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Love What You Do, Even If Others Don’t

I need to get something off my chest. It has been on my mind for a while now, and I feel like it’s time to come clean.

mountain maniaI love running hills.

Yeah, I know. You might question my sanity and wonder about the safety of my family. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I couldn’t let that stand between us any more…

Okay, so let’s take a little step back toward serious for a moment. The point of today’s post is that you need to love what you do, even if others might not understand how or why. I have several examples of how this has played out in my own life, a second opinion from a noted economist and another HR expert, and a solid conviction that this is the right way to go. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Learn to love what others hate

The way I have put it for years is this: learn to love what others hate. Now, I’m not saying you need to all of the sudden fall in love with [insert evil vegetable here] or [that weird guy nobody can stand at work]. I’m saying that you can be great–truly great–by learning to love the things that others won’t do. It’s one of the easiest ways to stand out, make a name for yourself, and/or be seen as an expert.

godzillaOne of the silliest examples is when I started a previous job. There was a monstrosity of a fax machine that the HR department used, but it was finicky and fairly old. My first few days on the job, I realized how much everyone truly hated that fax machine. So I spent a few hours and programmed in all of the internal and regularly-used external numbers in, saving everyone a little hassle.

You’d think I had killed Godzilla with my bare hands. The staff in the department was a little over the top appreciative, and I was sitting there in my first “real” HR job trying to figure out what just happened. Because if I could repeat it, I knew it would mean good things for my career long-term.

Back to running for a second

I’ve recounted some of my running tales here and here in the past. It’s one of the activities I truly enjoy. This year I have set a few personal records (PR’s, for those who like acronyms), and it’s because I really started working on a few things that other people hate–hills, speedwork, eating smarter, etc. In fact, I not only did them, but I really started to enjoy them. It became a game…

  • How much could I improve over last time?
  • Could I set a new record today?
  • Let’s try a new vegetable/fruit this week.

You get the picture. I’ll never be world class, but I can be competitive for my age group. And it doesn’t happen by doing what everyone else does–you have to be willing to do the things the others won’t. That’s when you really get results.

The running analogy might not fit with everyone, but here’s where it matters:

  • What if I applied that at work?
  • What if I was constantly trying to improve my skills and abilities in the workplace to better serve the people around me?
  • What would the result be?

Learn to love what others hate. 

More Freakonomics

Another enjoyment of mine is listening to podcasts. Fun fact: I never listen to the radio in the car. However, I will occasionally listen to an interesting podcast to keep my mind occupied on long trips.

A few weeks ago I heard this and knew I had to write a post about it. Steve Levitt, author and economist, talks about loving what you do. Here’s the transcript:

LEVITT: I think fun is so much more important than people realize. And I’ve seen it in academics. When I interview young professors and try and decide if we should hire them. I’ve evolved over time to one basic rule, if I think they love economics and its fun for them I am in favor of hiring them. No matter how talented they seem otherwise if it seems like a job or effort or work then I don’t want to hire them.

DUBNER: Persuade me that they won’t just be nice to have around because they love fun, but that having fun at what you do makes you better, or different in some way that is positive.

LEVITT: Enjoying what you do, loving what you do is such a completely unfair advantage to anyone you are competing with who does it for a job. People who love it they go to bed at night thinking about the solutions. They wake up in the middle of the night, and they jot down ideas, they work weekends. It turns out that effort is a huge component of success in almost everything. We know that from practice and whatnot. And people who love things work and work and work at it.  Because it’s not work — its fun. And so my strongest advice to young people trying to figure out what they want to do, is I always tell them: try to figure out what you love, especially something you love that other people don’t love. Everyone want to be rock star or everyone wants to be in the movies, but that’s terrible you don’t want to compete head on. Find some…if  you love ants, go study ants. Because no one else loves ants and you’ll have a big advantage over the people who are just studying ants because they can’t think of what else to do. Source

I underlined the pieces that were specifically powerful for me. The big takeaway: find out what you love that others don’t, then go do that well.

People who are passionate about a topic have a massive competitive advantage over those that are not. You can’t outwork someone who’s passionate about what they do.

Closing thoughts

When I first got into HR, I had someone tell me, “Wow, you really have a passion for this stuff. Don’t worry, that will die down soon enough.”

At that moment, I promised myself that I would never let that passion die. It’s expected. It’s common. And it’s something I’m unwilling to budge on. That is one of the underlying motivations that drives this blog year after year–the commitment to not only being excited about what I do, but also to help others continue to be excited as well. HR isn’t something many people would want to do. But it’s something we can be great at.

In the past few weeks I was on a NextChat with the team at SHRM talking about what it takes for students to get into HR. Here’s a piece of advice from a friend of mine during the discussion that I wholeheartedly endorse. I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments–do you think what he says is true? What about the comments from Steve Levitt above?

 

Eleven Signs You Need to Get Out of HR

With over 800 posts in the archives, I know some of you have missed some good stuff over the years. I’m going to test out publishing some of these regularly to breathe some new life into the content and give you guys a chance to check them out. Enjoy!

We’ve all seen them. They drag their crusty, misshapen forms around, spreading despair and agony in their wake. No, I’m not talking about trolls, I’m talking about HR people! We’ve all worked with them before, but some might look at you and think that you fit the bill. Here are a handful of signs you might be turning into one of them!

  1. You secretly cheer when it’s time to put an employee on a performance improvement plan
  2. You have immense pride in the fact that your department has resisted that newfangled “Human Resources” title and still proclaims itself “Personnel”
  3. You love creating new policies
  4. When an interviewee asks you why you like working there, you give them a blank stare
  5. In order to save money on healthcare benefits you tell your employees to Google their symptoms
    Keep reading…

Big Data for Small Business

Last week a friend called me for some help. He’s working on some 401k reporting requirements, and the data the provider needs from him is fairly detailed. In prior years, we could have pulled some quick reports from the accounting system and gotten everything plugged in after some love sessions with a keyboard. However, the newly implemented accounting/recordkeeping system seems to think that actually running reports and gathering data insights is a “nice to have” versus a “must have.”

This got me thinking pretty hard about the importance of test driving new solutions before settling on a provider. If the selection team had been aware of the flaws in the system, including glaring ones where people can’t get data reporting that they really need, then they might have chosen another tool entirely.

As it turns out, there is limited reporting functionality, but it’s so incredibly complex that only one person is able to accomplish the task, and that’s only after an hour or more of trial and error. Yeah, not very efficient.

The economist says

If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know that I like the Freakonomics podcast. I’m an economics nut, and I always thought if/when I got my master’s degree that I might like to teach economics as an adjunct professor. Yeah, livin’ the dream! :-)

Anyway, in a recent show, the two economists were talking about making business better, big data, etc. One of them, Steve Levitt, consults with different organizations to solve business problems. He mentioned that until he actually got into the businesses, he never realized that the problem of big data, analytics, and actually getting actionable information out of existing data would be driven (or limited by) the IT infrastructure.

That comment, combined with the experiences above, are probably a reality for many of you out there. Thinking back, I used Excel as my HRIS for some organizations, because we were too small to need anything else. That didn’t really allow for analysis or anything fancy–it was just a recordkeeping system.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPayroll runs the show

Now there are providers out there that offer services to small companies to help them transition away from spreadsheets to a cloud-based system for HR needs, but many companies, especially smaller ones, wouldn’t want to have an HR system and a payroll system. That decision is usually driven by payroll, since that’s a critical business task. For many smaller organizations, keeping the HR records straight isn’t considered that critical. There are a few reasons for that:

  • HR is usually carried out by a non-HR person in really small organizations
  • Even when the company has an HR person as they grow, the compliance requirements still aren’t too difficult
  • Payroll is more important than virtually every other internal business activity (don’t believe it? Try not doing it once and see what happens…)

Big data, little data

A few years ago I worked for a company with about 600 employees, all located within 100 miles of the corporate headquarters. The company had a problem with turnover. Majorly. We weren’t food service or anything like that, and yet we had approximately 50% turnover year after year for as far back as I could find records. So I decided to try to get some insights into what was going on. I snagged the data from the past five years, dumped it into a spreadsheet, and started manipulating the information.

Within a few hours I had some great insights that pointed toward the problems, and I crafted a few potential solutions to help ease or even solve the problems we were facing.

When I presented my findings, I was told, “You didn’t have time to worry about things like that. Go process your 25 terminations and 15 new hires and leave this alone.”

In my example, we had the data and the potential solutions, but we lacked the one thing needed for action: leadership support.

Closing thoughts

I don’ t know that we broke any new ground here today, but I’ll leave you with a few takeaways from my perspective:

  1. If you’re looking at a system any time soon, run it through the paces that you’ll have to in your daily work. It’s important to know now the limits before you’re in the thick of things and trying to do something the system simply can’t.
  2. If you’re watching all this “big data” talk and thinking that it’s for larger organizations, it can certainly be implemented, even if on a smaller scale, at organizations with fewer people.
  3. Get the support of your leaders early. I think one of my mistakes was presenting the data without creating a need for solution first.

Republic Wireless: I’m a Convert

Today I’m doing the raving fan thing and bragging on my new cell provider. I love these guys and have been recommending them to people around me for weeks!

I just passed one month with Republic Wireless, and I’m definitely a convert. When I left Pinnacle to join the Brandon Hall Group recently I had to transition to a new phone. My wife was with Verizon and I was with T-Mobile for work, and I knew two things:

  1. T-Mobile coverage is awful where I live
  2. Verizon is entirely republic wireless logotoo expensive

So I started looking at other providers and found Republic Wireless.

The company offers an amazing price (my plan is $25/mo), unlimited talk/text/data, and the service is pretty darn good where I live/work. Win-win-win!

How it works

  • Republic uses the Sprint network to provide cell coverage, but you never actually interact with Sprint. It’s seamless.
  • The phones Republic offers are hybrid phones: they can use wifi for texts and calls. That allows them to keep costs down.
  • No contracts or bait and switch pricing. The phone is yours.
  • They have 4 simple to understand plans. No tricky options or other gimmicks.
  • You buy a phone. You pick a plan. You smile as you cut off your gigantic cell phone bill.

My favorite features

  • The Moto X is an excellent phone. Easily the best phone I’ve ever owned.
  • Change plans up to twice a month with no penalties. For instance, while at the SHRM conference in Orlando I was able to upgrade to the 4G plan to ensure I had the best/fastest service possible. Now that I’m home I changed it back to my regular 3G plan. I’ll be charged the 4G rate only for the days I had the service active.
  • Wifi calling! I work a few days a week from a small office near my home. Signal is spotty in the building, but I’ve held calls on wifi up to 30 minutes without issue.
  • My wife has the less expensive Moto G and likes it. She is more of a casual user, so we settled on that one and dropped her old $100 a month plan for the $25 Republic option.

As I said, I’m a convert and would encourage you to check them out if you are paying an arm and a leg for your cell service. Any questions? :-)

Using Culture to Drive Policy Decisions

Decision making isn’t always a process of identifying and communicating facts. There’s often an underlying foundation of history, preferences, and other elements that add a layer to the decision making process. Recently I talked about how even something as seemingly simple as a policy decision can be affected by the organization’s culture.

culture policy decisionThe corporate culture influences the determination from the initial consideration through to the final steps of implementation. Over at the Brandon Hall Group blog, we’ll look at some of those underlying factors and how you can leverage them to make policy decisions stick.

Check out Culture Drives Policy Implementation at Human Resources Today to learn more

HRCI Speaks Out, Certified Professionals Respond

With the back and forth in the HR certification world in the past few weeks, it’s been quite a strain on the certified HR professionals trying to determine what will happen to their hard-earned certifications in the coming months and years. Bottom line: we’re worried about what is going to happen to the credentials that we have built over the course of our HR careers.

Last night I attended the HRCI Connect event where the leadership of the HR Certification Institute stood up and shared their side of the story and their vision for the future. They also had an “open mic” portion to allow participants to ask questions about the path ahead. Below are some of my comments from the event.

What was the theme of the night?

What is HRCI’s angle on this whole SHRM/HRCI battle?

The biggest question on everyone’s lips

Are HRCI exams competency based?

What’s going to happen to my PHR/SPHR?

Will HRCI give credits for SHRM events?

I’ll be in touch with the HRCI folks going forward, so if there are any other questions I can help to answer, please let me know! I’m in this with you guys as well, so I definitely want to know the answers!

How to Get Employees to Believe in Your Mission #SHRM14

Yesterday I had the opportunity to check out a session by Chester Elton on Building a Culture of Belief to Drive Results. It’s a great topic, and it pulled from the concepts in All In, a book I reviewed a while back. Check out the short video below and some of the tweets from the session. Great stuff!

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