Wednesday, June 29, 2011

SHRM 2011: The Good & The Bad

I must admit, I went into SHRM11 feelings a little apprehensive. The expectation of programming that might let attendees down, the prospect of standing on my feet for 3 days straight, and the pre-formed guilt of the swag footprint always makes me painfully self-aware. As usual, I was wrong to go in feeling uninspired! I saw so many of my virtual friends in the Social Media lounge, was totally blown away by the keynotes, had great conversations with HR Pros from all over the world, and discovered some really great new companies.

In all, it was a marvelous time in Las Vegas. Our company was smart enough to put us up at the Green Valley Ranch; far enough from the strip to avoid creating the concept for Hangover 3. We behaved well at night and we're charged up to make the most of swagville by day.

The Good:
* Tony Hsieh - I have always enjoyed Tony's fun loving approach to doing business. I have seen him present before and have read his book. It is awesome that he was willing to promote his vision to the world of HR. John Hollon wrote a great piece on Tony's Keynote - check it out!

*The SHRM HR Blogging Community - It is no secret that I Love Laurie Ruettimann - she is like the little sister I never had. Totally upbeat but perfectly realistic. The Great Robin Schooling dropped by our booth to discuss wine, the lottery and the Saints. She honors the namesake of her favorite football team. Paul Smith dropped in during down time for a meaningful conversation about influencing managers to help employees make good decisions. Paul is one of my favorite writers and even more engaging in person. I also waived at China Gorman, gave Charlie Judy a high five, and exchanged salutations with my friend Trish McFarlane. The degree of influence that social media has gained @ SHRM over just the last 3 years because of the aforementioned people is simply remarkable! Keep fighting the good fight!

* Bright - My favorite new company....They have a super cool platform, totally engaged employees, and a feeling of purpose in their booth that radiates hope.

* Dice - This vendor hired Laurie Reuttimann, Steve Boese, and China Gorman to speak as HR Experts in their booth - a inventive and profitable decision.

*TLNT - I thought it was just a blog...apparently it's an actual company. Amazingly cool people and great writers who are kind enough to throw us all the part. The troops are throwing an event in Austin this is a can't miss.

The Bad:

* The only complaint I have about SHRM11 is the immaturity of vendors. Several times members of competitive organizations came to our booth in request for information. Some sent their loved ones, others dressed in costume, and there were those who were bold enough to show up and take our collateral (readily available on our website). While their methods were varied they have one thing in common: They think we're stupid! I know who you work for and I don't care what you know about my company. I never worried about competition. I concern myself with forging great relationships, finding customer's who mirror our company philosophy, and developing ways to make companies better.

"Don't Chase the Paper, Chase the Dream" - P Diddy

Thanks to Fabulous Las Vegas and all the people that made SHRM11 a massive success!

See you in Atlanta in 2012!

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Welcome to Swagville!

The 2011 SHRM Conference is upon us. Attend a few courses, get your certifications renewed, see some old friends....maybe do a little site seeing or grab a drink. But there is a 12,000 pound Elephant in the conference center: SWAGVILLE!

Also know as the Exhibitor Hall, Swagville is a place where uniformed sales people scan your badge and give you a collection of logo-ed items.

I am wondering if this elephant is a necessity. For "vendors" it is an opportunity to essentially have thousands of client meetings in one day. For "attendees" it is an opportunity to gather a bag full of branded toys for the kids.

Question: Have you ever implemented an organizational program because of a logo-ed stapler?

Maybe you have. Maybe the impression of a logo on an office aid actually has an impact. Maybe if you are a kid growing up with a logo-ed stapler in hand, you are forever involuntarily embedded with brand loyalty???

Vendors pay A LOT of money to exhibit at conferences. The quality of the various conversations usually opens opportunity for new partnerships and the investment is paid for. But, I am wondering if the swag is necessary? If you walk past a booth and grab a pen does it have any relevance to making your business better? Does a stuffed animal actually encourage you to seek out a vendor for help?

These chotsky's break pretty easily, they are extra stuff to carry on a plane, and the branded bag they come in will probably taint your fruit if you use it at the farmers market.

So, there is no business relevant conversation, you are forever surrendered to an email list referencing a product that has no significance to the job function you perform...the junk soon breaks and is trashed. Bad for the environment, costly to vendors, meaningless to attendees.

In 2012, I propose we eliminate the swag! All vendors take their previous year's swag budget and make a charitable donation. The Exhibitor Hall is now reserved for people who are serious about adding a product/service to compliment their organization. If you are not a decision maker or do not have a need for a service, you can avoid the Exhibitor Hall. This promotes meaningful and relevant conversation among people who are genuinely invested in forming partnerships. I would bet the same ROI would come to the vendors and meaningless transactions would be terminated.

Businesses grow and prosper, kids are spared the disappointment of their favorite branded toy breaking in half, the environment is spared and a charity of each vendors choosing is rewarded with money they can genuinely use!

Let's get back to partnership building with a purpose! Let's make the world a better place!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Challenge to HR

Going into the 2011 Society for Human Resource Management Global Conference, I feel it my duty to re-iterate the "top workplace trends according to HR professionals" conveyed at the onset on 2011:
1. Continuing high cost of employee health care coverage
2. Passage of federal health care legislation
3. Increased global competition for jobs, markets and talent
4. Growing complexity of legal compliance for employers
5. Changes in employee rights due to legislation and/or court rulings
6. Large numbers of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce at around the same time
7. Economic growth of emerging markets such as India, China and Brazil
8. Greater need for cross-cultural understanding/savvy in business settings
9. Growing national budget deficit
10. Greater economic uncertainty and market volatility

In short; Globalization, The Economy, and a whole lot of policy. I guess Laurie Ruettimann was right, HR is all about politics.

How do:
1. Leadership
2. Organizational Strategy
3. Innovation into the HR notebook?

Should we be concerned that the Administrative stereotypes of Human Resources are re-enforced by the aforementioned survey? If HR really wants a "seat at the table", we need to focus less on legalities and more on our influence in driving organizational strategy.

We need to attract and hire great talent, evolve our company culture with the changing generational dynamic, create programs that drive thought leadership, and foster an employee-centric organizational environment. If these things seem obvious why are they not showing up as our peak concerns. We need to put down the Employee Handbook and pick up the Organizational Playbook.

Every employee in every company starts and ends with HR. We need to be a pipeline from Employee to Senior Managers:
Adopt a Strategic Program Management Plan
Create a Funnel from Employee to CEO
Stop Ignoring the Facts

What Would Google Do...
At the World at Work Global Compensation and Benefits Conference, the Google Compensation Team revealed a case study detailing how they revolutionized Compensation in their organization. Google gave every employee a 10% pay raise and a $1000 spot bonus. As we left their panel discussion a man turned to me and said, "I sure would like to work at a place where 10% pay raises were a reality...but I never will". Many from the conference had similar reactions, but they missed the point. Monica Davis and her team at Google developed a strategic plan for program adoption:
1. Listen to Employees
2. Gather and Analyze Data
3. Obtain Approval
4. Communicate
5. Build a Model
6. Implement

The key of this presentation was not that Google has millions of dollars to shell out on the ready (because they don't). The Google team wanted to show other HR professionals how to be business relevant.

When you come to the board room with data and a communication model to drive employee adoption; the CEO will actually ask you to "sit at the table".

The Voice of the Little People
I've never met a CEO that has any idea of a entry level professional's level of discontent with organizational directives. We implement performance reviews, surveys, and town hall meetings in an effort to gather employee feedback. Most employees feel they will be cast in a bad light if they point out areas of organizational deficiency in these forums. So they keep their mouth shut and work around organizational challenges.

This is where HR needs to assert leadership. Every HR Leader knows where the organization is falling short. With data in hand, and a plan for restructuring, we can be the driving force to organizational improvement.

What are you afraid of..?

Watch Your Back...
I worked for an organization that had a technique. Gather exit feedback from employees...then run to those who have been complained about and warn them to watch their back. This is how mediocre organizations stay mediocre, great employees leave for greener pastures, and bad middle management maintains it's place in marginalizing talent.

We are in denial! We start a 'good ol' boy/girl network' and protect our own. Millions of dollars are spent opening exits for true talent while protecting people who suck at their job. What a shame.

Another opportunity for HR to bang on the Boardroom door and demand attention.

So, as we enter the conference center in Las Vegas for the 2011 SHRM Annual Conference, I want to issue a challenge to every HR professional at every level...

Acquire knowledge to solidify your position as a Change Manager!

Gather tools to improve your strategic approach, the courage to convey information and the uncompromising drive to make your company better!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

5 Questions for Dave Kovacovich

I am starting a new series on DFTR called 5 questions. Once a week, I will showcase some of my favorite people by asking them differentiating questions. The goal is to give my readers an alternative view of the professional world through the eyes of those who have fought the good fight and won!

If you or someone you know would like to be part of this series just let me know.

Our first guest on the 5 Questions series is is the transcription of an interview I did with myself on the car ride to work this morning. I hope you enjoy this guest, he is one of my favorite people!

1. You have made some professional adjustments that have really benefited you as a person. How did this work?
I was caught up in the corporate rat race. My goal was to climb the ladder of a large corporation. I wanted to align myself with the right people, accept additional responsibility, and bring attention to my all back fired. I was young so I let the bravado of my motivation overwhelm my body of work. I was far too transparent in my ulterior motives and people got sick of me. When the light at the top of the ladder went dim, I had to switch careers.

I did a total career make over. I went from a large company to a smaller one, transferred from Technology to Human Resources, and started working from home. I made a commitment to let my work speak for itself. I stopped speaking up on conference calls and in meetings (unless called upon). I realized I had created a lot of extra, unnecessary stress in navigating my career path. When I let my work speak for itself the success wasn't forced. I saved a lot of time and a lot of hair follicles.

2. What do you enjoy most about working with HR Professionals?
I enjoy helping the more administrative team members develop confidence. There are folks who have been kept in generalists roles because of their lack of confidence. It's awesome to empower introverted people by helping them design a program (while giving them the metrics to defend their decision). I love it when a Senior Manager gives me a the 'go ahead' on a new program and the aforementioned catalyst is promoted.

3. Most Salesmen are fast talking jerks, how have you tried to avoid that stereotype?
I try to listen more than I talk, think with the customers mind, answer questions directly, make the solution applicable to a conveyed need, and to infuse some common sense.

As sales people, we tend to get hung up pretending to be product experts. Prospects don't care about our product knowledge, they care about how the product will fix a need, bring value to their company, and make their job easier. We get too hung up on touting our product without taking time to understand why (or if) our prospect needs what we're pushing. I hate to see a prospect ask a simple yes/no question and get a 10 minute product capability dump (that doesn't address their question). You wanna be a successful sales professional: listen and apply your solution to a conveyed need....and don't be afraid to say your product is incapable of doing certain things. Prospects appreciate salespeople who are not submissive to every request.

4. What are the latest trends in the world of Employee Recognition?
Who cares! Our industry tends to lack creativity. We latch on to themes like Employee Engagement and Motivating Millennials and we pretend we have a one size fits all solution. I don't believe there is such thing as an industry expert and I don't believe in best practices. Every industry, company, and employee have unique identities...trying to throw a blanket over it, makes consulting a commodity.

5. You are a big fan of sports and music. How do your personal preferences relate to your profession?
It's all about inspiration. I love the thrill of victory. Seeing the underdog overcome pre-conceived adversity makes me believe I can do anything. It's the same with music. I listen to Bon Iver and the sound scape opens my soul...I instantly forget the mundane pressures of life and I am filled with purpose for the moment. The challenge is always remembering the great stuff. Music and sports help me remember how amazingly awesome I can be.

Life is good for Dave! He lives to work because he loves his work. He loves his work because he takes no detail too seriously, has great relationships, and celebrates the strengths in everyone around him.

Next week we will talk to another amazing professional with genuine intent. Until then...

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, June 13, 2011

The Strategic Process of Wasting Time

Last week, we spoke about authenticity in the workplace. Earlier this week, I authored a piece on the desire for Empathy from Leaders. Today, we will take this a step further...why must we be so dishonest in the workplace?

Think about it....we hold back emotion, frame language to sound more appropriate, dress a certain way, and neglect pointing to things with which we disagree. All because we don't want to be unprofessional.

I think we have it backwards! I think we should drop the bravado and get down to what helps us win!

Disclaimer: No, I am not advocating that you say what is on your mind, in any audience, at any time!

What I intend to impress upon you is that we waste a lot of time allowing "process" to trump common sense. We think ourselves experts, we design strategy....and we often forget common sense.

Here are 3 considerations for common sense in the workplace:
Exceptions to Expectations
The Real Reason You Care
Consideration of Audience

Rules, Rules, Rules.....
I remember over hearing an Administrator ask our General Manager if she had to fill out a report for the XYZ vendor approval.

To which he answered: "Yes, and what's the XYZ vendor approval?"

Must we have a formalized process in place to defend each and every decision we make? It may be conveyed that this is the best way to prioritize really means we have to have documentation to cover our ass.

How much time is wasted on "process"?

We have meetings about meetings. You are held on the phone for 30 minutes to hear excuses from someone who does not have 30 minutes to complete the documentation you requested. Wouldn't it be refreshing if we could approve or deny business initiatives on the spot and move on with our day? Why can't we?

The Meltdown
I wish I had a dollar for every time I have seen an adult throw a tizzy fit. We are on the phone, web, or in a conference room deciding how to manage a particular project. Any ideas....?

Yeees, there are plenty of ideas, a whole lotta chiefs, and not nearly enough Indians. Are we genuinely focused on the team's success or do we just want our name stamped on a project. Do we think this directive will assist in organizational development or do we want the validation of having an idea adopted? Do we really need to conduct meetings about meetings or are we just there to speak and pretend to be part of something?

The boss is coming, act busy....
The most idiotic thing I've done as a professional is spouted my opposition to organizational directives in the presence of a Vice President. The VP didn't make his annual visit to hear about the mundane detail of my day, I had no evidence to support my claim, and my teammates cringed as I put myself on the 'people to fire' list.

There will be times when you can speak openly, there are co-workers with whom you can be completely honest, and there are times when you might have to stick up for yourself. But, consider your audience.

A VP doesn't want to hear excuses. Just because your friends think you are right doesn't mean they want you to speak on their behalf. You should respect the guy in the warehouse as much as the lady in the board room.

It comes down to this....we waste an inordinate amount of time on process and idea promotion. In reality, we don't care about either.

At some point we need to determine that there are things we cannot change. The best way to accept the inevitable is to smile, keep your mouth shut, and let those who do nothing pretend to be part of your success.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Business is unpredictable! But, there is one discernible fact that seems to always ring true:
If you act out of character, it will catch up with you!

People are commonly good natured. We all want to work harder, do a little bit more, make that sale, get that promotion. In our quest to go above and beyond the call of duty we sometimes cross the line. We take a chance...fairly sure it will work out...then it catches up with us.

Integrity is a core value of most every's also an overused and misrepresented term! We hope to be looked upon as honorable employees but we don't covet our employees in the way we do our is unfair to think we would. Integrity is a bold word, honesty might better characterize a general work expectation.

Sales people are commonly put in the 'slick talker' category. Sell something out of the box and leave it to your team to fix it (while you make all the money). I wish I could say the characterization was unfair but it certainly leaves room for differentiation.

What if you could double your sales by simply being honest. By having conversations with people instead of force feeding an audience 100 PowerPoint slides. If you could talk in sensible terms about a need, a solution, and their viability...? Sounds too easy? The thing is that we make it too hard.

You feel your stomach turning on Sunday night, "what awaits me in my office inbox". You stay up at night pondering when this big project will ever end or if it will be completed correctly. You sweat in your suit before an interview.

It doesn't have to be so hard.

I was once asked if I had trouble firing people. I answered, "NO". If you are honest with people they know whether their effort is measuring up or if their skill set matches their position. If we try to be something we are not, we act out of character, and our legacy is tarnished.

I have struggled in the past trying to be someone I am not. You would be surprised how easy it is to let go of that job, promotion track, or big sale if you are honest with yourself.

It's work. It can be a lot of fun if you understand what you do well and act accordingly.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Just Do It!

During half time of the NBA Finals, a commercial appeared in all its glory...the latest "just do it" ad campaign. It was Glorious! I was watching this extraordinary event with an elder Irish Immigrant......he was perplexed to say the least.

When I was a boy, the 'just do it' campaign was a Michael Jordan driven sensation. The game of basketball had changed. An artist had come into the league and no one was near his equal. Seeing him play was as much entertainment as it was a sporting event. He was a rock star.

Last night, I saw the new era of Nike Athletes: P Rod, a girl surfing in a bikini, bikes on rails, moto-sports, and explosions. I don't know that I've ever been so proud to be an American. We have Television that is an aesthetic shock to the passive observer and athletes that are equal parts artist.

With Tiger Woods running off to whores, a steroid scandal, and a football lock out: the good people of Nike looked to the kids on the street to inspire the masses. God Bless Them!

What a Great Time to Be Alive!

When we were kids, a movie called Bones Brigade changed our perception of the world. For the first time ever our sport had main-stream validation. The documentation of athletic prowess and creative talent spurred a world of an unending super hero series for skaters. Kids in Michigan would watch 'shackle me not' a thousand times in an effort to understand Matt Hensley's artistic athleticism.

Now, during one of the most watched television events of the year, fearless young people take center stage.


Tell me that Jordan dunk in slow motion is more powerful than this!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Letter to my Son

Well Big Guy - you did it! You have graduated from Pre-school. I know the morning hours were rough at times and being away from mom and dad for full day can be challenging. You have preserved, juice box in hand, a little older and lot wiser. Your Mom, Sister, Pet Turtle and I are so very proud of you.

Now it's off to the big world of Kindergarten. You will make new friends and leave a few behind. It is sad to see those you came up with move on to other opportunities. The great thing about life, however, is that you are consistently afforded the opportunity to reinvent yourself. Knowing this, you can take every situation with your best intent in mind. Meaning, you can choose who to Love and who to disregard....I would encourage you to try to Love more people than you disregard.

You will fall in Love, have your heart broken, get in a fight or two, feel ashamed, & come to realize the thrill of victory.

It took me 30 years to find your Mother...I hope you will be so lucky to find your other half in this world. Just know that Love is a mutual journey. You cannot give without getting back...if you do, you have to reconsider your audience.

Stick up for yourself! I will drop everything and pick you up at the Principal's office if you have protected the honor that you and your friends have built. As a youngster, the way to win friends often means proving yourself. You may have to eat a worm or punch the biggest kid on the playground. Respect has to be earned.

You will let me down...I apologize in advance for expecting so much of you. You will surprise me...I apologize in advance for not having more faith in you.

Know this, the world is filled with infinite possibility. Nothing is too important but everything has its significance. Some days it rains, others the sun will shine upon you in all its glory. It's OK to cry, but laughter feels better. You can be anyone you will yourself to be.

Maybe some day you will read this and laugh at it. I hope you do.

Until then...allow no one to limit your potential, revel in the sun, and find someone to Love!

PS - always be nice to your Mom, Sister and Turtle. Save the frustration for me.

Congratulations! Here's to the next step in life!

Don't Forget to Remember!