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Culture is Hard to Define, Do it Anyway
Culture is Hard to Define, Do it Anyway 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

I recently sat in a facilitated discussion about the development of emerging leaders with a group of my peers from large employers in my area.  During the course of the conversation, one particularly seasoned HR leader at the table offered up that one of the most critical characteristics of the emerging leaders within his organization was “cultural fit.”  When pressed about what that meant, he explained that culture is something that’s very difficult to define.  The obvious follow up question is “if you can’t define it, then how do you measure for cultural fit?”  He responded that it’s just something you can tell about the person.  I glanced around the room as he said this to see nodding heads around the table.  (I am not making this up.)

As I sat a bit stunned to have just heard this exchange, the discussion continued.  In less than ten minutes, the same person brought up that attitude was a very important characteristic in their emerging leaders.  When asked to speak more about that, he said . . . wait for it . . . “it’s really hard to define, you just can kind of feel it.”  Un.  Freaking.  Believable.

So, to summarize this HR executive leader’s comments: They know that cultural fit and attitude are critically important components for identifying those people who will make or break the future of their company.  However, they have no reliable way to measure these things in others, so instead they fall back on the old reliable HR tool, “gut feel.”  Is it any wonder that HR isn’t considered a legitimate player at the executive table with this kind of thinking?

I wish this were an isolated or fabricated story.  Sadly, this type of scene is playing itself out in HR departments in companies everywhere.  Too many of us have fallen into the trap to believe that if something is hard to define, that it’s not possible.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Here’s a list of things that are hard to define:

  • Leadership
  • Culture
  • Purpose
  • Values
For some reason, it seems that the things that matter the most are also the most difficult to define.  However, each of these can be defined.  This work is not for the faint of heart because it’s big, ugly, scary work to take on because despite the power that definition brings in alignment and focus, the effort will be met with resistance.  This resistance comes because the process of definition not only requires the organization to define and commit to what it IS, but also what it IS NOT.  This process takes out the gray area of culture or leadership where it’s easy to hide if you aren’t playing within the rules.  
So, yes, it’s hard to define culture.  Most people won’t even try.  Be different.  Do it anyway.  
Stuff I Liked this Week – Vol 1
Stuff I Liked this Week – Vol 1 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Since there are roughly four bazillion blogs and online news sources out there, it can be pretty overwhelming to figure out what to read.  I am constantly refining what I read and I try to do it often as I can.  However, no matter how much I try to read, I am always finding great new stuff based on the recommendations of others via blogs and twitter.

There are a lot of topics out there.  And there are a lot of smart folks out there writing about those topics.  So, rather than try to address every topic myself, I’d rather point you towards blogs and people with points of view that I respect and find compelling.

So, for both of these reasons, I’m going to try to create a post about once per week where I share with you the things I read in the past week that I found most intriguing.  My hope is that this will help you find some great content and save a little time.

This week’s hit list:

Jason Seiden – Throw Away Your Metrics—You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

Free Range Communication – is your employees’ health their own private matter?

The HR Capitalist – Job Description Syndrome and the Case for Fewer Goals.

Altitude Branding – 5 Tactics for Civil Disagreement

ERE.net – Twitter: Media Or (Un)Social Network?

Have a great week!

HR as Role Model
HR as Role Model 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Being the expert feels good.  It means that you get to render your judgement about others actions and hand out advice freely.  In HR, we are frequently called upon to be the expert when it comes to employees.  And boy do we love to give out advice on how others should do things.

The big question is whether we are credible experts.  Are we both providing expertise but also “living the way” in our own teams?  Being the role model of best practices is one under utilized way that HR can shape change in an organization.  Advocating for employee development?  Make sure you are doing world class development within HR.  There’s no better way to get others attention than to utilize your expertise to transform you own team.

As I think about the following issues that seem to be hot in our HR world, how are we role modeling the change we would want to see?

  • Employer Brand — How are you branding HR?  How are you branding yourself?
  • Culture – Are you defining and managing to an intentional culture in HR?  Do you know your core values?
  • Social Media – How are you using the tools within your team to drive innovation, connection, and learning?
  • Performance Management – Are you working with a process in HR to plan performance and hold people accountable?  Does HR do quality goal setting?
  •  Diversity – How are your actively creating and embracing more diversity within in the HR team?  
The list goes on.  The point is, that one thing that you can influence most as an HR leader is what happens with your team.  Be the example and practice the change you desire in your own shop before you take it on the road.  By being able to show how you made something work and talk about the results, you gain real credibility and power to influence others to do the same.
 
#HRevolution Effect
#HRevolution Effect 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

So, the parade of HRevolution posts continues.  If you didn’t attend, go next time.  If you did, this post is largely for you as I think you may relate to my experience.

I was invited to participate in this unique event originally due to my Talent Anarchy work.  TA is my alter-ego life where I get paid to speak about how companies and people are screwing up talent and what they should be doing differently.  So, I came to the conference ready to play that role to the best of my ability.  
However, the larger part of my professional life is spent as a VP of HR for an 800 employee bank.  As the conversations unfolded throughout HRevolution, I found myself viewing the conversation more specifically from this formal HR perspective as it seemed that this kind of perspective was in shorter supply.  
This event has impacted me in a number of ways.  The major impact is that it stoked an already burning fire within me to take up the fight to help bring credibility and swagger to the profession of human resources.  We have a confidence problem in HR that’s paired up a lack of ability in some very important areas.  HRevolution reinforced for me that I have both the opportunity and the responsibility to be a part of the solution.  And intent without action is pointless, so I’ve committed to making some things happen on my end.  

As of today, Sunday, May 16, 2010, not only has HRevolution inspired many, many posts to be written.  It has inspired at least one more blog to be created . . . this one.  Whether that is a good thing or bad thing remains to be seen, time will judge that one.  I plan to share what I think is my somewhat unique perspective on HR for the purposes of helping others move forward in their HR careers.  For those of you who spent the weekend with me at HRevolution in Chicago, my blog won’t be aimed at you because you already get it.  My hope is to use this platform to share information from my HR leadership experience with others in HR who it might help.  I also intend to use this vehicle to connect those folks to the blogs being produced by all of you who are so much more eloquent and brilliant than I am.  We’ll see you this goes.  I don’t have anything to sell here, so my intentions is simply to create and share content that will help others.  
My other resolution, post HRevolution, is to find a way to bring this kind of conference/dialogue to my home turf.  It is crystal clear to me that if there is to be an evolution or rather a revolution in HR, we have to bring the movement to the people doing the work.  HR won’t change until those who sit in the chair and do the work on a day to day basis sign up for change.  I will lead the charge in Nebraska and I hope that others will do the same elsewhere.  I hope that the national HRevolution events continue because we need to keep the community of revolutionaries connected and supporting each other.  The battle at home will be much tougher to fight, but fight we must to create a new future for our field.  Change will happen one conversation and one person at a time.  
Thank you again to the planning committee and visionaries who made HRevolution a reality.  You have truly made a difference.  
Why I created yet another HR blog . . .
Why I created yet another HR blog . . . 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

I ended up in HR by accident.  I didn’t study HR in college.  I didn’t even study business.  My early career in sales eventually led me to become a headhunter where I discovered my passion.  I love working with the dynamics of how people and companies come together.  It seems inevitable that my career would lead me to human resources, but my path here has been anything but traditional.

Today, I lead a corporate HR team of thirteen people at a regional bank based in Nebraska.  My team is responsible for everything from processing payroll to succession planning, from recruitment to corporate wellness.  If it has to do with the people side of our business, we are involved.  My role places me at the executive “table” in my organization, so I can speak to what it means to sit in the “seat at the table” that we like to discuss in our field.  My responsibility and accountability to both my organization and my profession is to live up this role.   
So, now to the reason for this blog.  There are a lot of great HR blogs out there.  My belief is that maybe I can bring a little different perspective to the discussion of HR.  My goal will be to share ideas, create conversations, and provide any resources I can to help the “practice” of human resources to evolve as it must if we plan to be relevant in the future.  In particular, I want to illuminate the reality of what it means to be a senior leader in HR and what that reality means for how HR pros must change how they think and behave.  
So, why is my perspective unique?  Here’s a few things you ought to know about me:
  • The qualifications noted by my boss (the CEO) when hired for my current role were the following three things: sales skills, strategic ability, and a powerful and broad professional network.  I was chosen over a dozen other HR professionals who had much more impressive and lengthy HR credentials.  My organization “gets it.”  But make no mistake that this will become more of a trend in the future.  
  • I don’t have a PHR, SPHR, or GPHR nor do I plan to get one.  If you have been in HR for a while, you probably have deeper technical knowledge of HR than I do.  I value HR technical knowledge, but it’s not what has helped me succeed.  My strengths are deep in interpersonal, influence, strategy, and communication skills.  Plus, I ask important questions and am unafraid of conflict.  
  • In my world, HR is a business practice.  We exist to help the business be successful.  HR is not social service.  If that’s the kind of work you want to do, there are a lot of places who need your talents that aren’t HR. 
  • I am a Talent Anarchist.  In full disclosure, besides my formal career in HR, I am also a paid professional speaker with my colleague Joe Gerstandt.  We call ourselves Talent Anarchy.  I have a passion for speaking in front of people about ideas. 
  • I’m not much of a conformist and I don’t much care for rules.  I know that structure is important, but my disdain for unnecessary rules makes for some interesting tension in HR.  
  • I’m a proud member of Gen X.  Read into that what you will. 
Hopefully, this is enough background for you to determine if you have any further interest in reading my new blog.  All I ask is that if you do choose to read, that you occasionally say hi and let me know what you think of the work I’m sharing here.  If there’s any way I can help you, ask and I will help if I can.  If you want me to share my experience on a specific topic, I’ll happily do it.  
Thanks in advance for your time.  I know that’s a lot out there for you to read.  I’m honored that you’ve chosen to spend a few minutes with me.