An organizational silo is a tight group of employees that forms within your larger workforce. You could think of it like a high school clique – members within the silo normally work together really well, but they often clash with other people outside their own group.

Organizational silos can be dangerous, because while the silo might produce great results as a team, they may be less invested in wider company goals and objectives. This makes them very difficult to spot, because on the surface, it can look like the silo is just a group of really dedicated employees! So from your position in Human Resources, take a moment to analyze the social movements of your workforce.

It doesn’t matter whether you employ 5 people or 500 – organizational silos can form in any organization. It pays to learn how to stop them. Continue reading

As an HR professional, I am used to being on the interviewer’s side of the hiring table. That makes it easy for me to forget all the hard work candidates put into preparing for their interviews—well, some candidates. There are also people who waltz in totally unprepared, which makes me wonder whether they really want to be hired.

These 21 tips from Company Folders reveal the things prepared candidates do before, after, and during their interviews. Knowing these prep strategies will help you discern which candidates did their homework—and which ones didn’t—so you can get a better idea of who will make a good employee. Besides, it never hurts to brush up on interview etiquette; one day, you may find yourself on the other side of the table. Continue reading

Over the past several years, I have seen a growing trend where businesses have started investing in cool workplace incentives to try to attract and retain talented workers. Some companies are totally nailing it (think Google and Moz), but others are still struggling to create the type of work environment their employees really want.

The difference is that companies with successful incentives programs know why they are offering certain benefits. Others just choose perks they think sound cool, without really understanding the reasons those perks appeal (or perhaps don’t appeal) to the type of employee they want to attract.

The team at Company Folders has created a list of the top ten workplace perks and why they matter to help you create your own incentives program for 2017. You’ll learn what appeals to your team’s specific interests, rather just jumping on a trend for the trend’s sake. Continue reading

Employee turnover is part of life in the corporate food chain—you hire someone, they work for a while, you replace them. But what if I told you that you can lower turnover while spending little to no money?

Since HR professionals are often holed up in our own little cubbies, we don’t necessarily get to see what daily life looks like for everyone else in our company. But understanding the work environment is crucial to lowering turnover. In fact, you could be missing valuable warning signs that employees are about to quit—like low engagement.

Employee engagement rates are lower than ever, with just 30% of employees fully engaged at their jobs. Disengaged employees are more likely to complete personal tasks at work, produce lower quality work, and ultimately, quit their jobs. Continue reading

I haven’t always been a last minute shopper, but some years it sneaks up on me. If you’re looking for that gift for the special HR someone in your life, or if you are looking for an idea for yourself, here are three ideas that will delight the HR pro you’re buying a gift for. :-)

Fun HR Ninja Gear

hr_quirky_offspring_yellow_tshirtMost of you probably don’t know, but for more than five years I have been selling HR ninja gear on Cafepress. I actually forget about it sometimes, because I just threw it up there years ago and haven’t really put any effort into it since then.

I have virtually no markup on any of the products, because I love the idea of them being used far and wide, so grab what you like, such as this shirt that highlights HR as the offspring of a lawyer and a psychologist. I just had someone purchase 25 HR ninja mugs for their local SHRM chapter giveaways, so there are lots of ways to use this to give your HR friends a smile! Have fun with it.

HR Certification

Yes, it’s work-related, but you can give the timeless gift of certification to anyone, or yourself. This week I have a 10% discount on both the PHR and the SPHR self study courses. No discount code required, and the discount expires on December 26th, so get it while it’s hot! You can even buy now and use the course any time in the future. I have had several students taking the course this fall after purchasing during last summer’s sale.

For the Out of the Closet Nerds

If you are an admitted nerd, then one of the things you’re hoping for this year is a stack of books. If you know someone who is a reader, here are some great suggestions for books I’ve enjoyed that could not just entertain, but improve someone’s life/career.

  • The Front Line Leader: How to act like a CEO, what leadership looks like, and how to run a large, successful healthcare organization.
  • Innovation Judo: how to innovate despite structural and “people” roadblocks, including great stories of successful innovation.
  • All In: building a culture of belief, research-based stories of success, and the coolest profile of Bruce Lee I’ve ever read.
  • The Pursuit of Something Better: the first book I ever read and reviewed on upstartHR. Still one of my favorites, it explores the turnaround of U.S. Cellular and the readoption of basic tenets like culture, leadership, and service.
  • What about my book, What Running Taught Me about HR? :-) It’s a collection of stories and insights from my years in HR and also includes several profiles of other running HR pros and what makes them tick.

As always, you can find a ton of other book reviews here.

Whatever you end up picking up, I hope you have an incredibly merry Christmas!

Last week I was sitting in a board meeting for my local SHRM Chapter (NASHRM). I’ve been on the board for about five years now in various roles, and it’s a great way to get connected and serve others within the profession. But volunteering in that capacity is not what we’re discussing today. There was a point in the conversation where we were talking about our upcoming Mentor University program, and someone asked what the minimum threshold should be for mentors in the program. Someone threw out ten years as a baseline, and there was an immediate reaction from some of my friends on the board.

“What? Just ten years? We have ten years of experience and still feel like we don’t have much to offer.”

I had to laugh. First, because one of these self-professed not-quite-mentors is a good friend that speaks often in front of large crowds. She is a subject matter expert on recruiting, staffing, and managing candidate relationships. I have plenty of hands-on recruiting experience, but when she talks, I listen. So that seems funny to think that she can teach groups of senior level HR pros and recruiters about strategy and tactics but doesn’t have the capability (supposedly) to work in an informal one-on-one relationship with someone less experienced.

Secondly, everyone has something to offer. You do. Yes, you.

  • If you have twenty years of experience, that HR generalist with ten years under his belt can learn something from you.
  • If you have ten years of experience as a specialist in some area, the junior HR pro with a few years on the front lines can pick up a few tips and tricks you’ve learned.
  • If you have a week of experience as an HR pro of any sort, you have insights to offer someone who is just making steps to pursue an HR career.

See? You do, really.

I think in the end we dropped the ten year experience requirement on the mentors because it is artificial, and it doesn’t tell us what we want to know. When I am speaking on retention and the link to professional development, I often throw out the example of having ten years of experience. There are two ways to get to the ten year mark:

  1. Do the same basic tasks over and over again all year long, and then do it for ten years, never learning and growing beyond those basic functions.
  2. Master your basic tasks and then begin adding complexity and depth to your responsibilities, growing year after year progressively until you have a solid block of ten years behind you.

I want to be the second one here, and I want to find more of them in my daily work, because those are the people you can learn and grow from.

This week I’ll be in Florida for the Brandon Hall Group Excellence Conference. Wednesday I’ll be copresenting a workshop on the changing learning environment and how to integrate informal/experiential learning into your formal training programs. Friday I will be working in two sessions–the first on the changes we’re seeing in learning and development technology and the second focuses on the research linking human capital management technology and bottom-line business results. It’s going to be busy and fun. Am I the world’s foremost expert in these topics? No, but I do have something to offer. Insights from dozens of vendor briefings and discussions, data from our research, and practical experience from the trenches are all rolled together into one delivery that will help the audience learn and grow.

Think about yourself this week. Whether you’re volunteering through a local chapter or just finding a way to help someone else that needs it, you do have something to offer. Don’t let your own thoughts or anyone else tell you differently.

Today we’re not talking about HR.

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Helping with the dental work

I’ve been quite of late, because it’s difficult to write from a remote village without electricity. From the end of December to early January, I returned to Guatemala for a mission trip designed to encourage and uplift some of the poorest people on earth (materially speaking). Below you’ll find a report based on my experience. I write this recollection not to “show off,” but to help keep myself focused on the most important things in life, such as faith and family.

I hope that this story gives you some hope yourself and possibly even encourages you to look for an opportunity to love on someone else, whether they are nine thousand miles away or just nine feet away.

I visited Guatemala two years ago on a similar trip and knew that I would one day return. I told my wife that I wouldn’t go back until she was able to experience it herself, and in July 2015 she joined a team visiting San Pedro Las Huertas in Sacatepecquez. It was a wonderful time for her, and it allowed me to make good on my promise to return. For the past few years, both of us have worked on the planning team for our church’s annual auction to support two feeding centers in San Pedro Las Huertas and San Cristobal el Bajo. Each feeds more than a hundred kids a day, which for most of the kids is the only meal they will get all day. Melanie was able to see the feeding centers in operation when she visited, which was probably a humbling feeling to see all of that effort paying off. Unfortunately the feeding centers were closed for the holidays while I was there (apparently Guatemala follows the United States’ lead and pretty much shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s).

There were many facets to trip preparation. It’s not as simple as packing a suitcase and heading for the airport. We were bringing 250+ stockings full of toys, clothing and personal hygiene items to pass out for kids, plus we had to plan for daily bible school lessons and more.

Sunday

I’ll just mention here that I hate being away from my family for any length of time. When I decide to go on a trip, that’s usually the first hang up I have. But I had committed to this experience, so…

Sunday afternoon one of my team members and I took all of the stockings and luggage to Atlanta to save some time and simplify logistics for the team. One extra night away, but it saved us from having to be up at 2:30am to get on the road in time for the flight.

Monday

Monday morning we met the rest of the team at the airport and hopped on the plane. Guatemala City, here we come! Coming back was very much a reunion-like experience for me. I had many friends in San Pedro las Huertas from my previous visit, and it was a great chance for me to practice my rusty Spanish yet again. On the way to the mission house from the airport, I rode in the only truck without an interpreter and was able to have a good conversation with our driver, which was fun.

That night we ate dinner and repacked the vehicles with plans to leave first thing in the morning.

Tuesday

The team was very excited about the trip, despite being on the road for nine hours. We did last minute checks and hit the road. At Chimaltenango we picked up our third driver, Pastor Luis. This man has been visiting the people of La Perla for a year at monthly intervals, and he was our local connection to the community there.

Again, I ended up riding in his vehicle with the rest of the gringos that didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. You never realize how much you talk on a nine hour road trip until you’re riding with a driver that doesn’t speak English.

The trip, though long, was fairly uneventful. We stopped for lunch at one of the only Gringo-safe places, Pollo Campero, in Santa Cruz (Quiche) and then continued on our way. We arrived late in the afternoon just before dark. There was just time for a quick dinner before we had church service. After that we all hit the hay, tired from the long day’s events.

Wednesday

House visits with Pastor Julio

House visits with Pastor Julio

The plan for the day included house visits for church members and family in the morning and vacation bible school for the kids in the afternoon.

I had the amazing opportunity to go for a run at first light, seeing the sleepy little village coming to life one cooking fire at a time. I’ll admit that I got some funny looks from the locals, but everyone was friendly and it is a memory I’ll treasure.

During our house visits, we had our first run in with the biting flies of La Perla. These small, gnat-looking bugs drink blood like a mosquito, but they don’t alert you to their presence since they are very small. But lunchtime some of the team had more than a dozen bites on their faces and arms. (I’d like to send a personal thank you to Off! Deep Woods for their support of my trip). :-)

One of the families we visited had recently lost someone, and that was definitely a pull at the heartstrings. However, the second visit was one I want to cover in more detail. We checked in on a Mayan family living on the side of a hill. They were quite poor, even by local standards. They had a dirt floor and a fire going in the middle of the room for cooking and heat. As soon as we walked in, the lady’s daughter ran to a neighbor’s house to bring chairs so that we could sit. As soon as we all were seated, she went and retrieved all of her food and began passing it out to us, a set of complete strangers. This amazed me, and we weren’t able to refuse it, because it would have been an insult to her and her family.

At bible school we did a lesson on Daniel and the lion’s den and did a little lion craft with the kids. Some of them were very shy, because they had never colored anything before. Then we played games–one of the team brought a massive bubble wand and made bubbles 2-3 feet long for the kids, and they were thrilled.

Thursday

The plan for the day included house visits for church members and family in the morning and vacation bible school for the kids in the afternoon.

The house visits on Thursday really got me. We hiked up the trail on the side of a mountain to get to the homes. At one home we met a teenage girl with no legs. Every night her little sister carries a flashlight and helps her get down to church, more than half a mile away. This girl crawls there every night. I was completely blown away by her faith and dedication.

We started to get a bit tired down from the kids being around us at every moment of the day, plus not getting much sleep at night. The children were climbing in the windows of our rooms, trying to see the gifts that we had brought for them. :-)

Friday

The plan for the day included a medical clinic in the morning and vacation bible school plus stocking distribution in the afternoon.

Discussing care of a very sick baby with his mother

Discussing care of a very sick baby with his mother

The local church had handed out fifty numbers for patients for the clinic, but through various conversations another twenty five people had been invited to come for treatment. We had a pretty good setup going. One team working blood pressure (note: even seventy year olds had great blood pressure there thanks to walking everywhere on mountain trails!), two dispensing medicine, one person diagnosing patients, some praying with the patients, and others working however they could. Because I have some understanding of Spanish I was writing instructions on the medicine as we prescribed it to patients.

Nearly everyone we saw had worms or parasites simply because their water is full of bacteria and germs, they don’t understand how to cook food properly, etc. I believe the long term answer to this is education, but as of today we wiped out a considerable number of parasites with the medication we distributed.

Some of the most heart-breaking stories, from the man that hadn’t eaten in fifteen days to the baby that wasn’t getting enough nutrition and might not survive, happened during this clinic. On one hand it was great to help ease the suffering of these people, but on the other it reminds me just how much pain there is in the world.

There were two kids that needed teeth pulled, and I was able to help a bit for the second one. The girl’s tooth had rotted, and grabbing it made it crumble to pieces. After several unsuccessful attempts we decided to bring her with us on the return trip to the first large city, Navaj, to see a real dentist and get the tooth pulled for good.

Due to the number of people at the clinic, we just had time for a quick grab and go lunch before bible school started. We did our lesson, took the kids out to play, and then brought everyone back into the church and locked the doors. We knew that this would be a problem if kids were wandering by and saw the gifts coming out, and we didn’t have enough to offer everyone in the entire village. We had brought approximately 250 stockings, and Pastor Luis brought about 50 more small gifts as well.

Once the kids were in the church, we told them they would get a single gift and then would be sent out the door. It was my job to guard the door and prevent anyone else from entering, because the priority was to serve the kids who had attended bible school. That was heart-wrenching, because within five minutes of these kids streaming out of the church with gifts, there were more than fifty people outside trying to get in and secure a gift for themselves or for their children. In the end we let a few more in and handed out everything we had, and we had to be comfortable with that. Just like with the medical clinic, you can’t help everyone, and that is just part of life.

The church was packed every night. Standing room only in the back.

The church was packed every night. Standing room only in the back.

That night we treated the locals. During church service every night they ran a generator to power the lights and audio equipment. We brought a projector and DVD player and the movie War Room. Most of the people there had never seen a movie before, and I knew it would be an experience. The entire church was packed out, standing room only, and the back walls were opened up so people could stand outside and still see. In the two hour movie, people sat on hard wooden benches and drank in the experience. The movie has a powerful message, and it was evident in the tears that shone when the lights came up at the end. I don’t think they will soon forget it.

Saturday

Saturday morning was bittersweet. We were excited to go back to the mission house in San Pedro and reunite with our team, but we were also very sad to leave the wonderful people of La Perla. We brought the little girl and her mom with us to go the dentist in Navaj, and that proved to be a painful experience. The girl’s mother did not travel often, so she got motion sickness and would not take any medication offered by the team. She ended up throwing up four times in the back seat of the truck, turning the three hour drive into a five hour drive. Once we got the girl in to see a dentist and off on the bus back home, we continued our journey. Ultimately with traffic and the other issues, we ended up taking thirteen hours to get back to the mission house.

Everyone was very tired from the road trip, but the nearby volcano was sending up lava on and off all night, and most of the team stayed up to see the eruptions.

Sunday

Sunday morning we had church in San Pedro. I rode with Danny, the local missionary, to pick up kids and families for church. It was great to see some of the same kids I remembered from before.

After church, one of the kids was left behind, so a friend and I decided to walk him home. After we dropped him off, I realized we were at the same location where we had built a house on our previous visit. I remembered hearing Danny say that the mother/wife had just died a few weeks prior of appendicitis at the age of 38. Despite me only having a grasp of the basics of Spanish and the family not speaking any English, we stopped by to offer our condolences. After all, on the previous trip we had played with their kids and spent several days building their home from the ground up, so we felt like we knew them as well as anyone else.

Sunday afternoon we began packing our gear for the trip home. It had been a long week, and we had accomplished much in the relatively short time we were in Guatemala. Monday morning we went to the airport and flew back to Atlanta.

Looking back now, it seems like it was all too short of a trip. I’m extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to visit with and love on these amazing people. My team was phenomenal. And my wife is a saint for keeping up with our kids while I was out of town. All that said, it was the wonderful experience that I hoped and prayed for.