Sunday, January 24, 2010

reBlog from Why Al Gore Shouldn’t Be This Year’s SHRM Annual Keynote Speaker

BERLIN - OCTOBER 23:  German Chancellor Angela...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Michael VanDervort invited me to take the opposition view to the announcement that SHRM is hosting Al Gore as the keynote speaker this summer at the annual conference. He posted my article yesterday on his site And it's since been picked up by other sites. The Human Capital League is one of them. Here it is:

It’s been a few days now since SHRM proudly announced that Al Gore will be this year’s keynote speaker in San Diego.  And my mind is still swinging so wildly from befuddlement (in the benign moments) to outright outrage (in moments of clarity) that I’m having a really hard time focusing on my work. Since a large part of my work is writing (specifically writing about HR), I’m thinking that if I get it out of my system this way, I can return to more pressing matters at hand. But then again, maybe this exercise will put me in an even bigger (I just typed, “bitter,” Freudian?) swivet.  I guess time will, Why Al Gore Shouldn’t Be This Year’s SHRM Annual Keynote Speaker, Jan 2010

In the ensuing article, I list a large number of reasons why I think it's a really bad idea.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Best Resolutions for HR in 2010

No matter what the year, not matter what the economy, this is traditionally the time for introspection; looking back and looking forward to the months ahead of us. And this past year is certainly one to put behind us as quickly as possible.

Every year I enjoy putting together this list of Best Resolutions for HR, primarily because each list is an advance peak at the tone and concerns of the year ahead of us. And, because HR is the custodian of the experience of most people who work around the world, what you have to look forward to is an accurate reflection of what working people everywhere have to look forward to.

So I wasn’t surprised that this year’s round of Best Resolutions have taken on a distinctly philosophical point of view.

Resolution 1: I will learn like I’m going to live forever, but live like I’m going to die tomorrow. Says Mary Cheddie, senior vice president of HR for Interval International: “In the macro-economic environment we’re all experiencing, it’s critical that we in HR understand what’s in every nook and every cranny of our business. As HR professionals, we must continue to learn. We have to get out into the organization and with other business leaders and professions.”

For the many HR professionals who have lost their jobs this year, Mary has this advice around the second half of her resolution: “It’s time to stop and consider what’s important to you personally. What do you love to do? What do you want to do? What do you need to do? I’ve known many people who, when they find they’re out of work, use this as an opportunity to change the direction of their lives and do something they love to do. If you’ve lost your job, find your passion. And go for it. Love what you do every day. That’s the secret of life.”

Resolution 2: I will not let a job description define who I am and all that I have to give to the world. Tiane Mitchell Gordon, AOL’s senior vice president of diversity and inclusion, says, “We often only think of ourselves in a singular dimension. And then we judge our successes and failures by that one dimension. We shouldn’t define ourselves by one little thing.”

This singular point of focus is unhealthy in the best of times. But in this era when people are losing their jobs without notice, it can be particularly devastating. Says Tiane: “Because so many people are tied up with their paying job, that’s how they think of themselves, without considering their greater worth beyond their job roles. But that’s not their only identity that they should be focused on.

“It’s very hard for me to separate who I am at a personal level from who I am at a professional level. The two intertwine for me. And in our roles in HR especially, it’s so important that we bring all aspects of who we are to the work we do. Then, not only do we have more to give the people we work with, but we have more to give the world outside of our jobs.”

Resolution 3: I will redouble my efforts around employee engagement. For some employers (but certainly not you, right?), the notion of employee engagement might sound quaint and dated, especially given the current climate of layoffs and unemployment. The last time I heard, "they should just be glad they have a job" was back in the late 70s. And even though several recessions have come and gone between since, never has the employment climate been this brutal as it is right now. So, where does that leave the discipline and practice of employee engagement -- all those wonderful efforts to make sure the corporate culture sustains an environment in which your people can invest their best efforts?

According to Craig Ramsay, former Director of Workforce Research for the famously engaged company, Intuit, and now Vice President Business Development and Managing Director, SF Bay Area, Sirota Survey Intelligence, "It's more important than ever to demonstrate to employees that they're valued assets of the company. Employees have to feel and experience engagement on a daily basis," regardless of what the economy is doing. And, if the economy is perhaps on the upswing, this is definitely an essential time to recommit to the principles around building an engaged culture in which your people know that their talents and efforts are still important to you and your enterprise. This is the time to regain the confidence and trust your people have for your business so they will invest their best in your objectives.

"It's HR's job to make engagement a reality for employees during their daily lives. Work with your leaders to define and commit to what that experience should be and then help them change their behaviors to shape that experience. This isn't about installing elaborate new programs. It's about ensuring that your people -- all the survivors of these last few years -- feel valued. Help them reconnect with the goals and interests of your company."

Resolution 4: I will resolve to do what’s necessary to keep high performers engaged and passionate about the organization. Says Lynne Zappone, senior vice president, Americas HR and Global Learning for the Intercontinental Hotels Group, “We have a big commitment and focus on high-potential talent. We have to constantly be looking or opportunities to help them grow and develop….We have an employment brand that says we make a commitment to give our people room to grow. And we want to stand by that and deliver on it."

Resolution 5: I will tell the truth as an act of respect for my people. Says Kristin Kelley, HR Leader, Owens Corning, “Having respect for people goes hand-in-hand with having the heart to tell them the truth. So often we don’t want to give people feedback because it makes them uncomfortable or we don’t want to hurt their feelings. But you’re not respecting someone by not confronting what needs to be confronted inside the organization. Sometimes telling someone the truth is the nicest thing you can do for that person.

“Having the right people in the right roles has never been more critical, especially if we’re ramping up this year. It’s not acceptable to settle for any talent that’s not performing at the level you need them to perform at. Helping people be really clear around what their job is and setting really meaningful goals is truly the biggest impace that HR can help an organization make.”

Resolution 6: I will seek to inspire others to strive for greatness. Says Arte Nathan, president, Strategic Development Worldwide, “HR has always been more inspirational than technical. It’s the inspirational stuff that helps organizations be great. The world in which we live is full of things to do and rarely leaves time to dream. So someone has to remind others to take that time. This includes helping others remember that the best days are ahead of us.

“Part of inspiration is believing in tomorrow. Organizations need to be filled with people who are not only good at what they do but who also believe that they will always be better. In HR we have to dream. We have to help others to dream.”

My dream for you is that you have a wonderful 2010.