that we are in a place where we can share ideas and have them adopted and for that to lead us to a progression that aids an organization to actually make a difference in the world.

Brian Sella believes it as did Jason Lytle before him and Wayne Coyne before him and Jerry Garcia before he did.

... and the world turns and people come eager to learn, grow and prosper.   

... and you have the ability to teach and to learn... the process of which will bolster your immortality!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, March 31, 2017

The M Word

It was another lively #NextChat this week, full of HR Professionals giving advice to Young Professionals. As I get ready to attend my 10th straight Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference, I recall overhearing the term Millennial at the first one I attended. What followed were seminars, webinars, keynotes, product launches and panel discussions conducted by old people alerting the workplace as to how to engage young people.

... and here we are 10 years later, Generational Stereotyping with renewed fervor. Could it be as the door closes on the Baby Boomer that fear of career extinction has heightened the need for control? When do the Millennials get a group to bully?

While the elder statesmen advise how to manage those of other generations, anyone who dare counter offer advice to the more-experienced are attacked for being disrespectful.

Indeed, The use of the M Word is part of a movement by those out of touch attempting to keep their bruised bully hand on the hammer of control.

It all started with a witty commencement speech by a well-intended intellectual who sought to warn young graduates of the harsh reality of life.

Imagine you work your ass off in class while balancing an after school job as you deal with your parent's second divorce. The reward: This guy shits on your big day by assuming entitlement had bought you a ticket to your graduation.

Frank Martin had a more subtle inflection while preparing his team for the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.

We are all human and uniquely skilled in our ability to insult one another with all the best intentions in mind. But, the hypocrisy of the tenured to insult the newly enshrined has never been more prevalent.

Don't agree?

Show me the chat where Millennials have been called upon to give advice as to how to manage Baby Boomers?

The reality is this:

You were put on this earth to experience life for its every glory and disappointment through your own experience... and to share it!

The more people you are able to influence before you die, the closer you get to immortality.

I have the divine privilege to sit in the coffee shop with retired folks every morning. The conversation is enlightened and appreciated from both sides. I work with college men and women on a weekly basis. I coach 8 year old girls and 12 year old boys. I interact with people from 20 to 80 years of age in my professional life... every... single.... day.

Everyone has something to offer. No one would care to categorize their place on the generational totem pole until you erect said pole in the middle of the room.

I have a few thoughts for people of all ages.

You Are Special
Every day, you walk into a world full of people who have embraced the principle that it is easier to be negative than to try to make the world a better place. The one ethos any person can embrace is that of naysayer. The easiest thing in the world is to give up and sit firmly in a self-appointed thrown of judgment over others.

The harsh reality of the world hits us all at different times. I have found, however, that the longer you hold off telling people to quit the more they grow toward the development of a positive lifestyle.

You should begin and end each day, not by checking your phone, but by thinking of one great thing you have achieved. One thing: Be it a spelling bee win, a little league championship or the time you learned to tie your shoes.... think of something you've done well.

The Only Person Who Knows Best
No One gets the privilege of conducting your life:
  • Not your parents 
  • Not your pastor 
  • Not your coach 
  • Not your boss 
... you will leave the nest at some point under your own power and cognition. Only you will always be with you: Every day, every minute, where ever you go!

It boils down to 2 simple things:
1. Accept advice from anyone who is willing to give it
2. Get good at Loving Yourself!

The test you failed will seem insignificant if your mom dies that same day. The game you lost won't matter if you parents tell you they are getting divorced that evening. The girl who broke up with you may look less-desirable when you look her up on Facebook 10 years later.

It's your life! Don't Listen to Me or Anybody!

.... If you've Got a Dream - Protect It!
.... If you want something bad enough - Go Get It!

It's a hell of a lot easier to try than to sit around listening to those who want to tell you why you can't!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Building an Ethical Culture

Bring in the lawyers, it's time to talk ethics. The third stop in our exploration of the SHRM Competency model lands us on Ethical Practice. This area of focus is a Human Resource strong point... which is why everyone hates HR. HR Professionals tend to thrive in 3 areas:
1. Examine
2. Consider
3. Advise

While critically important to keeping the companies doors open, said personality set seldom wins an HR Professional an invite to the company party!

A primary question can be asked of adults in the workplace:

Where do employees establish their Personal Ethical Model before filling out an application?

Was it is grade school? Church? On the sports field? In the music chamber? Possibly in Juvenile Hall?

The curriculum for certification in this area of competency is clearly defined, easy to understand and perfectly certifiable.

So... Today... Let's let go of the gavel and step down for the booth of judgment.

Wouldn't it be nice if HR could address troubled employees before they acted out?

Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to break organizational rules to protect a Sales Manager who continues to misunderstand his ethical compass?

Wouldn't it be nice if you could avoid lawsuits from under-performers with a grudge?

I know, how dare I expose the ugly side of the HR function? Why wouldn't we want to continue to be viewed as the People Police so our alcoholic CEO can continue to pretend the rules don't apply to her.... ?

You know what's better than drawn out disciplinary reviews? Transparency!

You know what's better than sensitivity training? Common  Sense!

You know what's better than affording severance pay to former employees? Congratulating them on another successful year!

Sound impossible?

Maybe you've been spending too much time with your hand on the Employee Handbook... (?)

Stop Protecting Entitlement
The term Succession Planning is about as well received as the phrase Millennial in today's work culture. But, we face the stark reality that the generational merry-go-round is now turning more quickly than ever. Tomorrow's leaders are departing companies due to lack of opportunity, or worse yet, because they view leadership as incompetent. No one wants to tell a 30 year work veteran that their skill set has expired. Again, the dirty work is deflected to HR.... Sunset yesterday's leaders, capture their knowledge and give them a parachute lined with dignity.

When employees face irrelevance they get desperate, with desperation comes defense behavior. It doesn't have to be that way!

Succession Planning starts from day of hire. Manage expectations, fill your internal talent pool, promote the leaders of tomorrow and send octogenarians off to their consulting gig with their pockets stuffed! 

Be Visible and Approachable
People want to vent. If you don't believe me, walk into any open bar in the vicinity of an office park at 5:10 pm. People are also of the impression that venting to HR will put them on the "Liability" list.

By building and communicating a plan that empowers employees to come to HR (without assumed repercussion); trust and transparency become part of the culture. How nice to imagine that we could discuss of mental, physical and/or spiritual state of mind and get back to productive work.

HR can be a safe haven for employee feedback. Debunking the stigma of HR as the People Police is a team effort across the Human Resource team:
a. Be seen
b. Be approachable
c. Have insight (on job function as well as soft skills)
... Let people know you are approachable and that your conversations will remain in confidence.

We'll then have to commit to actually believing the above ourselves.

Be Honest:

How often is HR asked to clean up the management mess?

Do your employees mistrust you because the last time they complained about their manager, you ran to that manager?

Has the confidential information in your personal Rolodex created a personal profile that combats trust?

Blame It On Technology
Having spent a decade in the HCM Space, I can say that the greatest opportunity to empower strategic HR leadership is through the implementation and application of HR Technology.

HR has been type cast as administrative... Why not use your organizational skills to design, implement and manage a state of the art "people platform"?

Be it E-Learning, Employee Recognition, Survey Function, Performance Management or all of the above. There are so many different ways to consolidate, automate and strategically manage your Employee Engagement vision.



Conversations are easier when you have data to protect your approach.

Employees want to be promoted? Put them on a tracked leadership learning program.

Owners want to cut benefits? Show the ROI of your Employee Engagement programs to cut/amplify accordingly.

Employees are actively disengaged? Take the results (in real time) into the boardroom.

Managers think their employees suck? Track their action planning progress with the struggling employee.... maybe the manager needs some action planning of their own.

Human Resources are the Lifeblood of the organization! This is irrefutable!

Every employee works against a stigma:

Sales people win clients trust when they prove to them they value relationships over commission checks.  

IT Professionals prove their leadership equity when they take off the headphones and interact with the PEOPLE that design technology.

Human Resources professionals can certify themselves to death but if we cannot prove our trustworthiness, ethical practises will continue to be ignored while the fences stay up.

1. Don't be a punching bag for Leaders who don't practice what they preach.
2. Leave the door open and walk out of it to meet Employees where they sit.
3. Use technical proof to make any argument a strategic discussion.

Be Human!

Dave Kovacovich