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Jason

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 www.voiceofHR.com 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 Leadergrade.com 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.

HR Change Agents Beware
HR Change Agents Beware 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Human resources can be a confusing place to work, particularly if you are trying to make things happen within your organization.  On the one hand, you are the employee advocate.  Employees need to know you and trust that you will help them through issues, obstacles or problems when they happen.  In addition, you are an advisor to the management in regards to their employees: who to hire, how to fire, and what to do in between.  In both of these relationships, it’s either implied or explicit that you be liked by both of these groups of people.  After all, who wants to work with someone they don’t like or trust?


But, as HR professionals, we are being increasingly called to step up to standards like being more strategic and proactive.  We are called to be change agents within our organization.  If managers suck, we are expected to change how they manage.  If our pay system is out of whack, we are expected to bring it back in line.  If the company needs to cut labor expenses, we get to figure out how.  All important work that we enjoy doing.  But, there’s one problem.  People hate change.  And, through association, they aren’t too fond of the change agent either.  

So, here’s the question: can you be well-liked AND be an effective change agent at the same time?  If so, how?  
#HRevolution x #Recruitfest + Monster = The Death of the Traditional Conference
#HRevolution x #Recruitfest + Monster = The Death of the Traditional Conference 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Throughout my corporate HR career, I’ve always liked to attend conferences. Generally, I find them to be a good way to pick up new ideas and make new industry contacts. I genuinely like conferences.

But, there are a few issues I’ve always had with conferences. The first issue is cost. Most conferences cost so darn much that I can’t seem to justify putting that kind of money into my budget. When I can find money in the budget, it gets put aside to send the members of my HR staff so that they can have that developmental experience. Even this has become increasingly difficult to do, particularly as the economic conditions dictate that we squeeze our budgets as tight as we can.

My second issue is that most conference agendas primarily involved being talked at. They don’t make much room to learn from and connect to other conference attendees. Usually, whoever I sat next to at these conferences ended up dictating who I networked with. And the networking was generally limited to quick comments between sessions. (Confession: I am one of those people who feel compulsively driven to attend every possible session during a conference because I feel like I owe it to my employer to gather as much info as possible–translated, I don’t blow off sessions to hang out.)

Both of these issues have been major frustrations for me and I suspect for many others. And these seem to be problems that no one cared to address until recently. For those of you who haven’t been following what’s been going on in this space, there have been a couple of recent events that have dropped a grenade into traditional thinking about conferences. I know about these events because I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved in both of them and to witness first-hand this revolution in the making.

The first event is Recruitfest which just wrapped its third annual iteration this past week. The event was the brandchild of Jason Davis and the team at www.recruitingblogs.com (now www.recruiter.com) . In its first two years, it paved the way for what many began to call the “unconference.” The label “unconference” has come to mean many things, but at the end of the day it really represents a conference format that is flexible and highly participant-driven (i.e. those attending are actively engaged with the session leaders/speakers through commentary and questions). While I was not in attendance at the first two Recruitfest events, I’m told that they were highly successful events packed full of energy, ideas and optimism. Another thing that differentiated this conference was that while it was still an in-person event, it was very low cost compared to other conferences in the industry.

Recruitfest was cool and it was working. But, then came 2010. Even a great event like this one couldn’t escape the grasp of a down economy. It seemed that even this low cost event was proving too expensive for most people. So, they did the unthinkable. They decided to broadcast their event LIVE online for FREE. People couldn’t get to the conference, so they brought the conference to the people. And it worked. Turns out that nearly 4,000 people participated in the conference over the internet all across the country and all over the world. It remains to be seen what happens next, but this event should have sent a shock wave through the conference industry.

The second event that I believe has broken the model is HRevolution. This event has happened twice, once in the fall of 2009 and again in May of 2010. I wasn’t at the first one, but was in attendance at the second. As the legend goes, this event came into existence when two HR professionals, Trish McFarlane and Ben Eubanks were venting over twitter about their frustration that they couldn’t attend any conferences because of the costs. Through the sharing of their mutual frustrations, they ultimately decided that they could create their own conference and HRevolution was born.

What made HRevolution important is a few things. First, this “unconference” event was created, planned and hosted both times by a group of passionate and committed volunteers. This group of visionaries didn’t create the event to make a buck or to promote any agenda. They simply wanted to create a conference learning/networking experience that was engaging and low cost (it cost $100 to register for the event). The other amazing thing about this event was that it was solely promoted through social media channels and word of mouth. It sold out and had a waiting list of attendees. And it was an awesome, energizing, and engaging experience for all of us who were lucky enough to be there.

What’s most interesting about both of these untraditional, model-shattering, mind-bending new approaches to conferences is that they were both title-sponsored by Monster.com. Think about that for a moment. This industry giant is investing in these cool alternative conference events. If you haven’t been paying attention lately, Monster has become way more than a job board. They are doing a bunch of amazing things in the HR space, not the least of which is encouraging the kind of creativity and innovation behind events like Recruitfest and HRevolution.

So, what does this all mean? 

  • Conferences don’t have to be expensive and there are an increasing number of alternatives out there to the traditional expensive conferences. 
  • Conferences can be both informative and interactive. 
  • Social media and the web has changed and decreased enormously the value of the traditional conference model. 
  • Monster has taken on a new and critical importance in our field. They are actively fueling a whole new generation of innovators and leaders within our industry. 

None of this means that the traditional conferences need to go away. Much to the contrary, we need to be coming together to connect and learn as an HR community now more than ever. What it means is that the organizers of traditional conferences need to shift their thinking and evolve their events. At least they should if they truly care about the interests of the customers who attend their conferences. There’s a new game in town with new rules. And this is all great news if you are a member of the HR world.

Pick a Target
Pick a Target 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

My youngest son Colton turned one year old a few weeks ago.  As with most one year olds, he’s learning to walk.  It’s an amazing process to behold as a parent.  It’s also a truly magnificent example of how learning and achievement works.

As probably most parents do, the “training” we’ve been doing to teach Colton to walk involves my wife and I sitting on the floor about 6-8 feet apart and having him walk back and forth between  us.  He has no problem walking that distance when we are on the floor with him.  When he starts his trek back and forth, I noticed that he sets his eyes on whoever he’s walking to and he takes off without abandon to make it to his target.    We then reward him with hugs and kisses.  And we repeat the process.

What I noticed a few days ago, is that while he seems to have no problem making it 6-8 feet back and forth between mommy and daddy, he doesn’t seem to walk more than a couple steps any other time of the day.  He’s hesitant when he tries to walk on his own and he usually ends up dropping to his knees and crawling to his next destination.  As I watched this, it occurred to me that the difference between the two situations was that when he’s walking between the two of us, he’s setting a target and walking to his target.  The rest of the time, he may be just trying to walk without too much thought about where he’s going.  And his results are quite different.

It struck me that this was a stark and powerful example of the importance of having purpose and goals in our lives.  It remains true for me to this day that when I have a target, my progress towards that target is intentional and steady.  When I lack a target, I flounder.  Having a purpose or goal or target or objective can make all the difference.

Illusion of Reality
Illusion of Reality 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

I’m a fan of reality TV.  Think of me what you will, but I find many reality shows entertaining and fascinating for a variety of reasons.  So, I tend to sample a lot of different shows to see what they are about.  Recently I stumbled upon “The Bachelor Pad” on ABC.  The show is the sort of sordid stuff that makes reality TV interesting to peek in on.

This particular show is a spin off of the popular show “The Bachelor” and, as you would expect, an element of this show is matchmaking and romance.  In the particular episode I watched, one of the female contestants had won a dream date on which she could bring one of the male contestants of her choice.  After selecting her partner, they are whisked off to experience a zip line course and helicoptor ride over some  beautiful countryside.  This was followed by a private candlelit gourmet dinner at an exotic resort.  As this date is unfolding, each of the two people on the date are commenting on camera about how amazing it was to be with this other person and how it just feels great to be with them.  They both become convinced that they have an “real connection” to one another.  

I’m always struck on these shows by how easily people become influenced by their conditions.  A tenant of designing a great reality TV show is to isolate a group of people in a controlled situation or environment so that they will behave in dramatic or unpredictable ways.  They begin to accept their surroundings as “normal” versus recognizing them as part of a game, which leads them to make interesting decisions.  As in the example above, do these two people really have a connection or are they just overcome by the romantic situation they’ve been place in?  Might they just be caught up in a manufactured for TV moment?  It’s for this reason, that I think that most romances that start on these shows break up so quickly after the show ends. Turns out real-life romance requires work and isn’t only about yachts and helicopter rides.  Regardless of how fast these relationships break up, these couples are always convinced that their relationship is real and that it will sustain when they return to real life.

Thinking about this made me wonder how much of an effect our workplaces have on the judgement and decisions of the employees who work in them.  Several questions came to mind for me:

  • As in reality shows, to what extent are we creating conditions that cause people to make decisions in ways they wouldn’t outside of work?
  • Do our work environment lead to artificial relationships that won’t sustain beyond the job? 
  • How can we design our workplaces so that the actions and interactions are more authentic to who each person truly is and not who they become when stepping into the work environment?
  • Do I watch too much reality TV?
Not sure I know the answer to these questions, but I think that they are interesting to think about if we are interested in pursuing high performance, innovative workplaces.
Jason Lauritsen