The HR Expert-Generalist

AdobeStock_91768118In one of my regular recent blog reads, The HR Capitalist Kris Dunn, recently wrote about how Warren Buffet’s most trusted business partner, Charlie Munger, attributes his success managing Berkshire Hatheway’s stock market portfolio by “knowing a little about everything.”  Basically, being a generalist.

Here is the article about Munger from The Hustle.

Dunn, being an HR Blogger, of course related Munger’s successful philosophy to the HR Generalist function compared to the HR Specialist.

Dunn’s definition of an HR Generalist is the following:

HR Generalist – a HR pro at any level who is in charge of a client group of employees -meaning they provide HR services to a location, a business unit, a functional area or geographical area.  As part of this role, they provide counsel, service and insight across the HR Body of Knowledge – comp, benefits, recruiting, employee relations, legal, etc.

An HR Generalist can exist at the individual contributor level or manage people, as well as exist at the HR Rep, HR Manager, Director, VP and CHRO level.

As Dunn noted in his post, many attribute HR Generalists as more of an entry level HR position. It’s not. As he defines it, it exists at the individual contributor, Manager, Director, VP, and CHRO levels.

Back to Munger, his work-ethic theory is known as expert-generalism which is the opposite of the Gladwell’s famous 10,000 hour rule.  What Munger does is to focus “on studying widely and deeply in many fields, including microeconomics, psychology, law, mathematics, biology, and engineering, and applied insights from them to investing.” rather than just focusing all of his time on investment theory.

The originator of the term expert-generalist, Orit Gandish, chairman of Bain & Co defines the term the following way:

Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics., etc. He or she can then, without necessarily even realizing it, but often by design:

  1. Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas.
  2. Drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking.

In addition,

Research shows EG’s have:

Hmm, sounds like the world could use a few more EG’s.

I enjoyed both Dunn’s and The Hustle’s articles because I’ve had the most success in my career as a Generalist. First as an award-winning General Manager for Macy’s (The Bon Marche’) and as an HR Director and HR Consultant.

As a matter of fact, at Macy’s (The Bon Marche’), I regularly told my Department Managers that I expect them to be the experts/specialists in their area of responsibility because I joked told them that there was no way that I could know as much as they did – I was the General Manager.

I literally said the same thing as Munger,  “I have to know a little bit about everything” in the store. This meant knowing a little (but enough) about each department’s assortment, staffing, employee capabilities, and merchandising; customer service performance; current and upcoming sales events; sales and profit performance; local and national economy; store operations; capital improvements; customer, community, regional & corporate relationships; etc.

The philosophy worked (*self promotion alert!*) because my store earned the Store of the Year award twice during my 13 year stint as a General Manager.

Dang! I just remembered how hard (but rewarding) it was to be a General Manager!

I’ve also always proudly worn the moniker “HR Generalist” when I transitioned from running a Department Store to doing HR. But I often felt a little uncertainty reading articles and blogs touting how the future of HR is specialization.

After researching and writing this post, I now officially call myself an HR Expert-Generalist. I like it.

Dunn closed his post with the following wise and comforting words:

If you’re an HR generalist at any level, be proud.  You’re a trusted adviser that understands that the world is gray, and you also know how important you are in helping those in your client group navigate all the complexity and chaos that comes with managing a workforce.

Simply put, HR Generalists are the most important cog in the HR world.  Be proud, because you are irreplaceable.  

As always, it’s nice having a little confirmation bias every once and a while!

Oh, and just I added “HR Expert-Generalist” to my LinkedIn profile headline.

My Interview with Engel Jones at 12 Minute Convos

12min-convo-ArtBack in December, I was invited to be interviewed by Engel Jones of 12 Minute Convos podcast fame.  I enthusiastically agreed and sat for an interview with him.  I was impressed with his professionalism, his enthusiastic attitude, and his dedication to podcasting.

He told me after the interview that it would be published sometime mid January and here is the link to it on his website.  I hope you enjoy it.

One of the things I learned from the interview with him are the “under the hood” steps needed to take to conduct interviews – something I’ve been thinking about doing here at HHHR and hope to do in the near future.

Step Two of Developing an HR Strategic Plan: Conduct an Internal and External Environmental Scan

AdobeStock_92951733This week, I’m introducing the second step of developing an HR Strategic Plan. This is the step where both internal and external environmental scans must be conducted in order to identify and interpret the data that pertains to opportunities and threats in the organization’s business environment.

Being able to identify and understand these threats is essential in developing an effective strategic plan. The two types of scans are defined below:

The first is the internal scan which identifies internal organizational trends as well as the physical, financial, and human assets and determines whether these trends and assets are strengths or weaknesses.

Examples of what to examine in an internal scan include employee interaction with each other, employee interaction with management, manager interaction with each other, management interaction with shareholders/owners, access to resources, brand awareness, organizational structure, individual and core competencies, innovation capabilities, operational potential, etc.

The second is the external scan which identifies and analyzes the external environment in order to anticipate and identify trends, opportunities and threats to the organization.

I recommend three environments that should be scanned and analyzed.

  1. The organization’s industry environment. Examine the competitive structure of the organization’s industry. Take a good look at the competitive position of the organization as it relates to its top competitors. The industry’s history, life cycle stage, and dynamics must be carefully assessed including how globalization is affecting the competitive environment.
  2. The national environment. Examine the whether the organization’s national/local framework is capable of being competitive in the national and global environment.
  3. The broader socio-economic environment. Explore the macro-economic, social, government, legal, technological and global factors that may influence the organization’s competitive environment.

Understanding what we are scanning and gathering data on, next we’ll take a look on how go about collecting that data.

Internal Sources:

  • Annual Reports
  • Business Unit strategic plans
  • Marketing materials
  • Employee surveys
  • Staffing Plans
  • HR and training staff
  • Employee exit interviews
  • Conversations with leadership team
  • Org charts

External Sources:

As I alluded to earlier, the main purpose of the scans is to identify and evaluate the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

The first element to assessing the organization’s strengths and weaknesses are the competencies that are necessary for the organization to be successful in executing its strategy. The people of the organization are the critical link between the business strategy and the results.

There are specific competencies and behaviors that are needed to successfully implement a strategy within its environment. For example, significantly different competencies are needed for a cost strategy vs a service strategy.

The next element to consider when evaluating the strengths and weaknesses is to analyze the organization’s various management practices. Determine whether the management practices are logically related to each other and capable of producing the critical competencies needed to effectively implement the strategy.

A thorough HR Department assessment must also be conducted. Take a cold hard look at the organizational structure of the HR department and the skill levels of the staff. In addition, analyze and evaluate whether the right processes and systems are in place.

The HR Department needs to know how it will make a contribution to the organization’s business, have the right org structure, have the right systems and processes in place, understand the department’s strengths and weaknesses, how the department is perceived by leadership and employees, and have a plan in place to capitalize on staff strengths and address staff weaknesses.

Strategic HR is all about the relationship between HR leadership and the organization’s business unit leadership. It’s about delivering real business value to all functions of the organization. HR has to be thoroughly involved with all aspects of the business in order to fully understand and appreciate the opportunities and problems the organization and business units deal with every day.

To be taken seriously by the organization’s leadership, strategic HR professionals need to be great business professionals. They should have actual business leadership experience outside of HR, in my opinion. In addition, they should put themselves in positions where they regularly work with key influencers, identify opportunities and provide solutions to business problems, facilitate key meetings, be members of leadership teams, etc.

Introducing the Steps on How to Develop an HR Strategic Plan

AdobeStock_103199139The HR function in any organization has a great opportunity to connect to and add measurable value to the bottom line of the business. Developing an HR Strategic Plan is a difficult and complex undertaking but one that will be well worth the effort in establishing HR as an important and valuable function of the organization.

Since the ability of an organization to establish and maintain a competitive edge depends almost entirely on the quality of their workforce and the people management processes, being able to develop an effective HR Strategic Plan is crucial to the financial success of the organization.

There are six steps involved in developing an HR Strategic Plan that I’m listing below and will review much more in-depth in the following several weeks/months.

The six steps are:

  1. Determine and communicate a Vision, Mission Statement, and Value Statement for the HR function. These three things will assist the HR function in identifying and distinguishing itself to the organization’s leadership and employees.
  2. Conduct an external and internal environmental scan of the organization in order to identify opportunities and threats that might affect the organization in the future. Understanding how these opportunities and threats might affect the organization in the future is critical to creating an effective strategic plan.
  3. Establish and align HR strategies and goals in order to provide the direction that will guide the organization towards achieving its long term objectives.
  4. Develop action plans and assign accountabilities designed towards moving the planning process from the long term to the shorter term goals necessary to achieve the strategic goals.
  5. Execute the plan and monitor its progress in order to ensure that the plan stays on track. HR is responsible for developing, communicating and supporting the HR strategy implementation with the responsibility of actually implementing it residing with the line managers. Changes may be necessary with shifts in the business environment.
  6. Evaluate the plan’s results by measuring the success of the HR initiatives and identify things that worked or didn’t work. The evaluation establishes the foundation for additional HR strategic and business plans.

An organization’s HR strategy should never be separate from its overall business strategy. It should always be an integral part of all the organization’s strategies that require people to implement them, obviously. It requires HR’s thorough understanding of the organization’s business. With that understanding, HR programs and practices can be identified that will help the organization successfully execute its strategy.

The HR strategy must be externally aligned with the business plan in addition to being internally aligned for the HR programs and practices to support and complement one another. And in order for any HR strategy to be successful, HR must build relationships with, and gain the support of, the line managers who will ultimately be responsible for carrying out the HR practices and ensuring the success of the HR strategy.

That’s this week’s brief introduction of the steps on how to develop an HR strategic plan. In the coming weeks, I am excited to explore each of these steps much more in depth.

Why You Need to Create a Strategic Plan for Your HR Function

So why have an HR Strategic Plan?

In today’s highly competitive business environment, success is often determined by how well an organization and Human Resources can manage change.  Organizations have to constantly monitor their place in the external business environment as well as evaluate and improve their organizational capabilities, or intangible assets, in order to effectively compete in the marketplace.

The strategic planning process is the most effective way for organizations to identify and address all of the various external and internal forces that have an impact their business. This process moves the organization from their current place to their desired future.  And more importantly, brings value to all of the stakeholders of the organization.  

But what value is the strategic plan without the people within the organization being ready, willing, and able to execute the plan? None. The organization’s employees must understand and be fully engaged in and willing to follow the strategic plan in order for it to be of any value to the organization.

This is where HR comes in.  

HR’s value lies in being able to build and maintain the organizational foundation and infrastructure to help drive the necessary changes that will accomplish the organization’s strategic goals.  

Regrettably, HR is still thought by many business leaders as pretty much an administrative function that operates separately from the rest of the other functions in the organization.  Sadly, this reinforces the opinion that HR isn’t that important to the success of the organization. HR is also not typically held accountable for business results, as the other functions are, and because of this, HR considerations are typically ignored and viewed as a cost center rather than a profit line contributor.

There are some leaders, however, who recognize that an organization’s human capital is a key strategic resource for increasing organizational capability and achieving a competitive advantage over competitors.  Being able to attract, retain, motivate, and develop the best employees in the organization’s industry are critical to its success in the marketplace.

The ability of an organization to execute it’s strategic plan rests solely on its effective utilization of its human capital.  

Smart business leaders are recognizing this and have turned to HR to help them positively impact their business results.

In order for HR to have a positive impact on an organization’s business results, we must focus on and engage in both the long-term strategic and the short-term administrative and operational planning.

There are three roles that HR has in an organization that need defining before we go any further:

First is the administrative role. This is the traditional role most people think about HR. It’s things like regulatory compliance, policy & procedure interpretation, record keeping, HRIS management, benefits administration, onboarding & offboarding activities, etc.

Second is the operational role. These are the HR activities that relate to the day to day operations of the organization.  These are the tactical activities such as recruiting, filling job reqs, handling employee relations issues, employee communication, compensation program management, etc.

These two HR roles aren’t the high-level exciting things many of us in the upper levels of HR like doing any more but they are absolutely essential to the organization and the reputation of the HR function. HR must be 100% technically competent in the administrative and operational roles and execute their HR services flawlessly.  

HR’s reputation is built on the employee’s perceptions of competence and has to be flawless in these two roles in order for to build a solid foundation of building on the higher level strategic role.

Third is the strategic role. This is the role where HR can really make a difference.  It requires HR participating in the strategic planning process, improving the organization’s performance, ensuring effective leadership, redesigning organizational processes, and ensuring financial accountability for HR results.  

Business literacy is required in order for HR to be effective in the strategic role. HR must know and fully understand who the organization’s stakeholders are as well as the organization’s markets, products, customers, and competitors.  Fully understanding financial terminology, speaking the language of business, and knowing how to read and interpret the organization’s financial statements – income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, etc.- are absolutely necessary.

I believe that the most effective strategic HR professionals are those who have real-life business experience outside of HR. (Self-promotion alert) I’m, of course, biased having successfully led and operated, with full P&L accountability, an award winning full line Macys department store for 13 years.

By having a solid business background and experience, HR can develop effective value-added strategies of staffing, performance management, total rewards, employee relations, and employee development. This puts the organization’s employees in the best possible position to execute it’s strategic plan and contribute to its financial success in the marketplace.

Strategic HR is my favorite topic and the role I enjoy most as an HR professional. I’ve touched on it a bit in my Metrics and Analytics series but I’ve been focusing on writing/podcasting mostly on the operational side of HR.  I had to build a foundation first, you know!

Now I can start exploring more strategic HR topics here at HHHR!  

Next week, I’m going to continue with strategic HR and explain exactly what a strategic plan is.  

The Five Steps of Analytics

Second Entry in the Metrics and Analytics Series

Next in my series of metrics and analytics, I feel its important to discuss some more of the foundational elements, or the “first steps” as Jac Fitz-Enz calls it in Chapter 2 of his book, The New HR Analytics, in order to better understand the topic.

One of the first things to remember is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend time on metrics that are of very little value to a business. Value comes from the knowledge of things that actually matter and what matters most is a business question, not an HR question. Those of us in Human Resources have to decide what actually does matter to the business and for what purpose.

To help decide what matters, Fitz-Enz introduces five steps of analytics which I will review here:

Step 1 – Recording the work (hiring, paying, training, supporting, and retaining). This is the most basic of HR metrics and were we measure how efficient our organization’s processes are and how we can improve them. This step indirectly creates value for the organization by saving money and/or time, improving production capacity, or improving customer service by coming up with better procedures.

Step 2 – Relating to the organization’s goals (quality, innovation, productivity, service). These four elements, known as QIPS, cover all of the basic goals of most organizations. Goals related to these elements are set by the senior leaders who regularly review the organization’s results as compared to the organization’s goals.

It is important to align the results of our employee’s work to these goals which are related to QIPS. It shows the value of each employee’s work and how it aligns to the organization’s goals.

Step 3 – Comparing results to other organizations (benchmarking). This step compares the organization’s results to those of other comparable organizations. Some examples are comparing the turnover rate between branch stores in a large department store chain, or comparing sales results with organizations within your organization’s industry.

Of course, the more detailed data available from that comparable organization or group, the better the value of the benchmarking as there can be a great deal of variance between the different branch stores or other companies within your industry.

Step 4 – Understanding past behavior and outcome (descriptive analytics). This step is where the actual analysis begins to happen. This is where we start to look for and describe relationships among the data. It doesn’t, however, give meaning to any patterns. We start to see trends from the past but it’s important to remember that its very risky to accurately make predictions about the future from these trends as the marketplace is always volatile and rapidly changing.

Step 5 – Predicting future likelihoods (prescriptive analytics) This step compares what happened in the past to what will probably happen in the future. This is predictive analytics. This is were we start to see meaning to the patterns we see in the descriptive analytics described above. Some examples are when banks predict credit worthiness and insurers predict patterns of accident rates. HR can apply prescriptive analytics to decisions on things like the expected return on hiring, training, and planning of human capital.

As you probably already guessed, these five steps increase in value going up from Step 1 to Step 5. Step 1 is where organizations typically start by collecting basic data like cost, time, and quantity. Step 2 is an easy next step where we simply relate that basic data collected in Step 1 to the organization’s goals. Step 3 is where we compare the data from Step 1 to a comparative organization or group to see how we stack up.

Steps 1 through 3 deal with what are known as metrics as I defined here last week:

…metrics are informational and focus on tracking and counting past data. Metrics look at tangible data that are easy to measure and usually of lower value. Metrics tell us what happened.

Steps 4 and 5 are where the actual analytics begins to occur. I defined analytics here:

Analytics, on the other hand, are strategic and look at both past and present data using mostly intangible data that are difficult to measure and of higher value. Analytics are very helpful with gaining important insights and predictions. Analytics tell us why it happened.

In order to be able to negotiate resources for your HR department’s programs and projects, you need to know and be able to explain why, what, and how your department contributes value to your organization. You need to be able to defend and explain the value that you produce to the organization in order for them to justify the funding you want and need. If you can explain the value by using the language of the business, metrics and analytics, you will have a much better chance of earning the funding and/or keeping your programs and projects.

That’s smart business and HR must learn to think this way. That’s why I love Jac Fitz-Enz’ books and that’s why I’m working on this Metrics and Analytics Series. HR needs to fully embrace metrics and analytics and learn how to comfortably speak the language of business. That’s the only way we will be taken seriously by senior leadership and have a positive impact on the organization’s financial and business objectives.

A simple and common example would be to look at the quality of a hire measurement once we fully understand the cost per hire and time to fill data. The question is, however, how do we measure the quality of a hire?

Another great example is with training programs and how relevant is training to an organization? Are the trainees doing a better job because of the training they received? How do we measure this?

We have to be able to figure out how measure these things because putting value on work without any supporting data is ineffective and dangerous. Training programs are often the first programs to be cut when there is an economic downturn because there was no data supporting their value to the organization.

That concludes this week’s entry in the series. As I continue this series I will explore the methods measuring things such as quality of hire, quality of training, and many more that are important and relevant to HR.

Introducing the HR Metrics and Analytics Series

First Entry in the Metrics and Analytics Series

Notepad with hr analytics on a wooden backgroundI’m a big proponent of the importance of HR metrics and analytics. In order for HR to be taken seriously in the business world, we have to be able to speak the language of the business. We need to translate what we do in HR into metrics and analytics that can be presented to and understood by the senior leadership of our organizations.

Business uses numbers to explain itself and we need to use numbers to have leadership understand how HR can positively impact the business. By analyzing the data we gather and putting it to use by helping senior leadership make important strategic decisions based on that information makes HR a critical business function.

We want to be taken seriously by the leadership in our organizations and the only way to do so is to speak the language of business whenever we are communicating professionally with them. To be a true strategic partner, we need to provide them with information and data that helps them see the strategic value in our role as an HR leader.

So with that, I’m starting a series of blog posts and podcasts focusing on the importance of HR metrics and analytics. I will focus on one or two topics per post/podcast and explain how they are calculated, why they are important, and how they can be used in analyzing those numbers to benefit the business of the organization.

The goal in this series is to help us better understand the different metrics and analytics and how to apply them in the real world.

I will explore the metrics and analytics that I have effectively used and some that I see value in and would like to employ in the future.

Jac Fitz-Enz has been writing books about HR metrics and analytics for many years and I strongly recommend them for anybody who wants to dig deep into this important subject. Much of the content for series will be taken from the Fitz-Enz books as I’ve gained most my knowledge from them. I’m re-reading and studying them more closely for the purpose of this series.

My goal is to explore the many facets of HR metrics and analytics and share my knowledge, experience, and opinions. Today’s post is to set the stage for future posts.

First let’s define the types of data that will be used. There are three types of data – structural, relational, and human. Structural data tells us what assets we own. Relational data tells us what our customers and other stakeholders need or want from us, and human data shows us what our only active assets are doing to drive the organization towards its objectives.

Understanding how these three types of data relate to each other and how they support and drive each other will help us make better strategic business decisions about the future. I will cover this as we move though the series.

Second, I want to define metrics and analytics. Many in HR are confused by the terms and often use them interchangeably. They shouldn’t because there is a distinct difference.

As Fitz-Enz says, metrics are the language of organizational management that HR needs to be able to speak in order to make an impression on senior management. Analytics are the communication tool that brings together data from many different sources to establish a cohesive, actionable picture of current conditions and likely futures.

To put it another way, metrics are informational and focus on tracking and counting past data. Metrics look at tangible data that are easy to measure and usually of lower value. Metrics tell us what happened.

Analytics, on the other hand, are strategic and look at both past and present data using mostly intangible data that are difficult to measure and of higher value. Analytics are very helpful with gaining important insights and predictions. Analytics tell us why it happened.

Here are some examples of the difference from the Workforce Dynamics blog:

Talent Metrics (HR): How many top sales reps left last quarter?
Talent Analytics (Business): Why do my top performing employees keep leaving?

Talent Metrics (HR): What is the average compensation for engineers across the organization?
Talent Analytics (Business): Why are our top software engineers dissatisfied even after we’ve given everyone a department-wide raise?

Talent Metrics (HR): Who is next in line to become our CEO?
Talent Analytics (Business): Will the CEO candidate align or conflict with the rest of the executive team?

So now that we understand the three different types of data and the difference between metrics and analytics, we can focus on how to apply this information to strategic business decisions as I progress through this series.

I’m very excited to start this series and I will publish posts & podcasts often as it is one of my favorite HR topics. If you need me to clarify something or want me to discuss a particular topic related to metrics or analytics please comment below.

Perfection vs. Excellence

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I once had a boss who was a proud perfectionist. He was such a perfectionist that he had a very difficult time making decisions because everything had to be perfect before he could. Of course nothing is ever perfect so it often took a very long time, if ever, for him to decide.

Now, I’m the kind of guy who likes to get things done then move on to the next project. I’m not a perfectionist. If its good enough, I make a decision and move on.
When you work for a perfectionist, unless you are one yourself, it can be very challenging. They will always pick apart and criticize your work no matter how good it is. They look for the one or two flaws, no matter now minor. They will take forever to make a decision. It once took over a year for this boss to finally approve a project I had worked very hard on. By the time he finally gave me the go-ahead, I was very demoralized and frustrated. This became a common occurrence and eventually, I slowed down my production because my work seemed to disappear on his desk or in his inbox. Ironically, I was eventually criticized for slowing down. Lesson learned! Never slow down your work. Keep producing no matter what.

Our performance under this boss was mediocre at best. His team was more worried about making everything perfect rather than focusing on getting the work done and moving on. It was a very risk averse and toxic work environment. It was unsafe to admit you made a mistake, our morale was low and we dreaded coming to work.

In contrast, I had another boss who was clearly focused on excellence. He was happy with projects that were good enough and as a result his team’s performance was excellent. I thrived working for him. This boss trusted us to get the work done to achieve the goals of the company. He didn’t need to sit on things for months before making a decision. He was quick to make a decision and move on to the next. As a result, his team was one of the best in the company. We won more performance awards than any other team during his tenure. It was fun and exciting and we were all very motivated and enthusiastic about our work.

I ran across this list recently, contrasting excellence and perfection.

  • Perfection is being right. Excellence is being willing to be wrong.
  • Perfection is fear. Excellence is taking a risk.
  • Perfection is anger and frustration. Excellence is powerful.
  • Perfection is control. Excellence is spontaneous.
  • Perfection is judgment. Excellence is accepting.
  • Perfection is taking. Excellence is giving.
  • Perfection is doubt. Excellence is confidence.
  • Perfection is pressure. Excellence is natural.
  • Perfection is the destination. Excellence is the journey

What a great message! As an HR pro, a manager, or a supervisor, it is so important to make sure you’re demanding excellence, not perfection. The same goes for what you should expect from yourself in your career and personal life. Trying to be perfect causes way too much stress.

Even the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we will catch excellence” which mirrors the last bullet point in the list. He understood the difference between the two and knew that perfection was the enemy of excellence.

In order to perform at the highest levels, expect excellence from your direct reports, the people you work with, and yourself. Expecting perfection and trying to make your work and life perfect will only slow you down, keep you constantly behind, stressed and frustrated. So relax and focus on producing excellence instead of perfection. It will make your work and personal life far more productive, effective and pleasant.

Mile High SHRM Annual Conference

Note:  I wrote this post last week but ran into some issues that kept me from finishing it up and publishing.  So I’m posting this now, several days late, and will post it’s accompanying audioblog podcast shortly – hopefully.

mhis-logoLast Friday, January 23, I attended the Mile High SHRM (MH-SHRM) Annual Conference in Denver. The theme of the conference was Mile High Adventure – Ascend the HR Summit.  Pretty clever, I think.

There were six tracks this year: Business and Strategy, Compensation and Benefits, Learning and Development, Compliance and Risk Management, Employee Relations, and Employment and Talent Management.  Multiple tracks are always tough.  There are always two or three that I want to attend scheduled at the same time.  Below I’m going to briefly discuss the five I attended.

The conference started off at 6:30AM with a couple of Early Bird sessions.  The Early Bird session I attended was Sal Sylvester’s “Ignite! The 4 Essential Rules for Emerging Leaders.”  Sal is an excellent and interesting speaker and the hour went by very quickly.  His presentation was about emerging leaders who have recently been promoted to supervisory positions.  This is a common issue in many organizations.  People do a fantastic job in their technical role and are promoted into a supervisory position but have no training or skills in dealing with and managing people.  Sal’s presentation also gave us a look into his People First Leadership model and I’m looking forward to exploring the model more deeply in the near future.

I won his book of the same title during a drawing at the end of the session which is a cool thing for a geek like me who loves reading about leadership, management, and HR!

The second session I attended was Gerry Valentine’s “How to Create a Culture of Innovation.”  Gerry is an excellent presenter who really makes you think differently about leadership and innovation.  Gerry gave advice on how HR can partner with senior leadership to drive business results through innovation.  He suggested ways for HR to become key contributors in our company’s mission, objectives, and strategic goals.  He also reviewed what makes some companies great innovators and what keeps others from doing so.

Gerry discussed several strategies to create an innovative vision of the future.  My favorite suggestion is that companies must establish diverse groups of people in order to have “creative abrasion” when it comes to decision making.  I loved the term “creative abrasion” because too many companies are run and managed by people who think and act alike.  This subjects them to “group think” rather than having somebody challenge them with different ways of approaching a situation.

The third session I attended was Amy Shoemaker’s “HR as a Strategic Partner.”  Amy was high energy and very funny.  I enjoyed her quirky sense of humor as she shared strategies to help HR act and think as a strategic business partner.  Her background as a VP of HR in a large company gives her significant credibility.  She suggested some techniques to build and leverage strategic alliances to gain support for HR initiatives and how to understand what CEO’s need from HR and how to deliver it to them.

The next session was the keynote.  This year MH-SHRM had a panel discussion titled “A Mile High Culture at Work: How to Drive Business Performance Through Culture.”  It was held before lunch as opposed to the end of the day as was done in years past.  I was unable to attend this session because of a conference call I needed to be on.  I’m disappointed I missed it since I heard a lot of folks enjoyed the keynote and were talking about it afterwards during lunch.

I attended the “Labor Law Landmines and How to Avoid Them” in the fourth session.  Three lawyers from Fairfield and Woods gave this session, and one of them, Colin Walker serves on the MH-SHRM board with me.   Each lawyer tackled a topic:  Internal Investigations, Independent Contractors, and Medical Leave.  I was a little concerned about this one since sessions on legal topics by lawyers can be pretty boring.  But I actually found this session to be very good and enjoyed the three presentations and gained some value from each, particularly Internal Investigations and Medical Leave.

The final session I attended was Kristy Smith’s “Tools and Techniques for Managing Employee Relations Issues.” Kristy also had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed her presentation.  She introduced us to the STAR/STAR-AR feedback method to assist in employee relations and foster employee engagement.  Below is a very brief summary of what each letter in the acronym stands for.

ST = Situation or Task.  What was the problem, opportunity, challenge, or task?
A = Action.  What action was taken?
R = Results.  What results did the action lead to?
AR = Action and Results again.  Revisiting Results and Action after explaining the desired results.

Those were the five sessions I attended.  I also spent a good bit of time in between sessions visiting the vendors in the exhibit hall learning about the products they were promoting.  There were several that were very interesting that I plan on exploring in more depth.

So overall, an excellent HR conference.  I gained a lot of practical knowledge that will help me in my day to day work and in my career.

I also want to recognize all the volunteers who worked many long hours to pull this together.  They did a fantastic job and should be very proud of the work they did.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I have not been able to do any posting or podcasting for the past couple of weeks.  I was actually cramming for the SPHR-CA certification test I scheduled for December 15.

Yes, I passed!  And that feels fantastic.

But the last couple weeks of highly concentrated study before and after work left me exhausted and not willing to spend the time needed to work on HHHR.

In addition, my wife and I are now preparing to go on vacation and spend the Holiday week with my kids, all of whom now live east of the Mississippi.

I plan on posting and podcasting about my decision to take the SPHR-CA.  I live and work in Colorado and Wyoming but I have some good reasons and opinions about the California certification that I want to share.

So, I’m hoping now that I have accomplished another grueling certification, I will have more time to spend on HHHR the first of 2015!

Until then, I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday!

I will see you again in January.