Once you get into HR you’ll see. It sucks the life out of you and before long you’ll be like everyone else in HR–just hating your life and making it miserable for everyone else.

That conversation with a friend prior to me taking my first HR job has been forever burned into my brain. On that day I promised myself that I would never follow that path, instead charting a direction that brought a positive approach and results to the people I worked with (both inside and outside HR).

I think we know this, but it needs to be said. HR has a PR problem. Often times people see HR as a last resort when things are bad and all else has failed.

I see that as a failure on our part.

See, if we want the business to succeed, then we need to be an enabler of performance for the organization. Not in spite of the people, but through the people.

Ask your friends or your family that are outside the human resources world what they think of HR. This is a typical set of responses:

  • The police.
  • The “no” people.
  • The gatekeepers.
  • The people that fire everyone.

Do we have to police the organization at times? Yes. Do we have to say “no” sometimes? Yes. But those shouldn’t be the default responses so often that it characterizes who we are to the people we’re supposed to serve.

I have this crazy notion that HR is about service. Serving the business. Serving the employees. Just like you get great service at your favorite restaurant, I want to bring that same level of attention to HR. We might not be bringing you a fork or a glass of water, but we’re bringing you an employee experience that is inspiring, engaging, and enriching.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

How HR Can Ruin an Organization

Recently a friend told me about her experience with her boss. My friend is a forward-thinking HR pro with great ideas on how to drive innovation and serve the employees and hiring managers in her organization. Her boss, on the other hand, was much more interested in amassing power and creating artificial barriers for employees so that she remained in control of everything related to HR.

These are the people that give HR a bad name. How is that organization supposed to succeed when its top-level HR leader is putting things in place to prevent employee success?

My Approach

I knew these types of people were working in HR, and I have always taken it upon myself to break the stereotype whenever possible. I always present myself as approachable for employees and managers, and I always take a coaching or consultative approach–not a critical one.

I can remember multiple times over my career where employees would tell me that I wasn’t what they expected from the HR person, and I wear each of those statements with pride.

Maybe you can join me? I think we can break this stereotype of HR once and for all. The more each of us individually chip away at it, the more organizations and leadership teams will expect from their own HR talent, ultimately avoiding the “no” approach for something more engaging.

Think about your HR brand and what you want it to be. Then get about the business of making it a reality. If you need help, just reach out. I’ve been there and can definitely relate.

What is your philosophy/approach? Do you believe in this concept of HR service delivery? 

Want to be a true HR leader within your business? Learn to influence others. When you think about it, there are few decisions that HR makes with ultimate authority. A significant portion of what we accomplish comes through the influence, coaching, and guidance of our peers, executives, and staff.

I’d even go so far as saying that the majority of what we are proud of as HR leaders comes from what we accomplish without making the final decision ourselves. I can think of dozens of instances throughout my career where I was able to encourage and shape decisions that were good for the company and employees–but they otherwise wouldn’t have occurred without some outside influence. This can include anything from coaching an employee on how to communicate with his boss to helping the CEO understand the need to support a culture initiative.

One of the books I’ve long appreciated is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The concepts in the book can help anyone in any role, but I’ve always felt they are particularly appealing to HR because of our need to drive performance and action through those around us. Check out this list of tactics, characteristics, and methods for winning friends and influencing people: While some of them are simple (smile, make the other person feel important, etc.), they also have the power to change your approach and your results.

The book was published in 1936. Do you think these tenets still hold true today? 

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six ways to make people like you

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Win people to your way of thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

A leader’s job often includes changing your people’s attitudes and behavior. Some suggestions to accomplish this:

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Which of these pieces of advice has been most valuable for you during your career journey? Do you have anything to add? 

I’ve had this question pop up from a few people I have met in recent weeks, so excuse the commercial if you’re not looking for a speaker for your event or to train your HR team… :-)

I know from interacting with many of the readers of this blog that you guys are tied in to various regional, state, and local organizations that require speakers. Just recently I attended the 2016 Annual SHRM Conference in DC where I spoke at the SHRM Smart Stage about choosing the right HR technology for your company, but I also speak about a wide variety of HR, recruiting, and leadership topics.

Today I added the “Speaker” tab at the top of the homepage to help you guys reach me specifically about speaking/training opportunities. One of my favorite activities is writing, but right behind that I really enjoy getting out and spending time with you, the HR leaders in the trenches that make your organizations great. That’s funny considering the fact that I’m an introvert by nature–I just think I like the practice and process of teaching enough to overcome those natural tendencies.

Over the past few years I have spoken with local SHRM chapters across several states for 20-100 people. I’ve been to larger events, like the SHRM Conference, that attract more than 15,000 participants. I have done seminars, workshops, conferences and vendor events as well.

If you are seeking speakers for an upcoming event, I would love to talk with you about joining the roster. I will be doing some local workshops in the coming months (several of the workshops receive up to three hours of strategic/business credits), but there is definitely room for more.

In addition, if you currently lead an HR team and need someone to come and talk with your team about some of the topics I have listed on my Speaking page, I would love to chat with you about the opportunity. My email is ben@upstarthr.com

Thanks! We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

I just wanted to say “thank you” for the last few years. I have enjoyed my work and appreciate the opportunity to contribute. As of today I am turning in my two week notice…

Like you probably have, I have had multiple versions of that conversation with managers over the years. Sometimes it’s painful, and other times it’s a relief to put in your notice to depart. But the question we’re examining today is this: should employees give notice when they quit their job?

My Workplace Philosophy

It is my firm belief that we should treat others in the workplace just as we would like to be treated. In many cases that has worked out well, and it is something that I don’t have to be ashamed of when I’m doing the right thing. Even when employers, like my last one, don’t hold up their end of the deal, at least I know I have done the right thing.

If you also believe in this approach, then you have a long, successful career ahead of you. At the end of your working days, at least you know that you have done the right thing by those around you at every opportunity. We all mess up, but keeping that as your guiding force over time will lead you to make more friends than enemies and more good choices than bad ones.

This applies to giving notice just as it does to most workplace situations. If I was a business owner and an employee was planning to quit, I would want as much notice as possible to get ready for the change. It takes a while to recruit and select a replacement, and while many people think there is a law around giving notice, the employee has no reason to give the employer a heads up if they don’t want to.

When to Skip Giving Notice

If you work for a company that consistently kicks people out when they give notice, then you do not have to give any warning before you depart. The company/owners/management give up their right to receive advance notice of your departure when they make a standard practice of not letting people work the entire notice period.

Most people in the workplace are on the verge of financial disaster. It’s a fact. That’s why it is so critical that an employer honors the notice period when it is requested. People need that income to bridge the gap before they start at a new employer. As an employee, if you are like the majority of Americans and living paycheck to paycheck, then you need to take this decision seriously as to whether you give notice or not. You don’t have to tell your employer you are leaving in advance if they have not given others a chance to work out their notice period. It’s not worth putting yourself in financial trouble if the company has demonstrated that it doesn’t honor a notice period.

I’ve had one employer kick me out the day I gave my notice. I was on the fence about providing any warning, because they had not treated people well historically, but I went ahead and did it simply because it’s in line with the overall  philosophy I mentioned above. The thing that was the worst about being locked out immediately is that I didn’t get to tell all of my coworkers and friends I was leaving. I’ve been on the receiving end of that situation and it is strange not to get at least a bit of closure when someone departs, especially if you have become friends over time.

I can remember when a friend’s son turned in his notice and the boss started treating him terribly during his notice period. My friend was thinking that his son had to stick it out until the end, but I let him know that if the manager was treating his son poorly, then he didn’t have to stick around and take it. The manager gave up his right to a notice period when he started acting like a fool instead of appreciating the employee for giving enough notice to start finding a replacement. He was incredibly relieved and basically told his son to collect his check and get out of there.

Reasons to Terminate Someone Immediately

That said, there are some reasons from the company perspective that would warrant an immediate termination. As an HR pro, these are the big reasons I would not allow someone to work a notice period.

  • Open investigation against the employee
  • History of issues/offenses
  • History of irrational behavior and the position to do something unpleasant (HR, security, IT, etc.)

In case you’re wondering, these situations would encompass maybe 5% of the workforce. The other 95% don’t fall into this camp and shouldn’t be shoved out the door like yesterday’s garbage. Sooner or later that kind of treatment catches up with companies and they can’t hire high quality talent to replace the ones that left.

What’s your take? What is the right way to give (and receive) notice? 

And for those of you that like a little drama, just be glad this guy doesn’t work for you.

In case you missed it, there was a SHRM Conference Daily post this week with a very interesting headline. In short, the EEOC said that training doesn’t reduce discrimination. The logic behind the commentary had a few holes that I want to point out really quick, but I want to spend the majority of the time today helping you to understand what actually works for eliminating harassment. Here’s the synopsis:

The biggest finding of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace may be what it failed to find—namely, any evidence that the past 30 years of corporate training has had any effect on preventing workplace harassment. “That was a jaw-dropping moment for us,” said EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic in a Sunday Session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Two quick notes that need clarification:

  • There are 90,000 harassment claims, so training doesn’t work. What kind of training was used? How many of those complaints actually were legitimate harassment issues?
  • 90% of harassment is never reported. That means that hundreds of thousands of workers in the US are harassed every year. I don’t buy it. Working with a jerk or someone that is not always pleasant doesn’t equal harassment, but many people miscategorize it that way all the time.

How to Completely Eliminate Harassment

Want to absolutely crush harassment at your organization? It requires a culture that encourages ethical treatment of others. It requires a company that values not only individuality, but the fundamentals of respect and appreciation for others.

Think about it. We’ve all worked with people that simply didn’t respect others around them. Those people are the ones that often bring about harassment, because they do not have the respect for their peers and coworkers that is necessary for good working relationships.

So, we need to create organizations that are uncomfortable for those kinds of people. We need to make it unpleasant to be disrespectful by addressing it as a performance issue. We need to create an environment where those kinds of behaviors demand a swift and unpleasant response instead of sweeping them under the rug, brushing them off, etc. Harassment is serious, and not just in a “oh boy, we’re going to get sued for that one” kind of way. It can cost you great, productive employees and drive away the talent that your organization needs.

So, it may be no small feat, but crushing harassment is a worthy goal. Start today. Build a culture of respect and appreciation. Take issues seriously and address them promptly. Then you can reap the benefits of a collaborative, harassment-free workplace.

I’m blessed again this year to be attending the SHRM Annual Conference. Yesterday I spoke with a friend that I haven’t seen at a SHRM event in a while. I asked him about what he was most looking forward to, and he had a quick response for me: the people.

Yes, the content is good.

Yes, the general sessions are motivating.

Even the expo hall has a great set of vendors and providers to fill every possible need in the HR world.

But the people—that personal connection—is what drew him in more than anything else.

That made me pause, because I can remember a point in my career when I desperately needed the content. FMLA, 401k planning, and compliance sessions were my go-to for staying on top of the latest developments and information. I planned my agenda months in advance so that I could take full advantage of the experts available. But in this season of my life, I have begun to put more and more emphasis on the personal relationships around me as the main reason to attend SHRM.

But therein lies a problem.

For many attendees, the difficulty comes in translating that “relationship building” to a business case for someone to pay for you to attend the SHRM Conference. Saying, “I want to go make new friends” is a surefire way to get yourself laughed out of the room when you’re asking to go to the event, but there is an answer that makes sense. The true value lies in the ROI of the relationships you’re building. Here’s what I mean:

  • Several years ago I met Mike Haberman at an event. The guy is a whiz when it comes to compliance in simple, non-legal terms that we in HR can understand and implement. When I have questions, I reach out to Mike for help.
  • Someone recently reached out to me online to help her with a compensation issue within her organization. We had connected briefly in the past, and she was interested in getting some help to make sure her company did the right thing for the firm and its employees.

In each of these examples, we see that initial relationship paying off. That has true financial value. If we assume an HR consultant makes $100 an hour (round figures), and you save twenty hours a year in consulting costs by building out a network of competent, trustworthy people, then you can justify the cost of attending an event like the SHRM Conference.

Some of you might be wondering if this applies to you, even if you’re not a social butterfly. As an introvert, the social/personal connection is one that is tough to pull off for me personally. It has taken some time to get there, but now I have a set of experts ranging from employer branding and culture to compliance and regulation. And like a true HR pro, I look for ways to help my friends and colleagues in the industry by putting them in touch with these people as well.

I’m not saying you need to completely bail on the sessions or give up on the content piece, but you do need to make an effort to talk with a few people that you wouldn’t have a chance to meet for the other 364 days in the year. We’re all in this together, and the stronger the relationships are, the better we all become. As the great quote says, a rising tide lifts all boats. So take a few minutes today to connect with someone and start building a relationship (AKA networking). You’ll be glad you did.

Today marks my first day at a new company, and I have to say that I’m very excited about the weeks and months ahead. Two years ago I joined Brandon Hall Group as an analyst to see if that was the direction I wanted to go with my career. I’ve been doing an informal analyst “thing” here at upstartHR since 2009, and what I learned was the “formal” analyst role isn’t all that different from what I’ve done here. It all revolves around knowing the technology and trends and being able to discuss them in a way that makes sense for your audience. As I was telling a friend last week, it’s not something that you can study for or know overnight–it takes time, dedication, and effort to truly grasp the wide variety of concepts and inputs.

Personally, it felt good to confirm that I have been on the right track for all this time and that the many hours invested into this site was a good way to build up my skills, connections, etc. for when I was ready to make the next step. Think about my journey so far. I’ve worked as an HR leader and in-the-trenches practitioner, but I’ve always wanted to have a bigger impact on the world around me. That mindset has led to numerous volunteer opportunities with SHRM and my local chapter, but it still wasn’t enough.

The New Gig

As I’ve always done, when I felt like I had learned everything I could, I decided it was time to move on to another opportunity. I have explored some new areas of HR and human capital management over the last two years, and now I have decided to move to a new firm with new challenges and opportunities.

Lighthouse-research-and-advisoryI am now the Principal Analyst at Lighthouse Research and Advisory, which allows me the freedom to explore the various areas of HR, talent, and learning that appeal to me without having to be pigeonholed in any particular area. Many of you wonder what the heck an analyst actually does (I know my wife is still asking herself that question all these years later). Here’s a short explanation:

  • Through regular briefings and updates, I stay on top of technology and how it is changing. I’d estimate that I’ve had one or two meetings with vendors every week for more than two years now.
  • Through regular corporate briefings and updates, I share research and gather intelligence from companies on their challenges and any other noteworthy trends.
  • I use those insights to help target advice and content for those vendors so they understand YOUR needs as HR practitioners. If you’ve ever bought HR technology, you know how hard it is. I’m hoping to make that easier in some way.
  • That insight comes in the form of white papers, research reports, webinars, conference attendance, speaking, and advisory sessions.
  • Occasionally I work with corporate clients to help them with their innovation, technology, or strategy plans. As I said, this stuff is complex and it helps to have an outside viewpoint when you’re contemplating a new direction.

That might not be super clear, but it gets us closer to home. :-) By the way, if you want to reach out to me about anything connected with Lighthouse, here is my email address.

I’m also a member of the HR Federation, a group of rockstar independent analysts that covers pretty much the entire market. Honored to be associated with this illustrious group.

And the best news yet…

It’s an exciting time for me and my family, especially since we have a new baby on the way! Yes, little peanut is due in November 2016, and we are all very excited for the arrival. With the baby coming and my desire to have more freedom and flexibility in my work, we felt like it was the right time to make the move.

As for my plans for upstartHR, I’m still here. My heart for small business, in-the-trenches HR, and witty banter hasn’t gone away. I still plan to write, share, and explore the best ways to improve your HR service delivery and work as a strategic player. I’m selling HR certification tools for the PHR and SPHR to help those of you who are looking to improve your capabilities as HR leaders.

Thanks for everything you do to support me and this site. I couldn’t do it without you!