Why’d you wear that?

I recently had a chance to catch up with some of my favorite local HR friends and let me just go on record now, that doesn’t happen enough! After catching up on other areas of life we did the usual: swapped weird stories, dissected everything around the one employee we can’t seem to make happy, and talked about our hiring woes.

A couple of the people in this group work at the same place and these two shared a fun story about their most recent hiring process which included interview faux pas. This one was a dress faux pas and as I sat with a look of sheer horror painted on my face while listening to them describe this terrible outfit choice for an interview, I remembered I have my own, “interview dress code violation.”

Listen, I tell the story of how I got into HR and Talent Management to every new crowd or client I get, but I usually leave out some of the details. Totally not on purpose because it just occurred to me last week that I’ve been skipping this part of the story. So here goes…

The day I interviewed with a staffing company (having no idea what I was getting into or what kind of job they would send me to) I was desperate. I was young and had been in Alabama for two whole months at that point and hadn’t landed a single job despite my best efforts. I always joke that employers could probably “smell the Arkansas” on me so they didn’t want to hire me. This was back in 2006, which happens to be the last time our college football team beat both Alabama and Auburn, today employers would probably just take pity on my Arkansas self and throw me some type of bone.

I digress.

So, I’m desperate. I need a job or I’m going to lose my mind. My then only boyfriend (now husband) had three jobs so like, we were fine $$ wise, but my sanity was absolutely in question. His sanity was probably in question too now that I think about it, I mean he did take me up there – KICKING AND SCREAMING – to apply. I was so stubborn I didn’t think I needed a staffing company to find me a job, I could find my own job, blah blah blah. I walk in and the lady at the front desk asks how she can help me. I tell her I’m here to apply and she hands me this thick packet of paper. Its 2006 and they just handed me a 20-page application, we are not off to a good start. She says “Do you want to fill it out here or take it home with you?” Friends, I knew if I took this application home, I wasn’t bringing it back so I quietly said “I’llfillitouthere.” She points me to a room to sit in while I complete this monstrous packet and the whole time I’m thinking “what am I doing here? What is happening? What if they want me to do assembly work? I would be terrible at assembly work. I’ll get fired; I won’t last one full shift of assembly work.”

I return to the front desk with a completed application. She says “Ok, follow me.” She plops my application down in front of the office manager who is eating a bag of popcorn and tells me to have a seat. YALL! I WAS IN AN INTERVIEW AND I DIDNT EVEN KNOW IT.

 

interview ready

This interview was so calm, so methodical, and every other question was followed with a couple of bites of popcorn. I’m still thinking “what is happening?” over and over again. By the end of the interview the office manager asks if I want to work in the office. I said I’d take it, a little too excitedly and that totally caught her off guard, but I felt relief from here to heaven that she didn’t offer me an assembly job and I just couldn’t contain myself. We discuss the details and work out my start date (the very next morning because I was tired of sitting in our empty apartment) and she says “one more thing… you’ll need to wear something less revealing in the office.”

So, here’s the part of the story I could’ve told you earlier… that same day I had drove myself to Huntsville and interviewed at Hooters. When you interview for Hooters, you dress the part (I think). I had a tight, black, low-cut top on that proved I was qualified for the job. When I interviewed for my first job in the recruiting realm, I was dressed like I was interviewing for a job at Hooters because I had.

I grabbed at my shirt when she said this, smiled awkwardly and said “of course, absolutely” and carried my red faced self out the door (only to discover that my sweet boyfriend had left me there and I needed to go back inside and use the phone to call him and  find out why he had left me there to relish in my tight, low-cut shame).

If that office manager had made a decision based on how I was dressed, she would’ve missed an opportunity to hire someone who became one of the best recruiters and closer at the company. She also would’ve missed an opportunity to hire someone who was sometimes the biggest pain in the neck she had, but I like to think my excellent numbers and customer service skills outweighed most of that. Some issues you can easily manage, like not the best choice in tops for an interview, but some issues also don’t have anything to do with how well a person will work, like not the best choice in tops for an interview.

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If she would’ve said I couldn’t do that job because I dressed the wrong way for the interview, there is no telling what my career would’ve ended up being. I know it wouldn’t have been Hooters though, because they never called me again.

What do your employees even do?

My inbox and timeline are consistently filled with employee engagement tips. Every day I get something from a vendor or two trying to pitch an HR Tech tool to solve employee engagement or a white paper on effective employee engagement strategy. No matter how well written or how well thought out these tools are, they almost always miss an important factor.

The secret?

Just kidding, I’ll tell you

You can’t solve employee engagement without the employee. I know you just rolled your eyes (I can see you) because we already know this, but I see it all the time. You have a meeting with great discussion about what to roll out next, how to bridge the gap, and timelines for the next three emails but you still don’t include the employees. If you do include employees you get feedback and say “oh, we can’t do that” and immediately pivot and go in another direction. Your employees deserve more information though, why can’t we do that?

The absolute number one thing missing from a more effective employee engagement strategy is you knowing and understanding what the employees at your organization do. No one believes that you value them once they figure out that, at best, you know their job title. No value, no engagement. When you roll out initiatives that have nothing to do with actual employee pain points, you are likely making engagement worse. You shouldn’t make employees adapt to how corporate wants things done and figure out how to serve your customers; you should let your employees serve your customers and let corporate adapt to the needs of the employees.

I absolutely do NOT mean survey your employees, I mean TALK to them

Throwing an ice cream social or sending company swag or buying a new tech tool only puts a band-aid over the real issue. Put the brakes on all the planning you’re doing right now and take some time to get to know your employees. Really find out about the work they do, and why they do it. Build from there. Then at your next ice cream social (if you must have one), celebrate their work, celebrate them.

I’ll always tell y’all that we over-complicate the HR function, we add unnecessary layers and extra meetings but employee engagement talk has gone too far off path. You can’t solve your employee engagement issues by talking to other HR Pros if you haven’t talked to your employees first. When you do talk to your employees, make sure you listen- don’t explain away their feedback and mold it to fit what you think the problem is, really listen to them. I’m telling you once you build this foundation, your employee engagement has potential to soar. That’s when you need to consider the tech tools to ENHANCE it, don’t kid yourself for one second into thinking that technology = engagement because it does not. Its only a piece of the puzzle and no one is really interested in using your tech tool if they know you aren’t really interested in them.

Would your employees hire you?

I enjoy a good conference, and I especially enjoy a good speaker who is reinforcing things I agree with in a room full of thousands of people. I realize that means I’m participating in a self-serving conference experience and not necessarily something that pushes me out of my comfort zone and grows me professionally, but it hasn’t always been that way for me.

When I started attending conferences, I was learning new things in every session. I was opened up to a whole new world of HR and how we can improve what we do and how we do it. Having been in the conference loop for the last 10 years now, I’m realizing that I’m either picking sessions that sound like something I would agree with, or we’ve been basically saying the same things for the last 10 years.

I don’t say that lightly. I think there is still a lot of value in the conversations we are having, but we need to be mindful of the conversations and if we are evolving them or not. We also have to consider, who are we sending to these conferences? If I am hearing the same content for years, maybe it’s time to send a lower level HR professional for them to get inspired and hear this content for the first time.

For all of us who have been listening to the same ideas and agreeing with how things should be for the last several years, it’s time to change the conversation. It’s time to take what you are hearing at conferences and put it to work.

I get it, it’s not easy to do. You have to go to work and pitch the executive team on the things you want to do. You have to sell hiring managers and line managers on it. You have to instill confidence in the team that will have to carry out what you are recommending, but don’t over think it. Lets not make this more complicated than it has to be. Consider one thing, if the employees at your organization had the opportunity to hire you for their HR needs OR outsource it, what would they do? Would they choose you? Why or why not? What can you do about it?

It’s easy to hear speakers say things that you think are wonderful ideas, but the only way to know if it will work in your organization is to talk to your employees. Find out what they need, find out what they aren’t happy with, just talk to the humans that you are a resource for.

If you don’t care if they would choose you or not, its time for you to get out of HR. We wish you well and hope you have a wonderful experience in your next career choice, but its time for you to leave us now.

After interview thank you note advice:

Recently I called on some of my pals to help me navigate a question… What makes a thank you note from a candidate stand out after an interview. Check out what some of the best business professionals had to say below and let us know if you would add anything else!

Don’t do it tomorrow

Why do it tomorrow when you can do it today?

Time management has been my biggest challenge over the last couple of months. I thought after giving up some of my volunteer roles I would have all this free time, but that hasn’t exactly happened. I don’t know how or why, but I’m going to spend some time the next few weeks figuring it out.

Part of it can be addressed with some clearer goals for myself. Today is day 33 of my 33 days of writing in a row… aka the last day! I didn’t know if I could carve out time every day for 33 days in a row because my time management has been all over the place, but somehow I made it work.

time management

So I’m going to keep setting goals, not just for my writing but for work. Completing projects sooner, chatting less, coming in earlier, not putting things off for tomorrow if I know I have a few minutes to work on it today.

I’m not going back into workaholic mode by any means, I still want to be done with work no later than 5:30. I think I can make that happen with defined micro goals.

So for now, the content from hrpockets will drop down to one or two (hopefully better written) pieces a week. For the rest of 2019 make yourself some goals and stop putting things off when you don’t have to.

Don’t underestimate boundaries

Boundaries at work/with work are good for you.

You can love your work and have boundaries. I’d argue that having boundaries can make it easier to love your work.

Boundaries at work can look like saying no to projects you know you don’t have the bandwidth to complete.

Boundaries can look like not staying late or coming in early or over the weekends.

Boundaries can look like telling co-workers or managers when they say something that makes you uncomfortable or offends you.

Boundaries can look like expecting people to value your work outcomes and respecting your knowledge.

It’s important to start setting your boundaries early on. It’s much easier to have boundaries from the beginning than to try to walk people back to your boundaries after you’ve let them get away with disrespecting them.

I used to have a job where I kept volunteering to stay late to get the job done for the team and before I knew it I was expected to stay late to get the job done. It snuck up on me. I agreed to take phone calls on the weekend and then I was always expected to take phone calls on the weekends and early in the am during the week. By the time I had enough and started letting people know I had enough and I couldn’t work like that anymore (years later) I was the bad guy.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard, you should work however you want to-just have boundaries.

Who do you really support?

The most important career lesson I ever learned was to understand the business.

There seems to be a lot of back and forth about HR being business professionals/or not being business professionals. In my opinion the easiest way to win this discussion is to make sure you understand the business you support-not just the people portion, but the whole picture.

How does your company make money? What are the products/services your company provides? How do they provide it? Like really, how? What other areas do your HR policies or actions impact and how.

From where I sit, you can make better decisions about the HR support you provide when you understand the business. Looking beyond your schedule and how quickly (or slowly) you choose to respond or how much information you decide you want to share can move your department forward.

People (managers especially) choose to not value HR when you choose to ignore the bigger business picture and only do things the way you want to do things. When HR isn’t valued it’s hard to see them as business professionals.

In 2019 don’t just try to teach the business HR, let HR learn the business.

businesstime

Dig out the root

When I was in elementary school one of my chores was to pull weeds in the yard. I didn’t really like that chore much. Day after day I would pull up dandelions out of the yard only to find two or three times as many the next day. If you don’t get to them quick enough they spread their seeds all over the yard.

Finally I learned to use a spoon to dig up the root. The spoon helped me to make sure I got the whole problem so it would stop spreading. Had I thought that through from the beginning, I would’ve really cut down my chore time (and effort) but I’m one of those kids who has to learn things the hard way.

satisfied seal

When we have a problem at work, we have to dig out the root to solve it. The most common avoidance tactic we take in response to a problem is “I’m too busy” to x, y, or z.

But are you really? Because if you would take the time to stop what you’re doing and get to the root of the problem, you may free up some time on the back-end. Accepting “I’m too busy” as an excuse makes the problem build and spread.

It’s real simple. Take the time to find the root and dig it out. If you don’t the problem is going to eventually spread and then it may be out of your hands to solve altogether.

Send it back

You cannot fix a communication problem by ignoring it.

The first time I experienced communication problems at work was at my afternoon job in high school. I had a boss who would tell me to do something, I would go do it, and then she would freak out asking me why I did what I did.

She actually made me feel crazy.

I talked with my careers teacher who had arranged for me to get this position (for school credit) and she recommended that I take notes during the conversation and either read them back to my boss afterwards as in “I understand you want me to do x, y, z” or email that statement back to her.

It felt really weird to do that at first, but what happened next was a game changer. My boss would correct where I heard something different from what she was trying to say or approve of my interpretation. It pretty much eliminated those weird melt downs after I completed tasks.

I don’t know why people communicate differently or why we hear what we want to hear, but I do know there are plenty of opportunities we can work on our communication together and get better.

I’m glad I had that experience early on to send back my notes for confirmation because it helped me prepare for future communication barriers.

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What is something you’ve done to build better communication and understanding with your team?