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Twitter and HR Leadership
Twitter and HR Leadership 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Last Friday, I helped to facilitate a social media “boot camp” for HR leaders in our area.  When we hosted the HR Reinvention Experiment last fall, one topic that seemed to be of paramount interest to that crowd was social media.  It seemed that most HR leaders are getting the message that they should know about and be leveraging social media, but they weren’t sure where to start.  That’s where Friday’s session came in.

I wanted to share a few observations from the session and then a few thoughts about how to start if you are an HR leader (or likely know one) who needs to get caught up with the times in regards to social media.  The first thing that jumped out from the group we had on Friday is at nearly everyone seemed to have some sort of awareness of and was using LinkedIn and Facebook.  Where this group seemed to be stuck was with Twitter and anything else beyond that.  We didn’t spend much time on LinkedIn or Facebook, but I’m guessing that while many said they were users, there is a difference between having a basic profile without a picture or much info versus actually leveraging these sites for the powers of good.  But, that’s just an assumption.

As for Twitter, everyone seemed sort of captivated by it but not many had done too much with it.  We heard all of the usual comments and resistance (“I don’t care what you  had for breakfast this morning, so why would I want to read about it on Twitter?”)  I think by the end of the time we spent together, most of the attendees were much more informed about Twitter and why they might want to get involved.  I think that some of them might even go out and get started.  We’ll wait and see.  For now, I want to share a few of the key things that were discussed or observed in the session.

  1. Twitter (and all other social media tools) isn’t something you do, it is something you use to accomplish things.  They are tools.  If you are trying to get on Twitter just to be on Twitter, you will probably not get much from the experience.  You have to know why you are using these tools to reap the benefits.
  2. Twitter is hard for HR because there aren’t really any rules and the rules change often.  You have to let go of needing to understand the rules before you start or you’ll never start.  If you are new to Twitter, google the phrase “How to Twitter” and you’ll get all the info you need to get started.  Then, just jump in.  (It was amazing to me how many people were stuck by not knowing how to “do” Twitter when there is so many free guides out there to help you make sense of it).  
  3. You have to use social media to understand it.  Our organizations are trying to make sense of social media and what we should be doing with it.  If you, as an HR leader, aren’t leading that discussion, shame on you.   To do that requires that you understand what social media is and why people us it.  To understand that, you have to use it.  Period.  There is no short cut.  
  4. Twitter is like a radio station.  The people you follow are like the artists who create music for radio.  You add people who create the stuff you like and not those who don’t.  Once you have a nice station created with enough good artists, you can listen when you want to.  You can drop in and out of Twitter whenever it works for you.  Just like the radio, if you follow enough people (probably need at least 300) there will always be something interesting on when you tune in.
  5. Be a little selfish at first.  Start out using social media for your own good.  There is no better and more interactive personal development tool out there than social media.  You have access to world class content and experts any time you need them.  You can build a vibrant network of brilliant colleagues around the globe.  All from the cozy seat right in front of your computer.
  6. As for the organization, don’t start by trying to solve social media for everyone.  Instead, get social media access opened up for your HR team and then experiment with it.  Once you have a few good stories to tell of how you used social media to create some value, use that to make progress organizationally. 
  7. When you are getting started on Twitter as an HR pro, here’s the first quick steps to follow:
    • Create your profile (use your full name for your username (i.e. JasonLauritsen vs. HRInstigator) and upload a picture. Using your full name and picture helps you build relationships more easily, lets people recognize you more quickly, and it builds your personal brand.  In your description in your profile, write something about being in HR, Training, etc.  That helps people know what kind of Twitterer you might be.  
    • Unprotect your tweets.  Social media is a wide open enterprise.  You have to be willing to let go of who sees your stuff to be taken seriously and embraced.  You want people you don’t know to see your stuff and follow you.  That’s how Twitter works.
    • Create a few tweets.  Examples might be “Okay Twitter, I signed up.  Now what?”  or “Hey, I’m new here.  Where’s the cafeteria?”  Your first tweets should tell the world that you are new and that you are going to try to learn on the fly as you go. 
    • Now, go find some people to follow.  Assuming you are using Twitter for mainly professional reasons (most of my comments here are geared that way), you can easily find a good list of people to follow.  Simply google the phrase “human resources twitter list.”  This will produce a series of lists that others have created of some of the best HR folks to follow on twitter.  If you don’t know how to follow someone, refer back to item 1 above.  
    • Finally, try to create a tweet or two per day for a while.  That will help you build up your twitter stream.  At first, the easiest way to accomplish this will be to retweet the content that you like.  If you devote 10-20 minutes per day to Twitter for a month, by the end of the month you will be hooked.  

Twitter is only a mystery until you start using it.  Good luck out there.  Let me know if I can help.

Rules of Thumb
Rules of Thumb 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

As my thirteen-year-old son prepared for his basketball game this past weekend, I asked if he was ready to play.  He said, “I’m going to take my anger out on the game.”  You see, he has become a die hard Duke basketball fan like I am and our beloved Blue Devils had just been taken behind the woodshed by a very determined St. John’s team.  It was a brutal loss and my son was mad about it.  I looked at him and said something to the effect, “If you go out there angry, you’ll make stupid mistakes.  Getting angry means getting stupid.  What part of that do you have control over?”  Her replied, “I shouldn’t get angry.”  Bingo.  We proceeded to have a chat about how letting our emotions get the best of us prevents us from being our best.  He was able to calm himself and play a good game.  

As I thought about this exchange, it reminded me of the power and wonder of these “rules of thumb” that we use to remember some of the most important lessons of our lives.  
Here is my list of my top Rules of Thumb:
  1. Get angry, get stupid. 
  2. You can’t control what happens to you.  You can’t control how others respond to what happens.  The only think we really control is how we react to what happens to us.
  3. You teach people how to treat you.  
  4. When Momma’s happy, everybody’s happy.  (And the corollary: Happy wife, happy life.)  
  5. Better to be lucky than smart most days.  
  6. If it hasn’t been done yet, that’s probably just because no one has had the guts to try.  
  7. One person with an idea is a dreamer.  Two people sharing an idea is a movement.  
  8. Leadership isn’t about you, it’s about them. 
  9. Persistence is a virtue.
Some of these might only make sense to me, but they all hold pretty powerful lessons.  
What are your best “Rules of Thumb?”
The Challenge of Proving ROI in HR
The Challenge of Proving ROI in HR 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

A few weeks ago, my friend William Tincup contacted me to ask if I would be a part of a series on the DriveThruHR show called “Convenient Conversations.”  Essentially, they are inviting HR pros to come on for a 30 minute discussion about a topic that is on our mind relative to the work of trench HR.  Thirty minutes to talk about what’s on my mind?  Where do I sign up?  It wasn’t hard to convince me to sign up.  I am thankful for the invite and my session is scheduled for tomorrow at 12 noon.  

What I’m planning to bring to the table for discussion is the challenge we face with proving the ROI for HR initiatives and projects.  Any one who’s spent any time in HR or selling into HR understands how challenging it can be to prove the ROI for people initiatives to gain the support of the CEO and other executives.  I think that there may be an argument to be made that HR is held to a different standard in this regard than other functional areas within organizations, but that discussion is going to have to wait for another day.  There’s a lot of reasons that proving ROI in HR is challenging.  Here are a few of the big ones.
1.  Isolating and measuring the impact of a single variable in human systems is really hard.  People are really complex animals and we almost never change one thing at a time.  When we go on a diet, we may eat differently, exercise more, think about different things, etc.  If we lose weight, it’s hard to know what had the biggest effect.  It could be that your ate was what did the trick, but you really can’t say because you changed multiple variables.  In the work environment, it is equally as challenging if not more so to isolate what really makes the difference in human behavior change.
2.  ROI is an art, not a science.  For any given initiative, there might be a dozen different ways you could prove a return on the investment.  Consider an engagement survey.  Employee engagement can be linked to customer service, absenteeism, productivity, retention, innovation, etc.  The trick is choosing the outcome that matters to the people who have to say yes within your organization.  I have built eloquent, even brilliant, ROI analyses in my career that have failed miserably to secure buy in because the CEO who needed to say yes to the project didn’t care about the particular outcomes I chose as most important.  When I worked in the call center world, every ROI ultimately came back to employee retention and productivity.  In other places, the same project instead was supported by the “happy employees=happy customers” analysis.  It all depends on your audience.  It doesn’t matter what you think is most important, it’s what they think is most important that will get you the buy in.  
3.  If your executives have mentally dismissed HR or they don’t care about people, the best ROI in the world isn’t going to fix that.  I can build you a dozen different ROI’s for investing in improving employee engagement.  But, if you don’t grasp the idea that treating people better will make them want to work harder for you, it’s probably not going to happen regardless of ROI.  On the other hand, if your executives already embrace employee engagement, don’t talk them out of it by beating them over the head with numbers.  Give them as much as they need, and then focus on delivering some killer, measurable results. 
These are a just a few thoughts on the subject.  If you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear from you and learn from your experiences.  I’m looking forward to chatting more about it tomorrow with you and the guys from DriveThruHR.  
New Year, New Look
New Year, New Look 150 150 Jason Lauritsen
I’ve given my blog a face lift.  Nothing major, just needed to make some tweaks so that it felt more like me. I’ve also dropped “Practicing HR” from the title.  That title seemed like a great idea when I originally created the blog, but it never quite fit.  Why the changes?  That bears a little explanation.  

One thing that has always been amazing to me is how easy it is to help others through your expertise, but how challenging it can be to use the same expertise on yourself.  As a sales recruiter, I was continually shocked by how inept successful, professional sales people were at selling themselves when it came time to look for another job.  Give them a product to sell, they can go make it happen.  But when it came time to sell themselves, they lost their mojo.

In the same way, I advise others on personal branding and communicating their value clearly, but haven’t been doing a great job applying that same advice to my own personal brand.  This isn’t to say that my brand was a complete mess, but it clearly needed some work. 
If you are reading this post, you probably know that I have a multi-faceted career.  I am an HR executive leader for a Midwestern bank where I do the good work of corporate human resources with my team on a daily basis.  I’m also a blogger (but you clearly already knew that).  I am a professional speaker and writer with my partner in crime Joe Gerstandt over at  And, I am an advocate and crusader for the transformation of human resources as a profession (note as an example of this work).  All of these pursuits share something in common: me and my passion for understanding and unleashing talent to transform people and organizations.  I do a lot of stuff, but it’s still the same guy pursuing the same purpose.  
So, what caused me to realize that I needed to do some work on my brand?  First, I met and became friends with Jason Seiden.  For those of you who don’t know him, he does a lot of great work helping people live better stories.  He is a coach and an entrepreneur.  He does a lot of stuff including having written a couple of great books (which I have read and encourage you do the same).  Jason is awesome and he has a knack for asking the questions that matter.  At one point this year, I was sitting with Jason in a hotel bar in Chicago having a drink and he asked me a simple question, “What do you stand for?”  I game him an answer.  He looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you actually believe that is b*llsh*t?”  He was absolutely right.  I didn’t really know the answer.  How could it be that I wasn’t clear on what I stood for?  So, I started working on getting clear.
Later in the year, I was introduced to Carol Ross.  In our introductory phone conversation, Carol and I got to talking about social media and LinkedIn.  We also somehow ended up talking about the power of storytelling.    Ultimately, Carol told me about a process that she and a colleague had developed to help people create a compelling LinkedIn profile.  I was interested to hear about the process, but didn’t think I personally needed it.  But when I gave it a deeper look, I decided I needed to give it a shot.  It ended up being about an 8-10 hour investment of time over several weeks, but by the end of the process, I felt like I could finally tell a story both in my new LinkedIn profile, but also just in general about what I stand for and what I am here to do.  (If you are so inclined, I’d love your feedback on my new profile.  If you like the end product, I encourage you to buy the kit from Carol’s website here–it’s worth every penny.).
Carol’s process wasn’t just about my LinkedIn profile, it was really a way to define my brand in a way that I couldn’t before.  Once completed, it led me to make changes to my blog and elsewhere in my social media footprint.  
So, what did I learn through this process?  
  • Personal brand is about knowing and telling your story.  Sounds easy, it’s not.  But, it’s worth the time to get it right.
  • Even if you think you can write your own story, get some help.  It’s really hard to be both clear and concise when telling your own story.  Use tools and others to help you refine it.  
  • Naming my blog anything other than with my own name was a mistake.  People reference my posts by my name, so why not use that as a title?  
  • Getting your story clear is really rewarding and empowering.  
  • It’s great to know really smart people like Jason Seiden and Carol Ross who will challenge you to get better, to be better and to do better.  (Thank you to you both.).
Probably a lot more explanation than you wanted or needed.  My hope is that something in my journey might be helpful to you as well.
Happy New Year! 
My Christmas Wish
My Christmas Wish 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Over the weekend, as my wife and I were making dinner (actually she was making dinner and I was doing whatever else she told me to do), she made a comment about how sad it is that so many people seem to living miserable lives and don’t appear to think that they have any power to change their situations.  I’m not sure what prompted her to make this comment, but it led us on to a great discussion about how our mindset on life seems to be different than many people.  When we encounter an obstacle in our lives, we find a way through, over or around it.

Our discussion led us to wonder why we’d ended up this way.  Why is it that we don’t see our circumstances as permanent and always feel like we have a say in our future?  The conclusion that we came to is that it is a little bit genetics and a lot of the people who you encounter along the way that shape your growth.  Ultimately, we were talking about a state of mind in which you take responsibility for your own circumstances.

{On a side note, I don’t often talk about my family.  They are an amazing gift that I’ve been given.  They renew me daily.  This time of year, I am extraordinarily grateful to have an amazing and inspiring wife and three great kids.  We had family pictures taken this fall and I share one of them with you here as my quasi Christmas card to you today.}

My Christmas Wish

This conversation with my wife was a reminder of why I do the work I do each day, to help others find the courage to unleash their talents on the world.  My Christmas wish for everyone this year is that you find the strength to look at your life and take responsibility for where you find yourself today.  I am sure that you did some great things this year (got promoted, lost weight, had a baby, etc.) give yourself credit for those amazing accomplishments.  You did them.  Maybe not alone, but without you they couldn’t have happened.  Celebrate how awesome you were.

Next, think about what’s not working in your life.  Maybe you are in a job that you don’t like or in a relationship that isn’t working.  You have to own the fact that you are in this situation because you choose to be.  It’s on you.  You accepted your job when it was offered to you.  And you accept it again every day when you show up to do it.  No one is doing anything to hold you down or keep you in a bad situation.  You decide each day to stay there.  Own it.

The magic in accepting responsibility for your life is that it automatically opens up amazing possibilities for the future.  If you accept the fact that you are where you are because of your own doing, that means that you also have the power to move on to something greater.  It is up to you.  We all hold the keys to our own destiny.  Being able to use those keys is a matter of courage.  By first accepting that your life is your own doing, you open up a doorway to amazing opportunity in the future.

I wish all of you a very happy holidays and a new year full of possibilities!

SHRM isn’t the Problem, I am.
SHRM isn’t the Problem, I am. 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Let me first say that I can’t believe I’m about to write this post.  After all, I’m supposed to be the radical, status quo crushing HR leader who runs around in his spare time calling himself a Talent Anarchist.  If anyone should be chucking rocks at the establishment, it should be me. Instead, I find myself compelled to defend the institution.  Weird.

Over the past month or so, our beloved professional association, SHRM, has taken a beating around the blogosphere.  There have been several articles on TLNT (here, here, and here) regarding some snafu’s at the board level.  Mark and Laurie at hosted a series of posts from prominent HR bloggers who detail their recommendations for what SHRM should do in 2011 (some great ideas, a lot of criticism).  And then there were several of the folks at Fistful of Talent who, after having session proposals rejected by SHRM for the annual conference, have decided to host their own conference in Vegas the day before the SHRM conference kicks off.  It’s been a rough stretch in the online world for SHRM lately.

I’d like to pile on.  I was even tempted to do so.  But, I’m not sure that SHRM is the problem.  Let me first say that I’m not a fan of how the SHRM board has been handling their business lately and I’ve gone on record publicly saying as much.  That aside, as an HR executive, I’m thankful for SHRM daily.  Most members of my HR team are SHRM members.  Several either have PHR certifications or are pursuing them.  We use SHRM resources to get answers and perspectives to HR issues when we encounter things we haven’t seen before.  I appreciate their email newsletters that help me keep up to date on what’s happening at macro levels around key issues in HR.

I’m also thankful for the SHRM structure that has facilitated the creation of the two active and healthy local SHRM chapters we have in Omaha and Lincoln.  These chapters provide affordable, regular developmental and training opportunities for my staff and the other HR professionals in the area.  And, all of this is provided to us for less than a few hundred dollars a year.  A pretty great bargain in my opinion.

The discussion and the angst with SHRM is indicative of something much bigger.  As I’ve read through these online discussions, here are the thoughts that have come to mind for me.

  1. HR is at a turning point.  It’s become increasingly evident to everyone in the world of business that competitive advantage is ultimately about the people.  This is creating an incredible demand for smart, business savvy HR leaders who can step forward and take the lead–not just in the HR department, but in the organization. Problem is, most HR leaders either aren’t capable or aren’t competent to make this transition today.    This is creating some incredibly intense pressure on current HR leaders and they aren’t sure what to do.  
  2. Because of this friction being created between market demand for HR talent and the supply of strong, HR executive leadership, something’s got to give and we all want someone to blame.  So, we turn our attention to SHRM.  If only they would be more strategic, or more proactive, or more embracing of social media deviants, or [fill in the blank]. This is a load of crap.  SHRM isn’t the problem.  I am. We are. 
  3. HR will only rise to it’s potential and it’s calling when HR leaders decide that they must first change.  The problems in HR aren’t new.  HR was born out of administrative requirements forced upon organizations by regulation.  These early personnel departments created a dumping ground for all things administrative and touchy-feely.  Problem is, we never shook this stuff off.  HR leaders have to be where the buck stops.  They have to redefine and re-imagine what the corporate HR department does and how it creates value for the organization.  (While I’m on my pulpit, it’s not about changing the name of the department.  Human Resources is a perfect name for what we do.  If you think changing the name of your department will fix your problems, you are delusional).  
  4. Note to HR Leaders and Bloggers, SHRM does not exist to serve you.  SHRM will never be a place for those leading the revolution.  They, like any large organization, have to appeal to the middle of the bell curve.  Should they role model some progressive behavior like social media?  Probably.  But remember that a majority of our profession is just coming around to the idea that social media is here to stay.  If SHRM gets too progressive, they risk alienating the core of their membership.  Not a reason not to innovate, just something that I’m sure is tough to balance if you live on the inside of the organization.
  5. We need to be careful in the arguments we make.  Mark Stelzner specifically took SHRM to task for having two consecutive CEO’s who didn’t hold an HRCI certification of some sort.  Really?  Mark is a brilliant guy and I normally shout “Amen!” to most of his posts, but he and I diverge here.  Are we honestly going to stand up and say that we value certification and technical skill over the competence to get the job done? Or, that a CEO can’t advocate for a certification he doesn’t have?  The PHR certifications are designed for people who are practicing HR.  I don’t want an HR practitioner running SHRM, I want a CEO.  I don’t give a flip about certifications if you can get the job done.  Let’s find a CEO for SHRM who has vision, leadership, business savvy, integrity, courage, and a burning desire to advance the profession of HR.  And once this person is hired, I’m hoping they spend time running the organization, not studying for a certification.  

I guess at the end of all of this, I can summarize my thoughts like this.  I hope that SHRM continues to do what they do well and that they continue to strive for improvement.  But, SHRM isn’t going to transform the profession of HR.  That’s up to us.

Career Turbo Charger: Read. A lot.
Career Turbo Charger: Read. A lot. 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Yesterday, I shared my list of 8 Secrets to Career Success from a presentation I prepared for a young professinoals group at the bank.  At the end of the presentation, I offer one more recommendation, a “bonus secret” of sorts.  I call it the Turbo Charger because it will take everything you are doing in your career and make you better, faster, and stronger.  The Turbo Charger is reading.

As I spent time preparing this presentation, I thought a lot about my own learnings and mistakes.  I also thought about those people who I admired for what they had accomplished in their career.  The one thing that every one of those people has in common (to my knowledge at least) is that they are all avid readers.  Over the years, when I’ve met people who really impressed me, eventually our conversations nearly always turn to books.  So, there certainly seems to be something very significant about reading as it relates to success in your career.

Not only do I suggest reading as the turbo charger for success, I provide a list of books that I think form a tremendous foundation of information for anyone who’s itching for a breakthrough in their career.  Here’s the list:

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie 
  • Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott 
  • Boom! 7 Choices for Blowing the Doors off Business as Usual by K. and J. Freiberg 
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell 
  • Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner 
  • The Halo Effect: and the Eight Other Business Delusions the Deceive Managers by Phil Rosenzweig
Happy reading!
8 Secrets to Early Career Success
8 Secrets to Early Career Success 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

About a year ago, a young professionals group within my organization asked if I would come and speak to their group about the key lessons I’ve learned through my career to this point.  In particular, they were interested in the kind of tips or rules of thumb that a person early in their career could follow to accelerate their success.  This sounded like a fun request, so I sat down and made a list of the things I felt I had learned through trial and error in my career.  Ultimately, that list was far too long to share, so I narrowed it down to a list of eight things.  I called the list the “8 secrets to career success that they didn’t teach you in college.”

Apparently, these lessons resonate with young professionals because over the past year, I’ve been asked to present these secrets nearly 20 times to different groups both within my organization and in the local community.  It seems that something in this list is helpful to people, so I decided to share it with you here as well.

The 8 Secrets to Career Success (that they forgot to teach you in college)

  1. Invest in yourself.  Particularly early in your career, you should be greedy about your experiences and any opportunity to learn.  Every thing you learn or are exposed to early in your career builds part of the foundation that helps you perform in your current and future jobs.  So, put down the Xbox controller and volunteer for a big project at work (or read a business book).  
  2. Get self-aware.  Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, passions and frustrations is critical to being able to build a great career.  This awareness provides the framework to be a leader.  It also empowers you to make intentional career decisions to find work that you love.  Use assessments like Myers Briggs, Strengthsfinder, Keirsey Temperament and to get objective feedback.  Also, for the bold, send out an email request to those who know you best, asking them to give you feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.  Great exercise to do for anyone.  However, if you ask for feedback, don’t punish someone for giving it to you by arguing with anything they tell you.  Just say thank you, then give yourself the time to absorb the feedback they gave you.  Chances are, it’s more true than you think.
  3. Have a plan.  When most of us take the time to think about it, we spend more energy planning our vacations or even our weekends than we do our careers.  And yet, we spend the majority of our days and our lives working.  It’s critical to sit down and give some serious thought to what kind of job you want in the future and how you are going to get there.  The simple act of making these decisions makes it more likely that you will succeed in making them happen.  
  4. Find some guts.  Those who get ahead the fastest take the most risks.  There’s no way around this.  There isn’t a safe way to the top.  For young professionals, even having a thought out opinion on key business issues can be courageous if you are asked to share it by leaders within your organization.  The key here is to step into situations professionally that feel like a stretch and where you feel like you might not be up to it.  That’s where your breakthroughs will happen.
  5. Deliver the goods.  Low performers don’t get promoted.  Even if your boss is a moron, you hate your coworkers, you work is boring, and you don’t have the resources you need to get the job done.  Get it done anyways.  The most successful people find a way to make things happen in spite of their situation.
  6. Look the part.  It’s easy to say that your appearance shouldn’t matter when it comes to getting ahead in your career, particularly if you perform, but it does.  Early in my career, I was in a phone sales job where I was crushing the numbers.  We never saw a client face to face, but were required to wear ties to work.  I thought that was stupid, so I intentionally dressed down out of protest.  Since I produced big numbers, I didn’t think it should matter.  One day, the owner of the company took me to lunch and told me that he’d like to promote me to management, but he couldn’t because I dressed like a slob.  To be a manager, I had to look like management material.  Learned an important lesson that day.  Appearance matters.  
  7. Build your network.  The better your network, the more valuable you are to your organization.  Your network is like your entourage, where you go, they go.  Having a broad, powerful network of connections with people helps make up for your weak spots.  If you don’t have a particular expertise, but you know someone who you can call and who will help you, the fact that you lack in that area won’t be an issue.  
  8. Lead in the community.  Leadership and management experience is hard to come by until you get promoted and some times you need it before you can get into the jobs where you will learn it.  The best way to close this gap is to find community organizations involved in causes you care about and volunteer for leadership roles at the organization.  There’s four benefits to doing this.  First, it feels good to volunteer and you are giving back.  Second, if you can learn to lead volunteers, you can easily lead people who are paid to follow you at work.  Third, volunteers are much more forgiving when you make mistakes as a leader and they will give you feedback.  Finally, by leading successfully in the community, you will build your network and increase your visibility within your community–both good for your career.
These are the eight secrets.  I’m not sure how secret they are, but they seem to have worked for me.  I’d love to hear your feedback on these.   If you want more information about any of them, leave me a comment or drop me a note and I’ll be happy to share more. 
Reality Check for Human Resources
Reality Check for Human Resources 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

This past week, we hosted an event called The HR Reinvention Experiment in Omaha.  It was a group of HR leaders from around the state of Nebraska who came together to talk about the current and future of HR.  The topics and discussions were very rich and I came away with a notebook of ideas for blog posts at the end of the day. 

One of the conversations that really stuck with me was one on why HR still seems to crave and grab onto any opportunity we have to enforce the law (employment law, safety, etc.).  The question was posed by Paul Hebert as he led one of the sessions, “Should HR be responsible for enforcing the law?”  His underlying point is that HR doesn’t necessarily need to be the cop, but could/should instead be more focused on educating managers on the law as it relates to managing and letting them be individually accountable for upholding the law.  His point is a really good one to wrestle with. 
But, we still seem to like to grab onto issues of law in HR.  My belief is that we do this because the “law” represents the one place were we feel we can grab power.  When it’s the law, we feel confident to say no and mean it.  That feels powerful.  It also pisses other people off and it’s a lot of what makes the rest of the world hate HR.  So, this discussion led into a bigger discussion about the nature of HR and why we haven’t made more progress within organizations being recognized as leaders–why are we still sitting around talking about being at “the table” after all of this time.  What’s gone wrong?
Through this discussion and my own experience in HR, I’ve come to some conclusions about why I think HR still sits on the outside looking in when it comes to the most important discussions happening within our organizations.  
  1. In HR , we have a crippling desire to be acknowledge and validated.  For whatever reason, we haven’t figured out that the merits of good work stand on their own.  As a profession, HR lacks self-confidence.  It seems that we keep running around yelling “Notice me, notice me” when we should be focusing on just getting things done.  Our desire to be “invited” to the executive table is our problem.  We need to stop worrying so much about being loved and valued by our organizations and more time making things happen that create value. 
  2. Great HR is invisible.  Zappos was discussed as an example.  Most people in our business hold Zappos up as the pinnacle of a great organization built on a great culture.  The only name we seem to hear is that of Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, but they are doing great HR at Zappos.  The fact that no one talks about HR at Zappos is a sign that they have some great HR going on.  If you are going to work in HR, you have to come to the realization that our work is about helping others be successful.  When we do that well, the organization is successful and they don’t even notice HR was there.  If you desire to be recognized for every good thing you do, go into sales or product development.  HR gets the most attention when it’s broken.  That’s just how it is. 
  3. Human Resources has a brand problem.  There is a lot of baggage that goes along with being labeled HR in most organizations.  The discussion on this topic quickly turned to the idea that we need to change our name to resolve this problem.  However, a crappy product with a different name is still a crappy product..  Think about Hyundai cars.  Ten years ago, Hyundai had a terrible reputation for making cheap, unreliable cars.  In the past decade, they re-engineered the product and thus, recreated their brand.  Today, they have a totally different and more positive brand.  In HR, if we want to fix our brand, we have to fix our product.  It’s not about a name.  It’s about a fundamental re-engineering of what we deliver to our organizations.   
  4. HR is in the influence business whether you like it or not.  Rather than trying to grab power by grabbing onto legal considerations that give us the ability to say yes or no, we need to permanently let go of the need for yes/no power.  Instead, we have to embrace that we can’t and don’t want to make anyone do anything.  Our objective should instead be to influence others to do the things that will help them to be most successful.  Influence works optimally when the person you are influencing makes the decision to do what’s right AND they look back thinking it was their own choice to do so.  Influence is tough work.  It’s much harder than being the traffic cop in your organization.  HR leaders` of the future will be masters of the tools of influence.  
This how I see HR.  I would welcome your thoughts and challenges to my thinking.  HR of the future must look very different than HR of today.  But, this transition first requires a major shift in how we think about, define, and then execute the role of Human Resources.  
How #HRevolution sparked an #HRReinvention
How #HRevolution sparked an #HRReinvention 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

This Thursday, October 28, something really cool is happening in Omaha, Nebraska.  Sixty or so corporate HR managers and executives are coming together to participate in an event called The HR Reinvention Experiment.  I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work on the planning committee for this event with some brilliant and passionate leaders here in Nebraska.  Our ambitious vision for this event is that we both start a movement among HR leaders in Nebraska to transform HR and to also serve as an example for at least one way that HR leaders in other communities might activate their own revolution.

But, I want to give some credit where credit is due.  The spark that led to the creation of this event was created at an event called HRevolution.  If you follow my blog or my work at Talent Anarchy, you have read about HRevolution before.  I was really lucky to not only attend HRevolution in May 2010, but was able to participate as a discussion leader.  The event was a blast.  It was energizing.  It was amazing networking.  I plan to be there when it happens again in 2011.

As I participated in HRevolution and upon further reflection about the experience afterwards, I realized something.  HRevolution is like a mixture of band camp for HR geeks and a support group for HR professionals who are either innovators or who are at the end of their patience with their own profession (or some combination of all or them).  It gives us a chance to connect, vent, brainstorm, and get charged up–all important things to do.

Another thing that struck me about HRevolution was the mix of attendees.  By my estimation, I would guess that of the 120 or so attendees at the event, 95% were at least semi-active on Twitter and other social media, over half were active bloggers, and probably a third of the attendees currently held a job where they do “in the trenches” HR (the rest were vendors, consultants, service providers, etc.).  There’s nothing wrong with this, but it does impact the dynamic and outcome of the event.  In fact, this combination of factors is certainly what made this such a high energy, fabulous group of people to hang out with.

The problem is that the group that gathers together for HRevolution isn’t representative of what HR really looks like today.  As I participated in this event and thought about the experience through the lens of “are we really evolving HR?” it seemed clear to me that much more action was needed.  Change in HR isn’t going to happen on Twitter or on a blog.  Change in HR is going to happen when day to day practicioners of the work begin believing and behaving differently.  Social media can help fuel that fire, but most HR folks and a vast majority of HR leaders are still living in an 1.0 world.  They aren’t on Twitter and they don’t read blogs.  And these 1.0 leaders have enormously greater influence on what happens in HR than any blogger in the world.  So, I left Chicago with the notion that the next step in the evolution process was to activate and engage the HR leaders on a local level.  It seemed to me that if we couldn’t get that group in the game, this was a fight that couldn’t be won.  The energy and ideas that form at HRevolution have to be carried back to our individual HR communities in order for them to really matter.

So, I came home to Nebraska from HRevolution with this idea and began ranting like a crazy person to anyone who would listen.  Well, that might be overstating it.  Frankly, I happen to have the great fortune of having a network here at home of really amazing HR leaders.  As I shared my experience at HRevolution with them and my sense that we needed to do something in our backyard, several of them said “let’s do it.”  And an event was born.

Based on the inspiration of HRevolution, we are hosting The HR Reinvention Experiment at a really cool and funky Art Center called the Hot Shops to capture a creative vibe.  Also inspired by HRevolution, we are bringing together some of the smartest people in our field to lead and challenge our thinking about the work and the future of HR.  Our format brings together some aspects of traditional and “un” conference.  There will be some formal keynote type content, but there will also be a lot of room for discussion around important topics.  We are also employing the talents of a Graphic Facilitator to capture the experience visually.  This will be a conference that isn’t highly infused with social media.  Our target audience of corporate HR leaders aren’t living a social media life, so change has to begin from where they are.  Those of us who are in social media will try to share the story as fully and colorfully as we can to make up for the lack of a twitter stream.

I’m not sure exactly what will come of this Thursday in Omaha.  What I am sure of is that something good will happen.  Much like HRevolution, by putting this many passionate people together in one place at one time, there’s no way that it can’t make a positive impact.  And if our small event in Nebraska starts a reinvention of HR in Nebraska, we hope that, like HRevolution, we might inspire someone else to start a reinvention of their own.