When I speak about HR strategy, one of the things that inevitably comes up is that it’s hard to plan ahead. Things change. The business changes. The objectives shift. It makes it difficult to pin down the right HR strategy to support the organizational goals.

And that’s okay. Death, taxes, and change are the things we can count on in this life. In the video below I tell a personal story that helps to illustrate the need to not only be prepared for change, but to actually expect it in some regard so that the molehills don’t become mountains.

(Email subscribers click through to view the video)

It’s quick and to the point, but I hope you get the idea. We can let changes break us down or we can use them to get smarter, faster, and better in our approach.

I’d love to hear your story! Tell me about a time (whether in HR or not) where you had a carefully crafted plan and things suddenly went awry. How did you cope? What were the results? I enjoy sharing stories with my audience both here and from the stage, because stories are powerful and connect us at a deeper level than a series of stats and data points.


Going way personal today. Take it or leave it, but I always write what moves me. Thanks!

Dear Peanut,

We are so very excited to meet you. I’ve been going back and forth between nervousness and excitement over the past few weeks, because I know that you’re going to make your appearance within the next few weeks.

Your sisters and brother are looking forward to meeting you, noticing every single baby that we have passed in the last few weeks with increasing interest. If history is any indicator, they are going to watch over you, support you, and help you as you grow. Just don’t let them pin the blame on you. I know from experience. :-)

One day you’ll read this with a smile. I don’t usually share my personal life with the rest of the world. It’s just not the way I do things, and I would be willing to bet that you are going to share some of those introverted tendencies. What’s funny is that I can jump on stage and talk about anything, but when it comes to small talk and meeting new people I am much less adept. I’ll try to teach you both as best I can so that you are able to overcome any challenge or take advantage of any opportunity.

You are incredibly special to us and (as far as we know) will complete the vision we have had for our family since we met almost fifteen years ago. Did you realize that your mom and I met in high school and instantly fell in love? Yes, we had no clue what “love” meant at the time, but it has grown with us steadily over the years, allowing us to grow our family along with it through a variety of means.

There are many things that I plan to teach you, whether you’re a boy or a girl.

  • I’ll teach you to make funny faces, even if the time isn’t the most appropriate. Laughter is medicine, and I happen to be an expert in it.
  • We’ll do handstands and cartwheels. I’ll show you how to walk on your hands and we’ll laugh together when we fall over.
  • I’ll show you how to cook. We’ll have adventures in the kitchen making things that sound crazy but just might be delicious.
  • We’ll explore the outdoors. I’ll teach you about all kinds of fun things like the sun and how it works. I’ll gladly answer all kinds of off-the-wall questions like why the sky is blue or why frogs don’t have tails. We’ll learn together.
  • I’ll teach you to fish, and how to sit quietly together even when there’s not a fish around for miles.
  • I’ll show you what it means to live by faith, not by sight. I’ll instruct and guide you so that you grow up to love others, not judge them. This is one of the most important things that I need the time to help you understand.

I’ll show you these and a thousand other things, because it’s my job. But it’s also my pleasure. My treat. My sheer joy. Your mom always laughs that I get along with kids so much because we’re on the same wavelength. Maybe it’s true, but I have yet to be crippled or hampered by that fact!

You’ll learn in time that I’m not perfect, but you’ll also see that love can overcome so many imperfections.

Little one, please know that you are loved, treasured, and desired. I can’t wait to meet you and we all look forward to this new adventure.



Thousands of people travel all over for the world, for business purposes, every single day. While many may find it a pleasure there is bound to be some people who hate it. If you are one of the many travelling across Europe this year on business, here are some top tips to make your travels as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Passport & Tickets

Book your travel tickets well in advance, especially during busy seasons and make sure your passport is valid for at least six months. Also remember to apply for your EHIC renewal ahead of time, once you have it you will be entitled to free or reduced cost healthcare should you fall ill during your stay in the continent. Continue reading

If you check out a company’s profile on Glassdoor, one of the first things you see is the CEO approval rating. As an HR leader, this is a number that I was always concerned with as a signal for overall employee satisfaction. It’s common to hear stories about CEO approval in the news, and all of us have an opinion about our current and past leaders at the top of the organizational hierarchy.

But what goes into that measurement and how do company decisions affect the ratings?


Until now, most of the information in this area has been ad hoc or anecdotal. We’ve all seen the dozens of business books that tell us the secrets to success at a wide variety of companies. But Glassdoor has been able to gather enough data to show true, causal links between CEO approval and areas like culture, benefits, and work/life balance.

In this episode of We’re Only Human, I interview Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Chief Economist at Glassdoor. Andrew and I discuss the links between CEO approval and executive compensation, what it means to be a founder versus an externally hired CEO, and what really matters to employees when it comes to rating the performance of their leaders. I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Click here to listen to the latest episode of the We’re Only Human podcast.

If you like audio content focused on HR, talent, and the workplace, be sure to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour podcast network on iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcasting app to catch new episodes of my show and all of the other exciting shows on the HR Happy Hour channel.

I had been on the job search for a little while, and I was very thrilled when I received a request to come in and interview for a manufacturing operation that produced rubber molds and other rubber pieces.

This was going to be my first big HR role, and I was really nervous. Fast forward to the interview session, and I was feeling a little more confident. Everything was going well, but then the president of the company threw me a curve ball.

He asked, “Why do you think our capital costs have risen so much in the last few years?”

So I thought about it for a minute. Then I responded, “Well, it’s not like rubber grows on trees.”

He gave me a strange look and proceeded to tell me that yes, indeed, rubber does grow on trees.


When I heard that story from a reader a while back, I had to laugh. And in case you’re wondering, yes, she still got the job. The point here is that the core piece of understanding how to create HR strategy is by understanding the business and how it operates. (And it also shows just how much of a role we can play as the CEO’s most trusted advisor.)

The lady who sent me the story realized that she had a gap in the basic understanding of the business, its resources, and how it operated. To remedy that, she proceeded to learn what she could about strategy and business in general, but also about the organization itself. That blend of learning put her in the driver’s seat when it came to creating a forward-looking HR strategy.

I find it very interesting that strategic HR is one of those things that seems to be well known for some and a mystery to others. It’s probably why more than 6 in 10 companies have no HR strategy in place. I did some research last year and found that there were dozens of sessions at the Annual SHRM Conference that mentioned “strategy” in their name or the content description, far and away the most common word that was present in the session listings. So unless they are way off the mark (and SHRM knows its audience), there are a lot of people looking for information on the topic. I hope this funny story helps to illustrate for you just what you need to know in order to support your own organization.

Do you have a story about how your lack of understanding of the business created an opportunity to learn more and build a stronger partnership between the business and its HR resources?

Recently I was interviewed by a good friend from SHRM’s Public Affairs team, Mary Kaylor. She asked me a few questions about the HR Technology Conference, and you can read it all here. What I want to expound upon here is the final question in the interview. I had to be succinct in my response to her but I think it’s worth a discussion. The question that spurred today’s discussion:

As technology evolves, what do you think the future of HR will look like?

My dream is for HR to be as savvy with its technological approach and focus on data as someone within the sales and marketing organization. Ask a marketer how a campaign went, and she can tell you stats about landing page visits, conversion rates, and more.

Ask an HR leader today how a particular program is running, and they will probably give you a blank look. Okay, they might be able to give you anecdotal information or even a basic piece of information, but they can’t drill down to the level of these other functions. I see this as a chicken-or-the-egg type discussion. Instead of waiting for solutions and support from the vendor community, HR leaders need to be demanding the tools and services to enable this change.

The more HR executives make data and analytics capabilities a requirement for their vendor partners, the more robust and mature those functionalities will become. HR in the future will be a technology-enabled, company-leading function that drives immense value through the people resources.

The Great Divide

One of the most striking things that hit me when I became a full-time analyst a few years ago was the divide between large and small organizations when it comes to technology. Small companies have limited solutions and budgets, often cobbling together free tools or going with the old standard for an HR system: Microsoft Excel.

There are companies that will budget something to get beyond 100% manual processes in areas like learning (training delivery/tracking) or recruiting (applicant tracking). But it’s still an ad hoc approach and is hard to prove value.

Other companies at the larger end have already reaped the rewards of that initial technology implementation (time savings, reduced admin burden, etc.) This often comes in the form of a patchwork of systems and solutions that don’t integrate well, if at all. For instance, I spoke with a friend at a large (20k+ employee) firm and the company is using five different systems just to manage end-to-end recruiting. In the words of my friend, it’s a “Frankenstein” approach to getting the job done, and it’s not even all that effective at anything other than creating frustration for users.

Smaller companies are getting into the tech game thanks to solutions like Zenefits, but it’s still just a piece of the overall HR puzzle and doesn’t solve some of the challenges around integration, data, and decision-making.

One of the areas I’ve been keenly interested in over the recent months has been the slew of small to mid-market solutions that are serving the HR community with a variety of technologies and services. I’m going to be meeting with several of these firms this week at the HR Tech conference and hope to get some good insights about how they are helping to bring these smaller firms along.

The big suites are too complex for small companies. Just like paper and manual work don’t scale up beyond a hundred or two hundred employees, the massively complex systems offered by the large providers can’t scale down to fit the process needs of a small firm (assuming we ignore the price).

My Vision for HR

I want to see HR leaders being as intentional about technology as their counterparts in other areas of the business. Marketers are smarter and faster because of their technology. Why can’t HR see these tools as enablers of performance as well? As I said before, the HR function of the future will be a technology-enabled, company-leading function that drives immense value through its people resources. I don’t think tech is going to replace people any more than processes will replace people. I think it’s going to help us to deliver greater value to the workforce and to our employers over the long haul.

What are your thoughts? How has your firm used technology to support HR? If you haven’t, why not?

This week I’m in Atlanta for the Microsoft Ignite event. Yes, I see the puzzled expressions. Microsoft? IT? What am I thinking?

conferenceNo, I’m not making a career change. I’m perfectly happy where I am.

Here’s the deal. I have been to tons of events over the years, and what always surprises me is the fact that I get something out of the most unlikely places. A stray comment from a 7:00am 401k administration session at SHRM 2013 still rings in my ears when I talk about workplace retirement plans. Yes, there is something of value in pretty much every interaction, and getting outside of the normal routine is a valuable practice in general.

This week I’m going to be talking with some of the team at Microsoft, but I’m also going to be seeing sessions and exploring concepts that relate to the HR world. I’m looking for the perspective from IT leaders and one of the world’s biggest technology firms around concepts such as collaboration, productivity, and delivering business results. Hopefully all three of those ring a bell for you, since they are key pieces of creating a valuable HR function.

Now, I’m not saying you need to pack up and join me, but this ties in with a valuable concept that I’ve been advocating for quite some time. HR needs allies in the workplace. Here’s a tip for you if you’re new:

If it’s only an HR initiative, it will die.

It might seem a bit cynical, but it’s true. People have had enough of the HR programs and fads. The needs of the business rule. And HR is often seen as a blockade. A problem without a solution. A challenge or hurdle to progress.

What to Do

So you need to find some allies. Create some influence. Network a little within your organization’s walls.

One great way to get started is to find some time together with other key people in the company, and that includes people leading your technology team, your accounting/finance team, etc. Those individuals can be your most vocal detractors or your most staunch allies, depending on the time and effort you have taken to understand their needs, support their goals, and deliver high value service.

Take these people to lunch. Find out what their challenges are. Learn about their best plans and their worst fears.

This is an investment in your own influence within the organization as well. Just to clarify, this isn’t sleazy-car-salesman influence. It’s the ability to speak in a language that matters to the audience you’re with. It’s the knowledge of key issues going on that currently or will eventually have an impact on the people side of the business. It’s in your best interests to be on top of these relationships and to make them a priority.

Now, as I said, I don’t expect you to head to an IT conference or jump on a plane for the next whatever-the-heck-it-is that accounting folks go to. But you can walk down the hall and start a conversation today. Here are a few quick and easy ones:

  • I’m facing some challenges with xyz. What sort of things are keeping you up at night?
  • How are you handling xyz? It seems like it would be challenging and I want to understand your strategy.
  • What is the biggest people-related challenge you see in the next 12 months? Hiring? Development? Retention?

Everyone’s situation, company, and relationships are different, but these are just as blunt as I would put them in a forthright conversation with a peer. In fact, I’ve used several of these to create those conversational opportunities to understand the other functions within the business, what their priorities were, and how I could align the HR practices to support them.

Funny enough, that’s what we call strategic HR. I wrote a while back about one of the best leaders I ever worked for and how that relationship helped to truly clarify what the HR strategy had to look like in that organization. Remember, if it’s an HR initiative, it will die.

What relationships are valuable to you in the workplace? What do you do to offer value in return?