Friday, June 27, 2014

Deprogramming The Robots

As I limped through the Exhibitor Hall at the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference (I have a slightly fractured ankle) a thought came over me:

If all of these vendors have it figured out. Why is only 13% of the Global Workplace engaged?

I passed thousands of sales people trying to differentiate themselves from one another until I got to a corridor thinking I had escaped the madness.... then, I realized I was only half way through the Exhibitor Hall. 

Mother F-er (my ankle hurt, my brain was tired, and my soul was unfulfilled)!

It struck me that the burnout I felt meandering the Exhibitor Hall was a metaphor for today's employee. With so many tasks, portals, forms, meetings, mandatory training sessions, and peer emotions to navigate; when do we get time to do our actual job? 

In this hall full of madness transactions were being made in rapid fire. 

While I understand that the SHRM Annual Conference would not exist without vendor sponsorship, I couldn't help but wonder if the badge scanning and swag hand outs would help any business solve any problems. 

The thrill I felt at the SHRM Annual Conference came not through transactions but genuine human moments. Presentation bravado, infographics, branded merchandise, gift cards, demos.... None of it matters and transactions fail to leave a memorable impression.

Your Life's Memories
In decompression from the conference I spent the plane ride home with John Roderick in my head phones. He spoke of his strange ability to remember seemingly random events. I was reminded of a toast I gave at a friend's weeding:

It is not the grandiose events we remember but the moments in-between...

Clarity came over me. We have given up on engagement because we think it is a transaction. Technology cannot create genuine human moments, annual rewards and disingenuous speeches cause people to quit, and people hate training. With all due respect, most vendors suck at what they do. The Global Engagement Crisis is the fault of two things:

1. Vendors who pretend to care about culture while selling transactions.
2. HR Professional who do not demand more of those to whom they outsource human moments. 

Employee Recognition is a meaningless transactional waste of money that serves nothing more than an insult to your employees intelligence. In truth, you cannot outsource human moments. 

Employee Engagement is something completely different. Without true partnership, Engagement is impossible. This takes deep analysis of business objectives and employee preferences along with a team of champions who will not allow others to ignore the love they feel for their company.

Can You Teach Engagement... Yes, You Can!
What's worse than demos and badge scanning are speakers who talk of humanity in the workplace but compose no strategy for improvement.

The Truth You've Ignored:
a. Industry surveys are meaningless... what matters is what YOUR employees think.
b. Your shelf-stored solutions continue to insult your employees.
c. Technology drives transactions which only create entitlement.
d. Recognition is a benefit not a strategy.
e. If you view your job as a series of transactions, you are easily replaceable.
f.  Transactions between HR Administrators & Vendors will lead to only one thing...

Mass Unemployment!

SHRM has entered the certification process because they are hell-bent on making HR professionals more strategic. I know people who will make sure they stay true to that mission. I believe their commitment is to transform the HR profession. Those insulted by this transition may be afraid that their transactional existence is threatened. I hope it is. 

The vendor hall may never be cut from 5,000 vendors to 500, but it would be nice to see the forest through the trees.

We need to transform not transact. This takes a genuine investment in people that requires consistent human interaction and an uncompromising commitment to evolving organizational strategy. Very few people have the guts to continue to splash in the wishing well whether they are an HR Professional or a vendor. We prefer to throw coins into the fountain, let them sink to the bottom, and hope something comes of the transaction.

If we continue to act like robots, the robots will replace us. No company will exist without interactive human commitment. We are differentiated not by our tools but in our ability to take off the tool belt.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Debriefing SHRM14 - The State of The Workplace

The sun has set on the 3rd day of programming here in Orlando and those of us who were lucky enough to attend the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference know how the US Soccer Team felt playing in Brazil. Through our blood, sweat and tears we got closer to (re)certification, attained an exorbitant amount of knowledge, found solutions to unmet needs and made a few new friends. This was my favorite of the last 7 SHRM Conferences thanks to the quality of content delivered! Applause to everyone who makes this monstrosity of an event possible!

I met a thousand people and heard from the industry's boldest thought leaders. It was a perfectly Human event filled with Resources. Allow me to share my thoughts on the State of The Workplace as it relates to what I learned at SHRM14.

It Take A Village
A few myths dispelled at SHRM14:
- Innovation is not a symptom of technology.
- Engagement is not a symptom of rewards.

The advances in technology have made it increasingly easier to start a business. Find a concept, make it systematic, and program accordingly. While our organizations rely on technology, it's overuse has opened a flood gate run dry of human connection. The days automating a solution are being trumped by people who simply don't want to be reliant on a system to connect them. The best presentations this year shouted one great certainty:

Our Employees need Humans as a Resource!

Why Not You?
Who did you admire at SHRM14? A speaker, a person you met, a new business partner who solved a problem for you? As I looked over the thousands of people from the 3rd level of the convention center I was overwhelmed by a thought:

What if everyone in this place shared one idea with everyone else? 

You Didn't Expect It To Be Easy... Did You?

In the world of Employee Engagement we talk about being happy at work. We want fair pay, a boss who understands us, flexible work schedule, the ability to wear whatever we want, and a Thank You for our every action. While the world of work is evolving, we still have to earn our pay check.

Engagement cannot happen without our divine effort toward something we believe in. There is not a platform, app, or prize that can engage us. We have to know what we want, to be willing to fight for it, and to bring the village along with us. Many chose a career that was convenient and went through the motions. Some get to the point of self-actualization and realize they cannot merely be satisfied with their job. There are those people who do not enjoy work, feel they are out of options, and wait to retire to be happy.

The Human Resources world is more determined than ever to find a cure for our Engagement Crisis. What if all it takes is a whole lot of knowledge, some great resources, and a network of people who believe in you?

Because you acquired all of that at #SHRM14. Now its time to have the guts to makes difference!

Until next year.....

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Decompressing Day 2 of SHRM14

The second day of the Society for Human Resource Management's Annual Conference is in the books and I figured I would share a few highlights from this divinely inspiring day.

My interactions in the Exhibitor Hall revealed an evolved vendor strategy across the board. I've attended this event 7 years in a row and I have never been more impressed with the exhibitors commitment to delivering content and interacting with attendees. The days of handing out stuffed animals have been replaced with presentations by subject matter experts, high impact demos, and structured customer conversations. Bravo!!

Keeping it Human with Steve Browne
There are very few people who I would arise at 3am West Coast time to watch present. Steve Browne is one of them. Steve is not a Start-Up Marketer or a Professional Speaker, he's an HR Professional who works in the deepest trenches. There is NO ONE in the Human Resources Community who cares about people more than Steve Browne and he continues to prove it again and again. While others use their social presence to sell something or promote themselves, Steve remains totally committed to sharing for the sake of improving others.

Welcome To Fabulous #HRVegas!!!
Joe Gerstandt & Jason Lauritsen began their session by orchestrating a packed house of HR People to work in four-part harmonies (no simple task). In addition to this fabulous #HRMashUp the boys delivered emotionally charged, highly intelligent workforce strategy. Jason & Joe blend age-old theory with modern day action planning that is next-level stuff for the HR Community.

The Great Robin Schooling & Matt Charney kept it very real in their talks at the packed Smart Stage. Robin paying her years in HR forward with a no-fail strategy for gaining Executive attention. Matt is on to something by relating his time in film school to story telling in organizations.

Be Brilliant!
It appeared from the overly-packed house that the word about Simon Bailey has spread like wild fire in the HR community. Simon's infectious laugh and candid delivery coupled with his Executive experience at Disney turned a speech on self-motivation into a ME/WE auditory delight.

If you are in Human Resources and have not had a chance to attend the annual SHRM conference it is a must-do! Content is delivered from a thousand angles at your disposal to interpret and transmit as you see fit.

Until Tomorrow....

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Solving The Engagement Crisis

There is no better place than the Society of Human Resource Management Annual Conference to engage the issues of the day. You will undoubtedly hear tales of Employee Engagement (or lack thereof). As you walk the Exhibitor Hall or attend sessions you will notice a divide on the subject:

School 1: Those who believe Employee Recognition is a benefit.
School 2: Those who believe Employee Engagement is a strategy.

There is a distinct difference in these schools of thought. Both have their place depending on organizational objectives and employee initiatives. Some Human Resource professionals find their skill set in the transactional. There is a place for this in every organization. Unfortunately, the transactional past of the HR skill set is holding back those who want more out of their profession. It is my belief that SHRM has made the transition into certifying their members because they believe that the title of Human Resources encompasses more than the transactional. The future of the profession may very well be split into two groups:

Group 1: Generalists
Group 2: HR Business Partners

Here's where the vendor/attendee partnership becomes critically important.

Transactional Recognition = rewards that are not performance based or that are driven by back-end technology that serves only as a compensation device.

Strategic Engagement = entirely unique programs that serve employee well being through revenue production.

A Vice President in our HR Community once told me that he would not offer a non-cash reward program for his employees because they were minimum wage workers who could barely afford to pay rent. He fought to get a them a pay raise rather than a better benefit. Makes sense.

We often see companies who want to borrow technical design to better measure performance and its according cash pay out. Fair enough.

There are organizations who rely on industry case studies to determine what will make their employees happy while others are seeking big data metrics to determine the best total rewards package for their employees. A viable bench-marking exercise.

At the conclusion of 2013, Gallup reported a 13% Global Employee Engagement rate. They have data to prove it. I disagree with their data (and everyone's data for that matter).

Lack of employee engagement is not due to lack of employee motivation it is due to an organization's inability to embrace it. If you seek an off-the-shelf program (that every other company has) you have put a check in the Total Rewards inventory. For most employees, that is not enough.

Why Not Dream Big!
Starbucks has partnered with The Arizona State University to pay for their Barista's college education. The transactional-minded may see this as a potential expense drain. These are the people who afford their employees only minimal learning opportunities for fear that if they learn too much they will leave.

Howard Schultz thinks different. Starbucks' bold effort will create two distinct opportunities:
1. Improved employee retention by keeping Baristas in place for as long as it takes to complete their college degree.
2. The creation of better-developed job candidates in their business communities.

Completing a college degree is a massive challenge. While Starbucks employees endure said challenge they will amplify their performance at work to ensure they reserve their opportunity to a free education. This will transform transactional employees into strategically engaged employees.

Simple question: if Starbucks can make business leaders out of retail workers how is it possible that HR Generalists cannot become HR Business Partners?

The Test: are the vendors at #SHRM14 selling you something that works for them or partnering with you to create something that will make your business better?

The ability to recognize the difference between transactional vendors and strategic business partners is one that every SHRM14 attendee possess.

Ask Yourself: Why Are We Still Paying People to Put a Check in a Box?

Don't Forget to Remember!!!


Monday, June 16, 2014

How To Maximize The Exhibitor Hall Experience

The Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference is upon us. How do I know? Because my inbox is flooded with requests for interaction from the world's finest sales people. If you haven't attended the SHRM Annual conference in the past, the Exhibitor Hall can be a bit intimidating. Sales and Marketing professionals in logo-ed polo shirts engage their core audience through i-pad raffles, branded handouts and interactive stuffed Monster giveaways.

I've had the equal pleasure of working a vendor booth and walking the Exhibitor Hall as a conference staff member. So, while this week's SHRM preparation editorials are aimed at conference attendees, I'd like to offer a few tips to the boys and girls that will be on their feet all day.

Let's Run The Numbers....
Let's say your company has invested $100,000 all in for the SHRM Experience (this is a hypothetical figure). Your average deal size is $10,000. You'll need to close just 10 deals to secure your investment. I like your odds!

With the aforementioned formula in mind, allow me to advise a few points.

Stuffed Animals are Incapable of Conversation
Your company has printed a bunch of stat sheets, you've got branded stuffed lizards, your badge scanner, and a pocket full of gift cards. Your goal: scan as many badges as possible to add to your pipeline, correct? Incorrect.

If your only intent is handing out collateral and scanning badges you will collect a ton of names from people who very well may not be your target audience.

Quality not Quantity 
If you rush to scan the badges of every person who walks the hall you may miss out on a genuine conversation with your greatest potential customer.

Slow down and advise the following:
1. Introduce yourself.
2. Look at the person's badge.
3. Ask if they have a business problem that your product, service or personal expertise can fix.
4. If they qualify, have a meaningful conversation.
5. Differentiate yourself.
6. Set action items for follow-up.

Even the finest sales pitch will not make an impression with a conference attendee who has seen 700 companies that do the same thing you do.

Make is personal, understand the other organizational players involved in the sales process, introduce qualified prospects to Subject Matter Experts... don't waste your time demoing your product for a person who does not fit your target audience or who does not have a need for your service.

Don't Be Annoying...
Some HR people are introverted. Don't scare away your audience. As easily as you can create a lead, you can destroy one.

* Don't scan a person's badge if they do not request it.
* Don't pretend you are working a carnival dunk tank.
* Don't waste your time talking to someone who does not extend you the courtesy of their full attention.

Have Fun!
It sucks being away from your family to stand on your feet all day. Believe me, I feel your pain!

Find people that engage your interest, have a beverage (or 17) and make sure you sell something!

See You in Orlando!

~ Dave

Friday, June 13, 2014

Empty Hotels

"The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intense application and intense discipline." - John F. Kennedy

When I wore a younger man's clothes my family moved around a fair amount. My Father was a Corporate Leader and his thirst for progress took his family to various locations. We moved down the coast from Northern California into Orange County when I was mid-way through grade school. It was the first reflective transition in my life. I was aware enough to sense the sea change. It was exciting! During this trip we stopped at a hotel off the highway, it was a transient affair. I remember being in the lobby in the middle of the night. Though the hours were odd, there were a collection of weary travelers in the common area. They shared stories of their travels and where their lives were taking them. I sat with my sister among these strangers and took in their knowledge. My senses were amplified by this massive room that people (by their own doing) could turn from an empty resting stop into a community. I've never forgotten that feeling. 

Every morning I sit in an empty coffee shop before most people are awake. As the sun begins to smile upon us, people begin their days and trickle in with half-shut eyes. Most of the time when I am departing others are just beginning their days. My willingness to catapult myself from my slumber into each morning gives me a 2 hour head start into a day of limitless possibilities that are mine to create. 

I spend a fair amount of time traveling. I'm not one to strike up a conversation with fellow travelers yet I spend very little time in the sanctity of my hotel room. Before most are awake, I find my way down to the lobby to get some work done in the company of the human race. 

Wes Anderson's extraordinary set design of the film Grand Budapest Hotel personifies this feeling of emptiness in a place built for crowds. It was so comforting to take it all in. This film brings out the forgotten element of customer service: when serving people was job #1, when you could enjoy a meal without being shuffled out the door, when people knew your name and your preferences. And then there is the element of dwelling among a common area knowing you can relax without being confronted for loitering.

With each morning I see people come and go through the coffee shop. Some wear their troubles on their sleeve, others can't wait to talk to the Baristas, and there are those who simply want to enjoy a few moments within their own mind before they run off to form the making of their day. 

Whether I am in an empty airport, a forgotten restaurant, a lonely coffee shop or an uncrowded conference hall; there is no more peaceful feeling to me than being among humanity. It's even more pleasing to dwell among them with their theme songs in my headphones writing the story of their day. 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, June 6, 2014

The Road to Regret

I've been intrigued by the LinkedIn Influencers "If I were 22" series. Young adults are walking through graduation, people are making mid-career transitions and there are those contemplating life without work. As the pages in our life fold, advice of any kind always raises our ears (or maybe an eyebrow). Often, people look back at their mistakes and seek to deter those younger from such regrettable action (or inaction). I don't have that problem. I've screwed up many times, there are people I wish I had treated differently and times I wish I had stuck up for myself. Overall, however, my life has been nothing but magnificent. I am truly grateful!

Why have I been so fortunate in life? I would guess it is a combination of strategic career planning, divine self awareness, and a little luck. All of these things have their place in our lives. Some things we can control and some we cannot.

Here's How To Know The Difference!

Trial By Fire
I worked a long time for a company that had excellent training, extraordinary Executive Leadership, a world-class sales organization and brilliant products and services. It was a supreme training ground for a young professional. I earned a plethora of successes that included achievement trips, outstanding performance awards, project leads and accelerated opportunities for advancement. The experience was irreplaceable.....not for what I gained but for what I lost.

Amid the aforementioned all-star accolades the company struggled mightily in two areas:
- Poor Middle Management
- Poisonous Company Culture

It's been said a million times: people don't leave companies they leave bosses. This is astoundingly true! Extremely talented people always have options. More often than not the extremely talented are limited by their (far less talented) bosses. Great middle managers put the aspirations or their employees over their own. Poor managers hide their all-star talent, claim successes as their own, and keep their team achievements in a bottle. This creates a revolving door; exiting extreme talent while maintaining mediocre middle management...over and over again. It happens more than it does not. Sad!

"We're not here to pat you on the back for showing up. You produce and get paid handsomely. That's all that matters." - The Worst Manager I Ever Had

It makes me sad remembering the quote above. For years, I had envisioned a collective workforce (even in sales). This person's idea of motivation was to create internal competition, highlight failures in public, and to constantly remind employees that they were replaceable. Sad!

I Quit (and here's why)!
As I watched my company become a prison I started planning my next career step. Most would have considered their area of expertise, workforce experience, and/or the industries top-notch organizations. I didn't care about any of that. I had been in a rat maze for far too long. I wanted to create something better.

Instead of leaping to a competitor, I totally recreated my professional life. I went from a large company to a small one. I went from an office filled with politics to working from home. I went from compliance management to people empowerment. It took me an entire year of soul searching to develop my path. It was the best (and worst) year of my life.

I'm The Captain Now!
The best career move I ever made was to stop waiting for others to motivate me. I was not a malcontent (in fact the opposite). I learned to listen to people and accept their guidance. I learned to insert myself into situations through my own merit. I learned that the only test I needed to pass on a daily basis was the look in the mirror.

The story of organizational failure that I experienced in my life is not uncommon. Most companies do not manage their employees as well as they should. Sad!

People in caps and gowns are thirsty for advice. Companies are not as accepting. The world of work is advancing from dictatorships to bottoms up collectives; the companies that do not comply will fall behind.

Culture and appreciation have metrically defensible relevance. There are case studies to prove that the best companies promote from within. It is also a matter of common sense.

My advice to 22 and 72 year olds: Analyze Your Actions!

Are you working to advance only yourself?
Are you acting out of character to get ahead?
Are you afraid to try for fear of being exposed?
Are you pretending to know what you do not?

Only you know the answers to these questions. It is unlikely that anyone will ask them of you.

I can assure you this:
Those who have wronged others in their climb to success retire in misery. 

Why would you want to spend your life regretting your inability to live the life you deserve?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Pictures Never Taken

It seems in this day-and-age of Social Media nothing is authentic! People cannot eat a meal without sharing a picture of it. We are entrenched in the lives of one another from half a world away... and it's pretty cool.

There are times when I find it annoying that a person cannot take-in their favorite song without recording every minute of it on their smart phone. People post game day photos (while neglecting to pay attention to the actual game). It seems proof of being there has become more important than the experience of being there.

What are the things you choose not to share?

I heard a podcast recently in which our humble narrator regretted not taking a picture of a given moment forever imprinted in his mind. Isn't that better?

The moments that define the essence of our existence are rarely captured on film. There is a bond of friendship that enables us to keep secrets, an emotional respect for a song that would never allow us to document it, and a glory in victory that is impossible to replicate. Sometimes the simple act of being completely present can forever replace a picture in a scrap book. As the best moments fade, we remember we have a phone in our pocket... by that time it is too late to taint the authenticity of the experience.

Our ability to interact with people who are not there is only slightly less-fascinating than our ability to allow the moment to create itself.

Get Off The Grid
Do you panic when your phone battery dies? Are you still here?

Leave your phone in your car, at your desk, or on your nightstand. Allow life to happen by sharing it only with the people whom you are experiencing these moments.

Read A Book
We seldom bother to pick up a newspaper anymore because we can read the headlines most-relevant to us in real time, at any time.

With so much information so readily available in the moment why would we read words written a hundred years ago? Because the words still matter, the stories are re-creating themselves in the headlines, and if you take some time to digest the moral of the story you might cling to something you will never forget.

Talk To Strangers
I sat next to a guy yesterday for 20 minutes of so. We shared a few stories that old friends might tell. We'll never see one another again but the moment was pure. I won't soon forget him.

Some of my best conversations happen in the coffee shop with people whose lifestyle I do not share... and it's pretty cool.

Of course we are all grateful that Al Gore created the Internet and that Justin Timberlake created social media. But the lives we pretend to lead are easy to celebrate.

The true beauty of life exists not in grand occasions or false smiles but in the moments in-between.

Don't Forget to Remember!