Once upon a time, on the heels of the Industrial Revolution, we heralded the birth of the Personnel HR profession. Industrial Relations begat Labor Relations with its accompanying cliché: a smoke-filled room laden with labor bosses and cigar-chomping industrialists hammering out a collective bargaining agreement.
As our profession matured we began to use the phrase Employee Relations in order to provide differentiation from the Labor Relations connotation (unionized workforce) and provide us with a term to use when referring to the management of the employment relationship in a non-unionized workforce.
Yet, even as Employee Relations matured into young adulthood and then into a comfortable middle-age, a number of organizations continued to “relate” to their employees as if they were still huddled around that bargaining table with overflowing ashtrays at the ready. The mindset that people are resources widgets – product in/product out – and can be expected to work according to bullet points, mandates and according to a rigid set of parameters just never left the room.
And therein lies the tension; it’s this area of human resources that puts the thought, in the minds of many, that HR is nothing more than the enforcer of draconian policies and creator of byzantine processes.
It’s quite sad actually; ER is one of the foundational – and necessary – building blocks of what we do. From within this area flow organizational expectations, support for employee rights (and responsibilities), and safeguarding the workplace for those who may be vulnerable if working for unscrupulous or downright evil people.
On the surface, however, Employee Relations is nowhere near as sexy and glamorous as some other functional HR disciplines; Recruiters get all the flash and sizzle, Compensation pros get to deal with incentive program design, and even the Risk Management/Safety folks get to oversee cool stuff like immunization programs.
Take a glance at most any Employee Relations Specialist job description and you’ll find words and phrases like “enforce,” “work-related problems,” “investigate,” “inspect,” “administer and interpret” and “grievance.” Ugh. Certainly no one wants to go into HR and be faced with those sorts of responsibilities; do they? After all, there’s not one single mention of “candidate experience” or “employer branding” anywhere………
But it’s important. Just not snazzy sounding.
Employee Relations merely needs to be – and can be – glammed up a bit. Much as Madonna continues (still!) to reinvent herself after decades in the industry, so too can this important cornerstone of the HR profession.
Does it need a name change? Not really; it didn’t really ‘take’ when Madonna tried to get everyone to call her Madge. Rather – we need to adopt a new mind-set, adjust our attitude and get a new PR strategy. The role of the ER professional should be one that’s proactive not reactive. It’s a job that requires one to realize that what one can do does not necessarily mean it’s what one should do. And it’s critical that the focus be on providing information – not punishment.
So I want every HR practitioner to let the vast amounts of knowledge around related laws, regulations and directives filter through two parts of their own cognitive realization before the words – when rendering a decision – come dripping out of their mouth;
PART 1: keep in mind the unique values, mission and culture of their particular organization
PART 2: keep in mind their own status as a human being
Plus it’s 2018. Y’all haven’t been allowed to smoke cigars in the Board Room for decades.
this post is a blast from the past: it originally ran over at the HR Schoolhouse
And, of course, there’s the original daily HR radio show Drive thru HR.
Now Drive thru HR never went away; over the last decade it has gone thru several permutations. Launched by founder/original host Bryan Wempen, it ran for a few years (every.day)with Bryan at the helm until William Tincup joined Bryan as co-host circa 2011 or so. The listenership continued to grow and several additional hosts took a spin behind the console include Crystal Miller Lay, Nisha Raghavan and Mike VanDervort.
Most recently though it’s been Mike managing the show as a solo host…until now.
Tune in today when we announce some changes to Drive thru HR, Mike gets a new co-host, and we throw in some “HR Horror Stories” for a bit of fun.
I dare say that most humans are creatures of habit and routine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in our hurly-burly lives it’s nice to rely on muscle-memory so we can drive the same daily route to the office or know that Friday evening will inevitably be comprised of pizza, pajamas and movies. The usual and ordinary tasks we have are pretty straightforward when we do them the way we’ve always done them.
Naturally this tendency to adhere to the tried-and-true carries over into our work life. Whether we’re cranking out TPS reports or processing journal entries we get into the flow and rhythm. This is also a good thing. People who take comfort in the unremarkable may find a sense of peace cranking through mundane tasks. And for those folks who chafe at “sameness” day-after-day, entering automatron mode allows them to churn through the repetitious soul-crushing chores that exist in every job.
Now envision a department filled with people simultaneously jogging on the procedural treadmill as they push out the same reports, take the same phone calls, and sit in the same meetings week after week. Picture rows upon rows of cubicles. Department after department. Floor upon floor. A humungous organization located in either a suburban office park or on a busy street in a bustling urban city center.
Certainly all those workers are providing some sort of value as they strive to meet organizational goals while, undoubtedly, participating in the latest Corporate (HR) program-of-the-month designed to simultaneously boost engagement, track OKRs, and determine annual compensation increases?
There may be a fancy new name to this program-of-the-month but, let’s be real – it’s the same old state of affairs.
And when you’re part of an existing entity, whether that be your job/company or your personal life/family, there’s an incentive to maintain the status quo.
And while human resources professionals are particularly adept at (and quite fond of!) maintaining the status quo, we are not alone amongst our corporate brothers and sisters. In the corporate setting we’re often more keenly focused on reducing risk rather than setting our sights on maximizing potential.
So we make the “safe” hire. We stick to the same procedures whilst also building additional steps and creating complexity for the most insignificant processes (“let’s have the SENIOR Director sign off for all office supply purchases too!”). We rely on last year’s numbers (and the year before and the year before that). We look backward (only) instead of looking forward. We research other companies’ ‘best practices’ instead of designing our own ‘NEXT practices.’
We stay on the hamster wheel.
I get it. I totally get it.
But as for me? I want to try new things. I don’t want to settle for merely doing what’s easy, comfortable and that-which-has-come-before.
Many of us like to point to our vast social networks and talk about the friendships we have either made or deepened that are directly attributable to hanging out on social media. I, for one, can point to the early days on #HRtwitter as instrumental in bringing lots of people into my life; folks on whom I continue to rely for advice, counsel, fun and frivolity. People I admire and adore.
Back in 2008/2009, John and I “met” online via twitter; hanging out on #HRHappyHour every Thursday night, chatting offline about SHRM (I was Past President of my chapter in Louisiana, he was State Director in Illinois). I remember the first time we met IRL; HRevolution in 2010 in Chicago. My plane landed, I checked into my hotel, and I sent him a message asking where he was. After getting the answer I walked down the street, popped into an Irish Pub of some sort, and hung out with my friend for the first time!
Fast forward a few months and John (along with William Tincup, Jessica Miller-Merrell and Geoff Webb) sat with me in a bar at HRFlorida and helped me come up with a name and buy the domain for my original blog. Yup.
Why is John so special and why are we honoring him today on “John Jorgensen Day?” (also the first day of #ILSHRM18):
He is a wealth of knowledge on human resources and if new practitioners dive into his brain for just an hour or two they will walk away with the best foundation for their blossoming HR career
Behind that curmudgeonly exterior is a heart of gold; he will do anything to help another person whether it be his family, friends, alumni of his schools (he just landed a board role for his HS alumni committee), or his pals on Team Tuppy Trivia
He has worked diligently at the forefront of changing the dynamics of SHRM (local, state and national levels) while also promoting and championing the history of our professional organization
He will advise you of the correct ways to prepare and consume chili (no beans!), Chicago style hot dogs and Portillo’s Italian Beef
He loves old school blues music, The Godfather and Animal House, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Gettysburg
He calls me at least once a month so we can catch up, joke around and solve-all-the-days-problems!
Cheers to you John Jorgensen – this is a day when we, your friends and fellow HR professionals – salute you!
Working in human resources means you get to do all sorts of cool things related to organizational culture, employee experience, performance and development, and change management. Sometimes you just get to crank out some good old-fashioned rah-rah cheerleading which, although many in “strategic” HR are loathe to admit it, can be quite enjoyable.
Working in human resources also means you have an inside, often uncomfortable, view of the seamy underbelly of humanity. We’re in a special place where we learn about all the unpleasant, disreputable and downright sordid activities with which people fill their time.
The HR Department is no place for the prim and prudish.
During my career in HR I have had to deal with my fair share of shocking incidents, and, being friends with loads and loads of HR folks, have heard tales from many others. There are many perplexing behaviors the average HR professional can pretty much take for granted they will deal with at some stage such as when an employee is discovered:
watching porn at work
taking naked selfies at work
sharing naked selfies with their co-workers
sharing homemade porn (starring themself!) at work
posting homemade porn on the internet so it can be “discovered” by co-workers
No? Just me and my HR friends?
Well surely, if you work in human resources, you’ve dealt with an employee who:
starts a consensual romance with a co-worker
thinks it’s perfectly OK to have consensual #sexytime, during work hours, in the bathroom
uses the executive conference room for #sexytime, after hours, while ensuring the Auditing Firm’s files are not disturbed
No? Again? Just me and my HR friends?
So…yeah…eeeww (you might be saying). Give me a performance issue or an investigation into timeclock manipulation or even a damn body-odor conversation! DIscussing sex is just distressing to all sorts of HR practitioners; puritanical or not. Yet, again and again, we have to head down that path.
But do you know the Number 1 employee issue that makes HR people squeamish, the granddaddy of them all, the absolute WORST conversation to have with an employee? It’s the chat about “sexual self pleasuring at work.”
Surely this situation has arisen (no pun intended) in just about every workplace? I think every HR person I’ve ever swapped HR Horror stories with has had this delightful ER experience. I’ve heard stories of gals and guys taking care of business in bathrooms, offices, cubicles, parking lots, janitor’s closets and walk-in-freezers. Brrrrr. A google search on the situation leads us to questions, queries and articles such as Masturbating at work is a doctor-approved stress reliever. Well then.
I don’t like to cook. Nor, for that matter, am I all that enamored of baking. It’s quite sad actually because my grandmother was fantastic in the kitchen; she could effortlessly whip up a kugel or get the weekly Sunday roast on the table with ease. My grandpa owned a butcher shop as did his parents before him. (That picture at the top of the post is from a receipt book from my great grandmother’s store on 10th & Hadley in Milwaukee, Wi – circa 1920 or so). Somehow though the cooking gene didn’t get downloaded into my DNA.
My mother is a passable cook (hi Mom!) and my daughter is a whiz in the kitchen who loves to spend hours experimenting with new things and replicating old family favorites. Thankfully my husband loves to cook and bake; blessings upon my mother-in-law for teaching him. When he’s in the kitchen, which is quite often, he makes things like bobotjie, melktart and koeksisters. Thanksgiving dinner now means instead of my lackluster attempt at making a pumpkin pie, Mr. S. prepares a Malva Pudding.
When I’m the one in charge of dinner…I call Waitr.
Yet, I realized last night as I found myself IN THE KITCHEN AND AT THE STOVE (!!!), I’ve been cooking an awful lot lately. To the point where I paused for a bit, put down my wine glass, and thought it through. I ran through the several meals, per week, I have cooked over the last month. Granted, nothing spectacular, elegant, adventurous or exotic. Nope; I’ve been cooking “comfort foods.”
Tuna casserole (check). Au Gratin potatoes (check). Bacon and eggs (check). Spaghetti (check). Casseroles, in the US Midwest tradition, made with Campbell’s condensed soups (check). Ice cream for dinner. (check).
Comfort foods. All of them.
In 1966, the Palm Beach Post used the phrase “comfort foods” in a story and it’s often credited as one of the first uses of the phrase: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup.”
Am I under severe emotional stress? Maybe. I dunno. I have my days. And things have ratcheted up at the office lately so, to some degree, there’s added stress. But nothing that a big old heaping bowl of cheese and carbs can’t satisfy if you know what I mean!
And then, the more I got to thinking about it, the human need for “comfort food” is why so many of the Wellness Programs launched by well-intentioned HR gals/guys are doomed to failure. Not that long ago I had a chat with a fellow HR lady about “Wellness Programs” and we meandered down the same well-worn path; healthy eating, weight loss, blah blah blah.
“I should just replace the junk food in the vending machine so our employees can’t buy crap!”
“Everyone in Louisiana eats too much fried food; maybe we shouldn’t allow them to bring it on-site!”
“That macaroni and cheese is just clogging up everyone’s arteries!’
Hey Pam in HR … listen up! There’s a reason, based on decades of research tradition, why donuts are the thing that everyone brings to the office in the morning to share with their coworkers. Walk into an office and saunter up to the coffee pot and you’ll find Kringle, King Cake and Kolaches……….not Kale.
Heading to the office to slog away at some bullshit thankless job for 40+ hours a week is hard enough; don’t take away our cupcakes and give us quinoa cookies.
We want comfort. Or at least a damn big slab of bread pudding.