General Archives - upstartHR


The Newest HR Ninja and What it’s Like Working from Home

Most of you probably are not yet aware, but we have some pretty exciting stuff going on over here at the Eubanks house.

The best thing? Little HR Ninja #3, Briggs Eubanks, is on his way.

My wonderful wife is due late in November, and we are thrilled about his impending arrival. I’ll be spending HRevolution in a mild state of panic worrying about everything back home, but I know it’ll all work out fine. :-)

With my move to Brandon Hall Group earlier this year, I started working from my home office. That has been an interesting change (and sometimes a challenge of sorts), but we’re about to make a little extra room for an actual office for me to work in. The nursery is taking over my work space, so for now I’m a laptop nomad within my own home, but soon enough I’ll have a dedicated space to take care of the various work I have to do.

One of the most common questions I get is “What’s it like working from home?”

Well, maybe the most commonly asked work question, since the other one is “When is the baby due again?”

Anyway, exactly what is it like working from home? I miss interacting with people, sometimes. Previously I worked for a company that offered a lot of flexibility in terms of my work schedule and setting priorities, but even that pales in comparison to my current level of work flexibility and autonomy.

I still have meetings (plenty), phone calls (plenty) and deliverables (more than plenty). But I get to work at 5am, then get the kids off to school, and still have time to spend with them in the evenings because I’m not spending 90+ minutes on the road every day. On occasion, I have some work to complete after the family is in bed, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.

As far as the whole “managing your own schedule” and “motivating yourself” part of the experience, I will say it’s not for everyone. It’s not a perfect, mystical world with no requirements. But it fits me and my work style.

This summer was pretty tough with the family at home, but the way we’re planning to redo things around here, I’ll be a little farther from the daily “flow” where my office will be positioned, so that will definitely help.

The only other thing, inconsequential as it may be, is the high speed internet access here in our neighborhood. AT&T is the only service here, and every time I try to find out if faster service is available, they tell me it isn’t. However, I just found out that my two neighbors both have the uverse service that’s three times faster than the DSL I have. I have spent hours going in circles with the customer “service” (yeah, right) folks and could write a dozen blog posts on how to NOT treat loyal customers.

Again, minor and inconsequential, but I’m hoping to get that resolved at some point. Maybe in those sleepless nights when Briggs arrives I can hassle every shift of AT&T employees until we get some action. Yeah, that sounds like fun… :-)

Startup HR: Planning vs Doing

Startup HR is something that I have talked about a bit before. Today I will answer a question from a reader who works for HR in a startup company.

The question

Good Morning,

I have been reading your blogs and your Slideshares and it has been easy reading for me and is helping me along my way. I just started working for a start up tech company in Portland Oregon in May. The CFO was basically doing all HR work until now. I am now THE HR department. I am new and I have never had a role in HR before. I was wondering if there was a way to guide me in implementing HR stuff over the next year. What I should be doing in this next month, three months, six months, and so forth.

Please help!

The answer

First of all, have you seen the guide to building an HR department?

I think that will be incredibly valuable for you. It’s really tough to say what you should be doing at specific date-based milestones, because there’s no telling what the business will look like at each of those 6, 12, 18 month marks.

The big picture is understanding what sort of HR needs the business and staff have at each stage of the game and planning ahead to make sure you can hit those targets when the appropriate time comes. For instance, at some point you’ll need to start thinking about performance reviews for staff or maybe you’ll have to find a good applicant tracking system if you guys are hiring. Knowing some of those items on the horizon is how you show the best value for the business. Especially when you’re doing startup HR for a technology company, it’s important to keep those overall business needs in mind, because they can change rapidly.

Thanks for reaching out!


Do you have a suggestion for the reader? Feel free to share! Also, if you have questions, shoot them over to ben AT and I’d be happy to try to fit them into the schedule. Thanks!

Trust in the Workplace-Does It Really Matter?

Approximately half of your employees think you’re not being open and upfront with them, according to a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association. In an environment where mistrust abounds, how can we operate our businesses in a way that rises above these troubling issues?

What you can do

One activity that human resources has always been fond of is policy creation. There is a time when policy formulation needs to occur, but it also needs to take into account common sense and organizational culture. It all comes back to trust — do you trust your people to do great work, treat customers well, and support their team?

Too often we build policies with the minority in mind.

Instead of creating rules around the 5% of people who will abuse our trust, we need to start looking at the 95% of people who will be inspired by our trust.

Give your people trust and autonomy and they will reward you with engagement. Withhold trust from your people and they will withhold trust from others, creating a downward spiral of negative, toxic behaviors.

Check out this post on trust at work from the Brandon Hall Group blog to learn how to build a trust-based culture that is self-sustaining.

HRevolution–Gearing Up for November

The team and I are feverishly working on HRevolution planning, and we’re excited about bringing yet another fantastic event to life this November. Check out some of the details below, and if you still haven’t purchased your ticket, we have a few left. This is a unique event that you won’t soon forget (there’s a good reason we have a significant percent of the population return every year).


We have three phenomenal sponsors helping to deliver this year’s event. We appreciate the support of each and hope you’ll check them out if you are looking for support.

mercer logo

symbolist logo hi res color


Small Improvements


We are slowly releasing sessions leaders as they are confirmed. This agenda promises to be one of the best yet with session leaders like Franny Oxford and Bill Boorman sharing their insights and facilitating conversations around HR, recruiting, and talent management.

  • Franny Oxford – Reality-Based HR: How to make something from nothing in the face of continued budget constraints.
  • Bill Boorman – Blueprint for Modern Talent Acquisition

Sound like something you might be interested in checking out? Feel free to comment or shoot me an email. I know the event isn’t for everyone, but as I said, there’s a reason we have people who are wild fans. We’d love to see you there and make you a first time HRevolutionary!

Your Employees are Struggling with this Personally

If I told you that 76% of your employees were stressed about something, wouldn’t you want to know what was going on? I mean, after all, when I’m stressed about something, I am usually not very “together” when it comes to critical thinking and other complex tasks.

employee financial stressYou know where I’m going with this, right?

Research says that 76% of your employees are dealing with varying degrees of financial stress. That can be as simple as “we need to eat out less so we can save for our child’s college fund” to something serious like “I’m not sure how I’m going to pay the light bill this week.”

According to the Washington Post, approximately one-third of your employees are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The first response for many leaders is, “Yeah, so what?” However, this can be an opportunity to impact the productivity and engagement of your staff, so there’s value in learning more about this issue.

Whatever the case, the problem is real, and there’s something you can do about it. Click through to read my post on the Brandon Hall Group blog and learn what to do when your employees need financial help.

Applying Marketing Principles to HR

Today we’re honored to have a guest post from a long-time friend and fellow HR practitioner. Jane Jaxon is the rockstar HR Director for a tech company in Boston. Learn more about her in the bio below the article. 

Marketing 101: You need a product that meets the needs of your target customer or audience, then you need to promote it where it will be seen by and sought out by potential customers.

Branding 101: Define what you are about and what space in the market you occupy. Stand for something you believe in. Build such a strong connection with your audience that they take on your brand identity on as their own.

Wait, this is an HR blog, right? It is. Why are these concepts so basic when building a business and customer base, but relatively foreign in the HR world? Human capital is critical to the success of a company, yet basic marketing principles and resources are rarely allocated to our teams. It seems silly. A business cannot succeed without both the right product or service and the right people to deliver that product or service.

I suspect many of you don’t have marketers on your team, but there are some simple steps you can begin to take on your own to differentiate yourself and strengthen your employer brand to attract a better pipeline.

Understand your value proposition. What value can you deliver to prospective candidates? Examples include: location, work/life balance, opportunity to work with cutting edge technologies, top-of-the-market pay or great mentorship and development programs. Ask your current employees what the best part of working for your company is. And market it! Make sure pictures and language on your website highlight your differentiators. Invite employees to write testimonials or post to Glassdoor. But above all, be honest.

Figure out your market and focus your advertising appropriately. Each position has a unique market and needs to be treated as such. For example, we ask our team to review our job descriptions when we’re adding to the team to give us feedback – the oozing-with-personality job descriptions we use for entry level positions just may not appeal to senior level developers or a CFO. When I’m looking for an engineer, I ask our current team where they spend their time browsing and to tell me about the most effective cold call or email they have received and I tweak my recruitment approach accordingly. Finally, when we land a fantastic candidate, we take note of how so we can better focus our efforts next time.

Deliver. You need your public persona to match the candidate (and employee) experience. If you differentiate by the intelligence of your team, candidates expect to talk to smart people. If you pride yourself on corporate values and culture, the interview experience and questions should reflect that. You cannot attract or retain the right people if you aren’t able to deliver on the experience you’ve marketed. Just think – would you go back to a hotel that showed beautiful rooms and an ocean view but delivered an inferior product? Neither will candidates.

No company is perfect in every area, but you can be much more successful if you are able to identify what your strengths are, how you compare to the competition, and your audience, then relay that message in an effective way. How do you stack up? What differentiates your open reqs and opportunities from the competition?

About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.

The Best PHR Study Guide: Test Prep Review

I often hear from people asking “What’s the best PHR study guide?” or “What PHR study guide is the best for preparing for the exams?” Today I’m going to help answer that question for those of you who might be interested in taking the exam (or maybe you know someone who is preparing who could use this info!).

If you’re not planning to take the exam any time soon, feel free to skip this post. Thanks! :-)

I’ve been using and recommending study tools for over five years now. The industry has made some improvements over the past few years, but there are also opportunities for improving the existing tools out there to better serve the needs of the consumer.

The exams

When we talk about interviewing people, we discuss the importance of making the interview questions and experience as similar to the job as possible; that similarity helps us to determine if the person will be a good fit for the position. The exams are no different.

I tell people they need to simulate the exam experience as much as possible at various times throughout their studies in order to improve their chances of success when actually sitting for the exam. In order to do that, let’s look at how the exams actually work:

Test environment, number of questions, topics, how questions formulated, etc.

The official PHR study guide

It surprises me, because so many people don’t realize it; however, there is no official tool recommended by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) for test takers to use. Think about it. If I created the “Best HR Pro” test to certify people and then started selling study materials of my own design, that would be suspicious and diminish the objectivity of the certification.

In order to be objective and not open themselves up the possibility of “teaching to the test,” HRCI can not and should not recommend any specific test prep tool. That makes sense, correct? They wouldn’t want to raise any red flags by suggesting one provider over another.

The SHRM Learning System has the largest section of the test prep market, but I think that’s more due to the fact that they have a captive audience than that them having the best offering. There are other providers out there, SHRM Learning System alternatives, and their tools cover the same body of knowledge as the SHRM products. With the eyes-bulging-out-of-my-head price that SHRM charges for test prep, that’s why I have pointed my readers to other test prep tools on the market.

Why HRCP is the best PHR study guide

They don’t have anything to go on but their good name and customer success. Nobody is promoting them to the potential student as a pseudo-official option for passing the test. Check out the video review below where I open a box of the HRCP tools and share some thoughts about them. (subscribers click through to view)

With HRCP, it’s about price, features, and responsiveness. If you’re interested in using the HRCP materials, you can get a discount. More info on that here.

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