Offering a corporate library to employees is a great way to encourage learning and give people low-cost opportunities for growth and development. We have been kicking around the idea of establishing one for a while (especially after my article about how to develop an employee reading program), and in October the right things came together to make it happen.

National Book Month

At Pinnacle, we do a monthly social awareness campaign to give employees some food for thought. October is National Book Month, so I was trying to see if we could get a book for every employee. That was going to be tough to do on our timeline, so instead we decided to pull a few books together and start the Pinnacle Library.

How It’s Set Up

We have a very basic set up since our office is relatively small. Clara, our property whiz, agreed to give me a hand, so she catalogs new books and puts them on the shelf. She also maintains the checkout list in SharePoint, so anyone can see what is checked in or out at any given time. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a great start! (If anyone else wants more details, templates, etc., leave a comment or email me and I’d be happy to share).

Zappos.com’s Model

Zappos offers a large stash of books for employees to borrow or keep. They are large enough to afford the purchase of hundreds of books per year, but they tie it into their core values for people to be constantly learning and growing, so people know that it’s expected of them to grab a book and start developing their knowledge. It’s a great way to be, and I hope one day we are large enough to offer free copies as well. You can also do book reviews in newsletters and other company communications to help generate some interest.

Our Books

The books to start were all donated (and most by me) :-) so it’s a random mix, but as we add to our corporate library I have a short wishlist of books that will be more targeted toward our software engineering focus and some of the other programs we have going on. To name a few:

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  2. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  3. Perform Like a Rock Star by Orna Drawas
  4. Be Bodacious: Put Life in Your Leadership by Steven Wood
  5. The 1% Solution for Life and Work by Tom Connelan

Even Easier

If you don’t have the time or resources to have your own in-house corporate library, definitely take advantage of your local one instead. If you have an admin or staff member who you can send to the library once a week, they can take the library cards for your people and check out books for them. That opens up access to a larger body of resources and saves you the time and effort of administrating a corporate library on your own.

If you didn’t check out the post on why you need an employee reading program, I encourage you to do so. It has a fantastic framework for proving the necessity of such a program to your leadership.

Does anyone else use a corporate library? How has it been going for you?

Recently Jason sent me an email about being in HR (entry level HR, to be specific). He gave me permission to post his comments and my responses below.

I actually stumbled upon your blog/site while searching for tips on how to land an entry-level HR position.

I am in the same boat as you (were) — currently in an HR position (internship) and dying to have more responsibility. I have applied for numerous HR positions, from small companies to large corporations. I am having the hardest time landing a full-time permanent job!

A little about myself, I graduated with my BBA in May of 2010. I then continued on to get my Master’s in HR (will be graduating this December!). Since Jan. 2010, I have held 4 HR internships… almost 2 years in the HR profession. Although, I feel that many employers do not consider this to be “2 years of professional experience”, as it is not 2 years of full-time and/or progressive experience.

May I ask, are you currently in the same HR Generalist position that you mentioned in your blog about a year ago? If so, how are things going? Is it what you expected it to be? Have you developed an interest in any particular area of HR now that you have had taste of all the areas?

I’m so stoked to have found someone in a similar position, a guy too! I’ve noticed that HR is a female dominated profession… what are your thoughts on this?

Hey, Jason! Thanks for reaching out.

First off, good for you in seeking to find ways to move up and gain more responsibility. Some people are content with never having responsibility at work (it’s safer, but less adventurous!).

Converting an internship to a job

It sounds like you have the education part down without a hitch, so let’s look at your work experience. Of those 4 HR internships, why did they end? I’m assuming your work is of good quality, because being able to take it further than a short term internship hinges on that detail. If I was in your shoes I would be talking with the company a month before the internship is over and looking for ways to make it a permanent/full time position. Bring some ideas for how to make the HR department better/smarter/faster. Show how they would benefit from bringing you on full time; don’t just make it about you needing a job, because that will get you nowhere.

We had an intern work for us this summer, and before she went back to school she asked how she could continue to work with us and support us remotely. We were able to let her complete some routine reporting tasks and she maintains a relationship with the company as she gets closer to graduation. Very smart move on her part.

If I looked at your resume, I would consider the HR internships to be “professional experience” unless something else on there indicated it was not. Some companies still waste/misuse their interns and use them as coffee carriers, but others actually give them challenging work that stretches their abilities for the duration of the internship. I haven’t seen your resume, but if you are including details about the work you’ve accomplished in the internship experiences, then that will give the employers the impression of professional or not.

My story

My current position as an HR Generalist was a slow (to me, at least) growth. I started as an HR assistant for another company a few years back. Last November, I came on with my current employer Pinnacle Solutions as an HR Specialist. Since then I’ve done everything from benefits to recruiting to employee relations and beyond, so my title was changed this summer to HR Generalist to better reflect my actual work duties.

My situation is somewhat unique in that I work for a small, growing company. I absolutely love where I work and what I do, and the professional (and personal) growth I’ve experienced in the past 10 months is astounding to me. When someone is in your position, it sometimes feels like you will never move up in HR. Then something happens (often unexpectedly) that sends your career through the roof. Looking back now if I would have had this job last year at this time, I would have been pulling my hair out. See, I have twin girls and they were about a month old at this time last year, so that would have been nuts. However, once things settled down at home, I found the perfect job for me. Sometimes frustrations can be blessings in disguise.

My (HR) likes and dislikes

This might surprise you, but I don’t particularly enjoy talking to new people face to face. I’m pretty darn shy. But, surprisingly, I have enjoyed recruiting and communications as my two favorite HR roles. Now, some would argue that neither of those is “real” HR, but since I’m at a small organization I handle everything in the recruiting process from the manager opening a requisition through to the orientation and onboarding process. Throughout that entire experience I communicate our corporate culture for new hires and help them to have a foundation for success from their first day on the job.

I’m not a fan of benefits administration, compliance tasks, or anything that requires hands-on administrative type work. I want to be engaging with staff, managers, and the senior leadership, not completing a form. However, since I’m at a small organization, I get to do each of those things as well as the fun stuff. It balances out. :-)

Tell the guys, we’re taking back HR

As for HR being a female-dominated field, I’d like to see some current statistics on that compared with the HR population a few years back. I’d like to think that more men are getting into it, but I can’t back that up at this time. It’s definitely an interesting phenomenon and I’d love to discuss more if someone has research to share. A good post I can recommend on this is one I wrote last year around this time called “Men in HR-A National Geographic Exclusive.” It starts off funny but has some great tips and pointers for a young guy getting started in the profession. If you’re a young lady getting started in HR, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out either!

Again, I appreciate you reaching out, Jason! I hope this answers your questions in a valuable way. If anyone else has questions or suggestions for post topics, please feel free to let me know!

Today I spent some time talking with Bryan Wempen about small business hiring and how to recruit in a high-touch, intimate way on the DriveThruHR radio show. Recruiting for a small business lets you do some things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to in a larger company, and it’s a great look into what makes the hiring process tick in a smaller organization. Click the link below to listen to the show.

No, I’m not talking about recruiting your family members! I’m talking about going the extra mile and working to make the candidate’s family members more comfortable with the new company and job.

I had a great experience a few days back when I brought in a new candidate and got to spend some time talking with his wife about the company and position. I wrote about it over on RocketHR today. Click through to read Recruiting Your Candidate’s Family.

If you don’t know who Mike Durant is, you are missing out on an amazing story. He is the pilot of Super Six Four, the Black Hawk helicopter that was shot down in Somalia in 1993. He was captured by the enemy, put through a horrible experience, and lived to tell the tale. But that was long ago. Now he’s a CEO, speaker, and all-around great guy. I just finished reading his book “In the Company of Heroes” (highly recommended!) and he wraps up with his thoughts on leading others. Just had to share.

Trust and empower your people to do their jobs, then stand behind them. Unless they are absolute lowlifes, always, even when they screw up, go to bat for them. However, also call a spade a spade. Supporting your people doesn’t mean carrying the deadweight.  If there are stellar performers and nonperformers, make it clear that you know the difference and reflect that in mission taskings and performance evaluations… Be dedicated to your people, the mission, and the customer first and foremost, and only then to yourself and your career. (pg 383-384)

I know we’re a few days past Independence Day and the patriotic feelings here in the US, but I thought this was worth mentioning. It’s not common to find the kind of loyalty that Mike has for his people in senior leaders today. I can attest to the fact that he lives by his words: the customer, mission, and employees come before his own needs, and if you ever get the chance to meet him, you’ll understand that fact very quickly.

By the way, his book is one I’d add to my leadership reading list.

disengaged employees impact the bottom lineDisengaged employees cost companies money in numerous ways. They are much more expensive to maintain than their engaged counterparts, and many organizations are working hard to find ways to help get their people engaged and more productive.

I’ve been a disengaged employee. It stinks.

I didn’t start out planning to be one. I don’t know that anyone sets their life goal as becoming a disengaged employee, but there are more of them in the workforce than we would like to admit. Here’s my story as a cautionary tale. You can turn an enthusiastic, engaged person into a disengaged, discouraged one with time.

The bright, beautiful beginning

I was excited. I was beyond pumped. I was going to knock this job out of the park. I had been researching ideas weeks before I started the job. I had a list of things I wanted to streamline and improve. I was going to make a difference and impact the organization in a big way.

And then it happened. Not suddenly. There was no explosion or flash of light. I just sort of noticed it, kind of like when you see something from the corner of your eye. It was the beginning of the end.

Where good employees go to die

You know when you start something new you can only see the good things? You see how everything works well and the positive aspects of every little detail. And then as time goes on you start to realize that there are problems, but hey, everyone has some, right? No company is perfect. And eventually those problems accumulate until they block out all else and you finally come to realize that no matter how much you do or care about your work, it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. I looked up one day and realized:

  • I wasn’t getting any coaching or support from my manager.
  • Our executive leadership was incompetent.
  • Much of the workforce was unappreciated, including me.
  • Fresh, new ideas? They were disregarded or ignored. Why put in extra effort for ridicule or lack of acknowledgement?
  • Some of the work I was asked to do did not contribute to the organization in any meaningful way. But it was “essential” that it was completed “like we always have done it.” The best part? When the department went into a manpower crunch, some of the work just stopped being done with no discernible impact. When that happened all I could think was how many hours I had spent wasting time on something that nobody even cared about.
  • Other than the executive team, nobody had much of an idea of the overall strategy or direction of the organization. It’s hard to focus your efforts to support that when you don’t know where you’re going.
  • Turnover for the positions that made up about 75% of our staff was in the 50% range annually.

If that is disheartening for you to read, I can promise you that it’s much, much worse to live it out in person. But don’t you worry, I’ve come a long way since then and now work for a company that makes the other one, for lack of a better term, look like a pile of manure. My company’s culture and engaged workforce is one that other CEOs dream about.

A glimpse of “the good life”

Notice how much different these aspects are from the list above. The difference is astounding!

  • My manager coaches and supports me on a daily basis.
  • The executive team is open, honest, and highly connected at all levels of the organization.
  • Our people are appreciated and rewarded in many ways (monetary and not) for their efforts.
  • Ideas? We have a special database set up to capture them. Even ones that might not fit currently can be deferred until a later date.
  • You can see a direct impact that your efforts have on the company’s direction and mission. Even in the HR/operations role I hold, that’s still true.
  • Everyone has an idea and grasp of the strategy and mission of the company, and the leadership team readily shares information as it comes out about new victories and opportunities.
  • Turnover… We’ve had two people voluntarily leave to go work elsewhere in the history of the company. Telling, huh?

After my experiences, I know one thing for sure. Engagement isn’t easy if you don’t already have it. It’s not about setting up a program or getting your CEO to agree to support you. I’ll talk more about what engagement looks like soon enough. I’m reading Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work by Dr. Paul Marciano. It’s an excellent book and I plan to review it soon, but I read something today about the qualities of a disengaged employee and it brought on the idea for this post. If you haven’t read the book, you are missing out. Big time.

By the way, if you haven’t seen it, check out this free eBook on employee engagement. Feel free to download, print, or just read it on your computer.

I’ve been beating myself up about not posting as frequently here lately, but it’s for good reason(s). Really. Here is the full slate I’ve been working on these days, just in case you are interested. And if I’m slow to respond to an email or a phone call, now you know why!

HRevolution

I’ve been doing some work on HRevolution lately, getting neat stuff posted like speaker interviews and sponsor info. I figure posting here will slow somewhat until May gets here, but I just wanted to set expectations early. :-) By the way, if you want to go there are 8 tickets left at the time this is published. Snag one if you want to attend an event like no other.

The day job

People still ask me about my job that I started back in November. The most common question is, “Do you still like your job?” And my answer is a resounding yes(!). I get to do fun stuff and get paid for it. What kind of fun stuff? Well, lately I’ve been working two big recruiting initiatives to bring in helicopter pilots and survival instructors. How cool is that?

When I’m not working on that kind of effort, I’m developing training for managers, handling our benefits, and creating systems and processes to help us prepare for some growth we are planning for later this year.

I have an amazing manager, the culture is fantastic, and the free Diet Dew in the fridge doesn’t hurt. Plus I get to interact with our CEO, Mike Durant, on a regular basis. Hard to get that kind of access to senior leaders in other companies. One of my friends has this offer to come work for another company locally for about $10k more than what I’m making now. I told him if I ever started hating my job I’d be there in a heartbeat, but it doesn’t look promising. :-)

RocketHR

If you aren’t reading RocketHR, you should! I post there about once a week and most of the time it’s new, unique content. Click here to get it delivered to you. A few recent posts include reasons why you should read blogs, the SHRM blog carnival, and a video about really being ethical.

NASHRM

In my spare spare time, I also am the Social Media Director for my local Society for Human Resources Management chapter. Not only do I write the RocketHR blog, but I’ve made myself available to anyone and everyone locally who is looking for information or advice on getting involved with social media. It’s so much fun helping someone make the leap from “interested” to “practitioner.”

Project Social

If you’ve been following Project:Social for long, you know it’s a social media mentoring program for HR pros. We are in our second round of the program and are looking to get the third one started soon. Some people have asked why Victorio and I haven’t had more people in the program, but as you can see with other things I am working on, it is definitely a challenge to devote time to this and if you don’t have a good experience, then it wasn’t worth it anyway. We are looking at ways to scale the program to have more mentor and mentee pairs working at the same time.

SHRM YP Council

I’m about halfway into my term as the SHRM YP Council Chairman, and it’s been interesting so far. We are creating a guide that will be used to help young professionals get more involved with their local chapters. It also has some great tips and advice for volunteer leaders to help them connect with those individuals. I’m definitely glad that I am in the group!

On the home front

Don’t know that you specifically care, but I thought I’d offer my house up if anyone’s interested in buying. :-) Seriously, we are looking to move now that we’ve outgrown our little place, and if you’ve ever been through the process, you know how much that process takes out of you. We are also having so much fun watching the girls grow up. They are always doing something new and interesting, and I’m doing what I can to keep up! A few pics: Bree (our little puppy), Bree at dinnertime, Bella taking the car for a spin, and both girls first thing in the morning (FYI-Bella on the right, Bree on the left).

And that’s just to get me started. What is everyone else up to these days?