family feudA few weeks ago I received a strange text from my cousin. He wanted to know if I would be interested in trying out for a game show called Family Feud. Of course my instant reply was “YES!” We had to put in some effort up front and submit our interest. We got together and created little jingles for each person to sing to introduce themselves and did some humorous stuff to try to stand out, then we submitted our video and waited.

Within a few weeks we received a note asking us to come and audition in person, and I found myself in beautiful Birmingham, Alabama on a Saturday afternoon surrounded by hundreds of other families hoping for a shot at getting on the Family Feud game show.

As luck would have it, we were one of the first few families to turn in our paperwork, so we quickly had our shot at the practice audition.

As the team captain, I jumped up to introduce my family and then we got into the practice game. Let me tell you this: the practice is much harder than you might think. It is fast-paced, and without a scoreboard you can’t tell what answers have been guessed already. Our two questions were “What sport should you not do if you’re not a good swimmer?” and “Name something people do around the house naked.” Yes, really.

We played two practice rounds against the other family and won both of them. Afterward we left for dinner, hoping that our performance and winning charm were enough to get us an invite onto the actual show. We are still within the notice period to find out if we will be invited, but as I thought about the experience this week I realized there were some interesting lessons I learned that I would like to share.

  • The goal of the producer on site is to make a very quick judgment about the families playing. They want families that will do well on camera, not freeze up, and entertain the audience. Making quick judgments is difficult to do and is often fraught with incorrect decisions, but we often have to do the same with limited information. Bottom line: know where to look for clues and insights, make the call, and move on. No wasting time second guessing or evaluating sunk costs.
  • They were quick to tell everyone that winning in practice didn’t ensure a spot on the show. They were more interested in chemistry and engagement than in results. I thought that was a good argument for focusing not just on the “what” but also on the “how.”
  • As I said, practice was harder than the actual show, because some of the visual cues and timing were completely haywire. This translates to us making our training and “practice” harder than real life so our people can be ready for whatever their day throws at them.
  • Embarrassing but true: the question was, “What sport should someone not do if they are not a good swimmer?” We guessed some really good responses: surfing, triathlons, synchronized swimming, water polo… But not a single one of us said swimming, which was the number one answer. When we have to make snap judgments and quick decisions, the easy stuff is often forgotten in the rush. Don’t overlook simple answers in a rush to be “right” or to be first.

I’m hoping that we can get onto the show so I can share more about that experience, but for now, that’s what I have to offer. :-)

the life of an HR analystI’ve been working as an HR analyst for about a year now. Several of my friends, both in HR and out, have asked me lately what my days look like. I wanted to take a moment to highlight what it is and what it is not. I’ll also say that this is my experience. It’s certainly different for different people at different organizations. Did I mention it’s different? :-)

Even my coworkers that do very similar work as talent management analysts, learning analysts, and workforce management analysts have different schedules, projects, etc. I know there aren’t a significant number of HR analyst jobs out there, but for those that might be interested, this is a good peek behind the curtain.

A sample HR analyst job description

First of all, the things I spend most of my time on are briefings, research, writing, and editing. I publish all of the blogs and case studies, which is fun to get to see the full spectrum of what we do. Each day is different, of course, and I break down some of those aspects below.

Little man is still not sleeping through the night consistently yet, so when he wakes up at 4:30 I just get to work after feeding him.

  • Up between 4:30 and 5:30, work to 6:15 on email and any high priority work. This is the time to plan my day.
  • 6:15-7:30 Kids! Family! Craziness! I help get Melanie and the kids out the door, then I drop off little man at the sitter’s before heading back home to jump into the workday full speed.
  • 7:30-10:00 Typically catch up on email, work on case studies, editing briefing reports, or writing. Most of our internal company meetings are in the morning as well.
  • 10:00-10:30 Break! I’ll usually do something to break up my day, whether it’s calling a friend, squeezing in a quick workout, or going for a run to clear my head. I can’t work in long blocks without losing focus. Also, while I’m working out I often have some of my best ideas for writing or solving problems I’m working on, so this is critical to me being productive long term.
  • 11:00-11:30 Eat lunch. While I eat I’ll do some reading and research to catch up on what’s going on in the industry. I sometimes use this space to reply to emails and plan my calendar for the next few days to be prepared for any big meetings, etc.
  • 11:30-2:00 Back to work. I like to use my time after lunch when I’m typically at my “low” for creativity and focus to do things like making contact with HR pros to set up briefings and trying to work on any outstanding emails.
  • 2:00-4:30 By this time I’m past the midday “slump” and am in prime gear to do some writing. This is when I typically create marketing copy, write my Brandon Hall Group blog posts, and do any “major” editing work that requires significant brainpower.
  • Melanie usually gets home with the kids between 4:00 and 5:00 and that signals the end of the workday for me. There are some nights where I pick back up again around 8:30-9:30 if I have something pressing, my wife has to grade papers or do lesson plans, and all the kids are in bed.

Now, I know that’s just an average, so here is a breakdown of some of the actual work I get to do. As you might expect, necessary skills for an HR analyst are heavily weighted toward writing, editing, research, and data analysis.

  • Meetings: internal meetings average about 30-60 minutes per day, spanning topics like research, marketing, and technology.
  • Briefings: I spend time talking with HR leaders to learn what’s going on in their world and to stay plugged in. This is one of my favorite parts of my role. And talking shop with HR pros and calling it work just seems unfair. :-) I also host all of our vendor briefings. And while sometimes it’s a chore to fit them in, I have always been a bit of a technology nerd, so finding out what is the latest and greatest in learning, recruiting, or HR is a lot of fun.
  • Case studies: Ever wonder how Hilton runs its learning program or how multimillion dollar security firms hire their staff? I did, too. And now I know, because I get to publish case studies from those companies that describe exactly how they approached the problems and solved them. Here’s a recent blog post on the Brandon Hall Group blog where I talk about them.
  • Blogging: I get to blog! It’s a blast. As you can tell I love the blogging format, so this is just one more opportunity to share my thoughts. More importantly, I love the conversations it opens up to talk about what others are interested in–I certainly don’t have all of the answers. I have about 20 drafts in varying stages right now (some of which I’ll probably never actually write, funny enough) on a variety of topics, from recruitment marketing to technology selection to metrics and more.
  • Research webinars: this year I picked up a new role and am hosting our research webinars with various analysts on the team. It’s a chance to share the latest and greatest research, and I like the opportunity to get in front of our great audience over there. (info on those webinars, if you’re interested)
  • Attending events: a minority of my time is spent traveling and attending events. With a 5 month old at home this is something I’m thankful for. I do love getting to go to great events like the HR Technology Conference and other vendor-focused ones, but I don’t get out very much. I have a total of about 4-5 trips this year at my last count. As the kids get a bit older I expect to do more of this but not a crazy amount.
  • Speaking: I speak occasionally and these are honestly the best types of events for me. I like getting to wear multiple hats. I’ll actually be presenting at SHRM this summer in Las Vegas (anyone else going? I’d love to meet you!) and the Alabama SHRM conference as well. Again, I don’t put in many applications for speaking because I don’t travel a significant amount, but I always enjoy the opportunity. When I speak I usually spend anywhere from 5-10 hours gathering information, developing slides, etc.
  • Informal research: I am a Feedly fiend. I have it open any time I have 5-10 minutes to spare, because I’m always reading other blogs to gather insights and information. It’s amazing how often this inspires me to write something myself, even if the blog I’m reading is focused on design, marketing, or travel. At least half of those drafts I mentioned above started when I read a blog post or news article somewhere else.

5 surprising things about working from home as an HR analyst

This whole “working from home” thing is a bit of what I expected, but it’s also different in other ways. Here are five things I didn’t expect:

  1. Nobody seems to understand that in some ways working from home is harder than working in an office. None of your friends asks to “swing by” or if you can do an errand for them when you work in an office setting. Thankfully that was short-lived, but it happens.
  2. It can be hard to “turn off.” When I worked in an office I had the drive home to decouple from work and shift gears. Now if the family gets home and I’m in the middle of writing or editing I have to suddenly shut everything off mentally and it can be tough to do that.
  3. I have more time. I’m not spending 2+ hours driving daily, and that means I can get more accomplished instead of commuting, getting to work after spending almost an hour in traffic, trying to dodge “that” talkative coworker, etc.
  4. I have less time. :-) I feel like with the additional time I can do more things and take on more tasks, even when it’s not really possible. That can be tough to deal with at times because I like to run in a hundred directions at once.
  5. Some people warned me that I would be “bored” or that I would miss working with people. While I do miss some face to face interactions with friends, I am actually well-suited to working remotely and solo. I can spend all day without turning on the radio, TV, or anything else. The days when I don’t have calls scheduled I can go for up to 9 hours without saying or hearing a single word, which is pretty peaceful. This certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s something I think is very interesting to know. I’m a natural introvert and talking a lot and interacting with people can be draining for me at times.

HR analyst salary information

Information about a human resources analyst salary is all over the map. I think that’s due in part to the fact that some companies are loose in defining what an analyst is/does, so that means the job duties can range (and pay naturally follows). Here are a few resources for details on what an HR analyst makes. As you’ll see, it can vary wildly.

Human resource analyst job openings

As I said above, the type of analyst work I’m doing is reserved typically for very large companies, vendors, or research/consulting firms. Other names for this type of role (if you’re searching for an HR analyst position) that could be helpful:

  • human resources analyst
  • talent management analyst
  • talent acquisition analyst
  • learning analyst
  • workforce management analyst
  • principal analyst
  • senior analyst
  • associate analyst
  • business analyst
  • HCM analyst
  • human resource analyst

So, what else do you want to know, whether it’s about this whole “working from home” or the HR analyst role? I’d love to answer questions if you have any!

I’ve been wanting to write for some time about the customization of, well, everything. I think it’s fascinating that so much can be customized to your very specific, individual tastes. Personalization is in virtually everything we do.

Movies/television? Give Netflix a go.

Music? Check out Pandora.

Hungry? Get a NatureBox with your own favorite snacks.

Sports? Yes, even sports. ESPN’s 22 million (and growing) website visitors are going to see a customized display based on their own location, interests, etc.

This incredible shift is hitting us in all of these areas, but a story I heard a few years ago about a school in New York could be the next advance in learning.

Let me introduce you to the School of One from iZone. Here’s a bit about them:

iZone is a catalyst for 21st Century learning across the New York City Department of Education, (NYCDOE) the largest school district in the country, serving 1.1 million students in more than 1,700 schools. We work with schools, the edtech marketplace and policy makers to design and scale promising learning models that prepare all students for college and careers.

So what is the School of one? In a nutshell it is an individualized education plan that adapts to a child’s learning style. Not just a program that we set based on a child’s preferences, but an actual adaptive program that can change over time to deliver the highest-impact learning experiences possible.

This is blended learning at its best. Children are taught in traditional group classroom lectures, small group work with peers, and online tutoring sessions. Then teachers can review the data on performance before and after the types of sessions, and an algorithm helps to select the following day’s exercises based on which ones the student learned from best. Over time this happens continuously to fit the program to the individual student—hence the name “School of One.”

But What about the Workplace?

We know that our training and development efforts are not going to reach all employees in the same way. And each employee has different needs from the training programs we offer.

What if instead of using a blanket program we could tailor it over time to deliver the best possible learning experience for the lowest possible price? Here’s an example of how this could play out in the workplace.

The Custom Learning Training Method

Let’s say Mary scores highly on a post-test after she sits through a live instruction class, but Bob scores higher after he completes a learning game. Tomorrow we swap them to compare the results. If both of them have the biggest improvement from the learning game, maybe we start lean more heavily on the gaming aspect.

Then we introduce another element: social learning. At this point they diverge. Mary does poorly when it comes to social interaction, but Bob does even better than with the game. So in terms of the learning programs Mary’s preferences are built this way:

  1. Game
  2. Live instruction
  3. Social

But Bob’s are different:

  1. Social
  2. Game
  3. Live instruction

And over time the algorithm will continuously tailor the training to best meet their needs and return the best results for the time invested.

How is this different?

Some would say that companies already offer these types of training options, but the difference here is the system learns what works best for you and redirects time and resources into training you via that medium. It’s not just based on preference–I might like video training but it doesn’t necessarily improve my results as much as a learning game.

My first thought is that this sounds incredibly costly to develop. But Pandora offers an even deeper level of customization completely for free for most users (and still managed to net $230 million in 2015 revenue). And Netflix is just a few dollars a month for a matching algorithm that measures your TV and movie preferences to deliver recommendations that you would enjoy. As more attention moves to this concept of the custom learning experience, we will see more opportunities to scale these types of programs. I’m excited to see what is next.

What are your thoughts on custom learning experiences? What other ways can customization and personalization weave into our training methods and HR practices? 

Today I have the pleasure of introducing my brother, Brandon, to the HR community. Brandon is an auditor for the federal government and has worked in the world of accounting for more than ten years. We’ve been talking about some of the needs that we have in the HR profession for being more number savvy, and that led to this interview. I hope you enjoy! If you have questions or want to know more about how HR can use accounting/finance principles to establish credibility and lead within the organization, just shoot me a note. Thanks!

brandon eubanksAccounting for HR – An Interview with Brandon Eubanks

Ben: Let’s establish that you’re a credible source (despite being my brother, which should disqualify you immediately). :-) So, tell me a bit about your background (degree, certification, work experience to date, etc.)

Brandon: I have a BS in Accounting from UAH as well as a Master’s of Accountancy from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I currently have an active Alabama CPA license, and I also have an active Certified Fraud Examiner credential. I started my work in the accounting field at a small company just before I graduated with my undergraduate degree, and I landed a job at that same company upon completion of my degree. I worked at this company for a total of two years before I landed a job with my current employer (DCAA).

I became an auditor with the Defense Contract Audit Agency in 2005, and I performed in that job category for 5 years. I was promoted to an instructor at our agency training institute, and I served in that position for two years. Upon completion of those two years, I came back “to the field” as a supervisory auditor in Huntsville. In addition to my full time job as supervisory auditor, I also teach accounting courses on an adjunct basis for Athens State University.

Ben: It sounds like you’re in neck deep! But for some of the audience out there, imagining someone that enjoys accounting can be a bit “out there.” What drove you to choose accounting as your profession?

Brandon: I took an accounting course in high school, and I loved it! I actually started college going for a Mathematics major, but in the end, my true passion for accounting won out. When I changed my major from Mathematics to Accounting, I truly felt like I was where I belonged. Everything made so much sense to me in the accounting realm, and the majority of it came easy.

Ben: Okay, great. So let’s shift the perspective a bit. We’ve talked before about HR and what I do in some capacity, though I know it’s not your focus area specifically. What do you think HR pros need to know about accounting/finance to be successful in their role as a business leader?

Brandon: I think one of the most important things to understand regarding accounting/finance is budgeting. For most companies, the budget is king. Many hours are spent poring over the budget, and then many more hours are spent deciding how the company is doing compared to the budget. In my opinion, knowing what role the HR functions play in the budget would help HR pros to see the big picture. HR work is not completed in a vaccuum, even if it seems that way some times. Recruiting employees, changing benefits, and employee training all have a part in the company budget, and typically people can perform their jobs in a more precise way when they know how what they do fits into the company’s big picture.

Another important accounting/finance topic for HR pros is financial statements. If someone who isn’t in accounting/finance looks at a set of financial statements, other than noticing a profit or loss, he or she probably won’t know much about what those statements are portraying about the company. Is the company doing well financially? It takes more than a good year of income for a company to be thriving. Continuing from my earlier comments, knowing what role HR pros play in the company can help them to see what impact on the financial statements they are having.

Ben: Those are some excellent suggestions. But let’s say hypothetically that I come to you today and only have 30 minutes to learn some basics of accounting and/or finance to help me do my job better. What topics would you recommend to get the best return on my learning time?

Brandon: I would start with an income statement to help you get a picture of what decisions HR pros make and how they affect the company. Obviously, all decisions you make affect a company in some way (whether small or large), but really seeing numbers that relate to those decisions can help get a bigger idea of context. To me it all boils down to understanding where your role fits into the workings of the company, rather than simply focusing on the next task on your “to do” list.

Ben: I would completely agree. It’s easy to get bogged down and take the time to get a broader view of what’s going on. So let’s get philosophical. You’ve said a few times that HR needs to figure out how it fits into the organization. Why do you think human resources as a profession has a more difficult time of getting “attention” or “clout” in the organization when it seems like accounting/finance has it as a natural byproduct of the function it carries out?

Brandon: It is my perception that HR is seen as something necessary but only value-added some of the time. As a supervisor of five employees, I appreciate my HR specialists that I have to work with. However, I typically contact them only when I’m having trouble with an employee. It is my perception in these types of circumstances that HR is “holding back on the reins” while managers and supervisors are wanting to go full-speed ahead with disciplinary actions. So, in this way, HR is seen as necessary, but a roadblock overall in the process of an organization running more smoothly (in the eyes of the manager).

On the other hand, accounting/finance seemingly hold power over the entire company because the numbers they report can make or break a company. To me, that is why there is such disparity in the treatment of the two departments. One is seen as holding up the process, one is seen as completely necessary and somewhat powerful.

Ben: Thanks for your time! Any closing thoughts, wit, or wisdom to share?

Brandon: If I had any advice to HR pros, it would be to learn how you and your department fit into your company. Furthermore, if there is a way to educate employees (from the bottom to the top) on what HR does and can do for them, it could go a long way in battling that perception bias for managers and staff.

I hope you enjoyed the interview with Brandon! You can find him on LinkedIn here. Let me know in the comments what you think of this interview.

What are your thoughts on the topic? What can we learn from our accounting/finance brethren? Is this an area of strength for you or an area of weakness? 

As I looked at my wonderful wife this week and think about our upcoming anniversary (8 years in June), I wondered about the spouses of other HR professionals around the world.

Me and the love of my life--Diet Dew. Oh, and Melanie is there, too. Heh.

Me and the love of my life–Diet Dew. Oh, and Melanie is there, too.

Do all of them realize how lucky they are to have married someone working in human resources? :-) With that in mind, here are seven reasons to marry an HR pro. I’d love for you to add your own to the list!

Reasons to Marry Someone Working in HR

  1. You’ll never have to worry about your work benefits again. We know what questions to ask and how everything works. Just turn over the paperwork and we’ll let you know where to sign.
  2. You’re going to get the insider tutorial on compensation. I almost feel sorry for your manager at your next salary negotiation…
  3. We’re all about wellness, so you know you’re going to get some sweet gym membership in the package.
  4. We bring home the big bucks… Okay, we bring home some bucks (hey, it’s about doing what you love, right?) :-)
  5. You will learn 36 ways to get around that crappy policy your company just implemented. Policy workarounds are our thing.
  6. We’ll tell you the secret to surviving with annoying coworkers. (Hint: there’s at least one at every company)
  7. Want to cheer up? We have the funniest, weirdest, and best stories you’ll ever hear about the workplace. Did I ever tell you the time I almost was hit by a voodoo curse in the office…

So, let’s keep it going! What other great benefits come from marrying one the proud HR professionals of the world?

I have been thinking a lot lately as I cross the six year threshold of blogging about human resources management. I started this as a tool for the entry level HR pros, but now I also teach about some fairly advanced concepts. One of the things I don’t do enough of is sharing about the community. There are more than 20,000 monthly readers on this site and about 5,000 email subscribers (the numbers still boggle my mind!). Who are these people? What do they do?

Let’s find out.

Today will start off a series where I talk with some of the HR pros in the audience to find out what they do and what they enjoy about HR. I hope you like the series, and as always, I’d appreciate your feedback. Want to be profiled yourself? Click here.

a day in the life of an hr professional

A Day in the Life of a Human Resources Manager

Anne

  • Company/Industry: Holding Company
  • Years with Current Company: 4
  • Years in HR: 10
  • Degree/Cert: MBA-HR, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
  • Average Day: My average day is a standard Director role. I spend time counseling my team of 26 on how to interact with their companies. I also manage our benefits program.
  • HR wit/wisdom: Expect each day to be different. I’ve seen too many young, promising, talented professionals burn out too quickly because they couldn’t adapt to the constant changing chaos that is Human Resources.

Juanita

  • Company/Industry: Banking (Credit Union)
  • Years with Current Company: 5
  • Years in HR: 10
  • Degree/Cert: Master’s in HR and Organizational Management
  • Average Day: A typical day in the life of … well me, would be one that involves A LOT of talking and interacting with my peers. I feel that when you build a bond with employees, they will come to you with anything and also help you connect with the person your looking. A quarter of my day is spent in meetings brainstorming the next best thing and finally, the rest of my day is spent finding new ways to energize our organization through our new amazing wellness program (that I control … mwahahaha).
  • HR wit/wisdom: I have two!  “I don’t fire you, you fire you.” and “Yes. Doing your job is part of your job.”

Bobbi

  • Company/Industry: Government Contractor
  • Years with Current Company: 5
  • Years in HR: 7
  • Degree/Cert: BS in HR, SPHR and SHRM-SCP
  • Average Day: No two days are the same. I spend part of each day working in benefits, compliance, HRIS implementation and employee management.
  • HR wit/wisdom: Network often, so when the auditor knocks on the door, the manager wants across the board terminations, or the employee decides to tell everyone about his weekend exorcism you have a group of people on speed dial to ask questions to and to share with – we can’t do it alone!

Ryan

  • Company/Industry: WebLinc
  • Years with Current Company: ~2
  • Years in HR: 5
  • Degree/Cert: B.S. Industrial/Organizational Psychology, PHR
  • Average Day: I largely spend my time recruiting, or actives related to our recruiting efforts. Next would be employee relations, internal resourcing, and org management. Beyond that it gets chopped up quite a bit day to day, I am a one man army in HR here :)
  • HR wit/wisdom: As an HR professional, my advice to anyone is to never forget how much rules suck.

Leeanne

  • Company/Industry: Freight Forwarding
  • Years with Current Company: 2
  • Years in HR: 6
  • Degree/Cert: Graduate Diploma in HR
  • Average Day: I am the only person in HR in my organisation, which has 370 staff, therefore a majority of what I do is reactive simply due to the volume of work. I recruit without agencies whenever possible so can end up spending a lot of time reading CV’s when I have multiple roles to fill. I interact with our company directors and managers on a daily basis, although it’s usually the same 4-5 managers due to the size and nature of their teams. I am involved in all performance and disciplinary meetings along with the manager. At least once a week I am told by someone that they don’t envy me in my role, but I honestly love it, and can’t see myself doing anything else for a long time to come yet!
  • HR wit/wisdom: Be the reason people want to get into HR, not the reason they hate it.

Coming up soon we’ll have other HR roles and responsibilities, but I appreciate the participants for sharing! Let me know in the comments below what you think about this.

Running is a passion of mine. So is HR. So why not marry my love for the two in written form?

Well, that problem is solved. :-)

I recently put together this collection of stories about running, business, and life. More than half of the content is brand new and not published anywhere else, and the book runs about 35 pages in length (which means virtually nothing in the world of Kindle/eBooks, as I’ve learned!)

It’s on sale for $3.99 right now. Here’s who should read it:

  • If you work in HR, are looking for some inspiration for running, and you like to run, then this will give you some of my stories (mostly humorous) to help you with that.
  • If you’re in HR and you don’t care about running, you can still get some great lessons here. You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy this. In fact, you might laugh even more at some of the silly things I do to try to compete in this sport…
  • If you’re just getting into HR, you will learn some timeless truths about this profession (many of which I’ve learned the hard way).
  • If you’re an expert HR pro, this will expose you to some of the deep passion in this field, whether in my story or in the profiles of other running/HR pros, and will help you revisit that spark that made you choose HR in the first place.

A special thanks goes out to those that responded to my recent survey and allowed me to highlight them in the book. They all share their own inspirational stories about how running makes them better at this human resources thing.

Thanks again for your support and I look forward to checking out the reviews. You can get a copy of What Running Taught Me about HR: Essays about running, work and life right here.