A day in the life…

My friends always love to hear stories from the world of temps. I always laugh when they want to hear stories because it’s just my day-to-day. Another one of my HR buddies has some pretty good stories too and we constantly try to top each other… I’ll admit her S.W.A.T. team story is pretty good. So here is a recent one…

Scenario: Group of people getting drug screened for an assignment that starts that same day. One guy informs my staff employee “I’m not sure I can pass…” to which she replies “then don’t take it.” He keeps saying something to her and I can’t quite hear it so I decide to get up and see what the fuss is about. This particular staff member has only worked for us for a few months and my first instinct is what I refer to as “Mamma bear mode”. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t trying to pressure her into doing something we don’t do or making her uncomfortable. I explain to him that the paperwork he signed for the drug screen clearly states that he should not take the drug screen if he is not sure he is going to pass. He looks at me like I have lost my ever-loving mind! He asks why I would think he couldn’t pass a drug screen and I told him because I just heard him say that! I walk away thinking that I’ve made myself very clear and he starts mumbling. I turn around and ask what he said and he starts yelling about how no one was talking to me and so on and so forth. I then explain to him that not only are we not interested in employing him because he has shared with us that he cannot pass a drug screen but his attitude isn’t one we are looking for in an employee and he should go ahead and leave. This is where things get interesting because he is clearly baffled that those are 2 qualities we don’t want in an employee. *Now here is an example of what some people consider “temp agencies” to be… He thought that he could behave however he wanted and we would still hire him; that we are there to HELP everyone. Trust me, we are not! We offer a service to our customers (the job sites) to hire qualified employees to fill their positions and obviously everyone will not fall under those guidelines! So the story ends this way: The guy is so pissed that he’s slamming stuff around our office. I tell him I will have someone escort him out if he doesn’t leave and he says “WHO GONNA ESCORT ME OUT” ummm the police! Which is what I told him and he expressed that he “doesn’t give an “f” about the police!” Well, he may not, but they wasted no time arresting him and making sure he was aware he wasn’t allowed on our property again…

Most of our stories are NOWHERE near this extreme. We hardly get an angry person in the office and in no way did I think anyone in the office was in danger. This guy was seriously trying to act like he was some big guy that was above the rules and apparently above the police, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.

Tempin’ ain’t easy

As you learned in my necessary “about me” post, I have a burning desire to change (be a part of the change) of the world of recruiting. Specifically staffing, or as you may call it “Temp agency“. I don’t know what you think of when you think of a “temp agency”, but I know what I thought…

Lets kick it back to 2006: I had only been living in Alabama for about 4 weeks and I was beyond frustrated with my job search. I didn’t have a lot of work experience outside of waiting tables (cut me some slack I was only 20 and still in college), but I’m an EXCELLENT worker! I will take whatever job you want me to do and give it my all. I’ll be at work everyday. I’ll work harder than anyone else on staff… blah blah blah. I couldn’t find a job. Not even a job waiting tables! My [now] husband insisted I go apply at a “temp agency”. I went, kicking and screaming, but I went. I told him I didn’t need a temp service to find me a job, I could do it myself & whatever fee they expected me to pay wasn’t going to happen. I was surprised when I walked in and it was an actual office and a normal application. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but I knew whatever job they were going to offer me I was going to accept-I just hoped it wasn’t assembly or anything because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good at it. Anyway to wrap this story up they had a need in the office and the manager took a chance on me. I jumped at the opportunity, not knowing what I was agreeing to, but ready to start work immediately!

Present day: I have a conversation every single day with at least one person that had some time of “temp story fear” before they called us or came by to apply. The easy misconceptions to battle are that we charge applicants for what we do-well that would be dumb, if I didn’t have applicants to fill job orders I wouldn’t have a job. Misconception 2-We pay everyone minimum wage-false. It’s common to see several minimum wage positions through a temporary service because companies use temporary services for their entry-level positions, but that isn’t all that we do. This ties into misconception 3-we are money grubbers. We aren’t money grubbers, we don’t keep a cut of your paycheck for ourselves, our customers pay for our services AND we actually care about placing the right candidate with the right job [“Merging Talent With Opportunity“] not just sending “a body” to work.  Listen, I know there are companies out there that do charge applicants and that work with customers that use temps for a couple months and lay them off and bring them back, etc. There are companies that don’t have pure intentions, but the temporary world doesn’t have to be like that. I care to fight these stigmas every single day until we raise the bar for the staffing industry. Why? Because I had those assumptions about the world of temporary staffing and I was wrong! This job has been such an opportunity for me on so many levels! I’ve learned so much and I get to interact with all kinds of people who come from all kinds of backgrounds, education levels, skills/trades, experience, etc. I love what I do and I’m good at what I do, so naturally, I want what I do to be taken seriously. Where do we start? With our “temps” of course! We take time to get to know these people who are going to work for us, we take the time to let them know that we expect excellent work from them. I often take the time to challenge them to out-perform the employees already on the job site. We take the time to learn our customer sites and the people who our employees will be working with to make the right choice for culture fits. My goal is to place people on temp to hire assignments and watch them work their way up in a company that they love working for. I know we can raise the bar, because in our area we already have. Just a little at a time, but we are raising the bar.

…the rest of the story.

I feel like now is a good time to tell the rest of the story. When Ben asked for advice from his HR peers specifically for entry-level HR I kept it short and simple. In my defense he clearly stated that if I was busy he would take short and simple… so that’s what I gave! 🙂

Why is my advice only 3 sentences? Because it works. I became Staffing Manager very quickly within my organization and it isn’t because I have unending knowledge and experience. Well maybe the unending knowledge, right? I kid. I do take responsibility for learning something new about my job or HR in general everyday and that has something to do with it, but not everything. I firmly believe that leaders can produce like kind and I have a burning desire to be a leader. Not just any leader…a GREAT leader… a SUCCESSFUL leader… a RESPECTED leader… a LEADER that can produce other GREAT LEADERS. So when I told Ben my advice to entry-level HR would be this “Get connected! Be active in your local SHRM group and connect with other HR professionals! Find a mentor and utilize the heck out of them!” I’m sure he wanted more (and so did the readers http://upstarthr.com/entry-level-hr-jobs-the-ultimate-guide/ ) so let me explain.

I climbed quickly (did I forget to mention I started out simply filing here and processing applications) because I latched on to some great mentors! I believe you should have more than one mentor. HR is a profession that has a wide variety of opportunity and we constantly see successful people who have mastered specific areas in HR so I think it is appropriate to have multiple mentors who have become successful in different sectors of HR. We all talk about how busy we are so I can’t expect to get a ton of time out of one person, so I have several people to turn to that I can get a little bit of their time.  I have mentors within our organization and mentors outside of the organization. Why would I do that? Sometimes I need some expertise and guidance on how to deal with something I’m going through at work and I wouldn’t want to use someone within the organization for that kind of mentoring. Call it a conflict of interest if you will. The people within our organization can mentor me on the day-to-day that I’m doing wrong (or right) so they are pretty valuable to me. My mentors within the organization are [obviously] successful employees that know what its like to start out where I started and be responsible for the kind of growth and programs that I was responsible for. Time is not our friend so it only makes sense that I would try to learn from their mistakes as often as possible instead of creating their mistakes again. Plus, we can’t make efficient progress if every new team member has to learn every lesson the hard way. It is very important that you do not overlook mentors within your own organization. I struggle with the fact that my mentor has a lot of old school ways about her and I sometimes catch myself stuck on that when that really shouldn’t matter because she has something that I don’t. My people skills flat-out suck sometimes [a post all on its own soon, I’m sure]. She is pretty well liked throughout the organization and I know the owner has a mad amount of respect for her. I know the basics: I can sell, I can recruit, I can interview, I can do payroll, I can counsel employees, I can pull the truth from stubborn applicants, I can spot talent, I can do orientation and process new hires, I can (as one of my friends likes to say) find you a job in Africa, if that’s where you so choose for me to find you a job; but I can’t get further than I am if I don’t master the people skills. Knowing this and recognizing this meant one thing… I had to learn them. Er, maybe I should say HAVE to learn them (what can I say, I’m a work in progress). <–So where am I going with that? –>Mentors work, if you pick the right ones. I think to pick a mentor you have to know your weaknesses. I mean REALLY know them… now find someone who is REALLY good at what your weak in… now learn everything they can teach you. It is important that your mentor be someone who is respected in their organization and amongst their peers. This helps validate that they are doing something right and that they know a thing or two.

Now for the get connected. That’s easy- SHRM. Join your local SHRM chapter. If you do nothing else to get connected at least do this. NASHRM has become one of the most valuable tools for me in my career. I am able to network with people who do the same thing I do on a regular basis. I get to stay up to date on important HR issues, because someone else is doing so and then presenting to our group. I have a network of people from NASHRM that I can call when faced with a new situation. I have opportunities to volunteer and do awesome things like go to DC twice a year and be a voice for HR to our congressmen/women and senators! I used a NASHRM study group to prepare for taking the PHR. I’ve met incredibly talented people through this group. The contribution this group has had to my career and continuing education is a no brainer. GET. CONNECTED. If you don’t I only have to assume you’re not passionate about your career choice. It doesn’t have to be with SHRM, there are other opportunities, this one just happens to be near and dear to my heart! 🙂

It isn’t much, but it’s my rest of the story. Hope it helps!

Everything I need to know I learned from the housewives…

I’m guilty. I occasionally (every time I catch a full day marathon so I can squeeze two seasons worth of drama into one day) participate in the event we know as housewife spectating. Snub your nose at me if you will, but there is something about these tan, trash talking, hair dyed, working, unmarried “housewives” that reels me in. I think it’s because they provide me with so many life lessons. No seriously, everything I need to know to survive the workplace I learned from the housewives. Dr Seuss has nothing on these attention craved 15 minute of famers… take note.

Don’t sneak into the White House (Salahi we are looking at you!) It’s never a good idea to do something illegal, especially when its going to be public! Your reputation will become your organizations reputation, keep that in mind.

Tweet about someone-and you will have to own your words (Teresa, thank you for providing us with so many life lessons). You can’t deny it if we have proof you said. Cool down before you tweet or update Facebook (and in some cases text). Think before you speak or you may have to answer for those words you blasted from an emotional place.

Dont hide money problems from your other half (well… just about all of the housewives) HELLO!? How many housewives have we seen going through a divorce now because of money issues? In the midst of a bankruptcy? C’mon MAN! You can’t move have any kind of meaningful relationship when you hide big secrets like that from your partner (in business or life). Not just in money either. It’s okay to voice a problem. Collaborate with your key players and lets come up with a solution, don’t avoid it or try to fix it on your own. Here I will tie this into another perspective of decision-making without collaboration: Don’t relocate the Kings without anyones say so! Maloof! While it is incredibly unreasonable to include an entire fan base in the decision-making process you may want to come up with a way to go through the process publicly and make them feel like they were at least considered. If your decision is going to have an impact on that many people at once, don’t be afraid to share that burden with them. Great leaders state and share the burden.

Flipping tables is not the best solution (Settle down Teresa) Okay, so this links up with “emotional tweeting”, but the point is there are better ways to get your point across than flipping tables! Have a calm down moment and think before you act. Put together a plan of action to state your purpose and how you feel about an issue. Throwing a temper tantrum will likely turn your co workers or employees against you and cause them to lose respect for you.

Practice your public speaking (courtesy Alexis). Umm… There are so many… ummm.. things I can say about this one, ya know? I can’t keep that theme up past one sentence, but a lack of preparation shows and your peers, coworkers, employees, etc. will remember that. 2 quick points: If you don’t prepare you are ultimately projecting to your audience that you don’t really care. & you look like an idiot. You may feel foolish practicing your speech or presentation in front of the mirror, but you will look more foolish in public if you didn’t do those practice runs. What’s that age-old saying-preparation is the key to success? Maybe there is something to that…

Don’t invite a stripper without telling mom first (Phaedra a southern belle? not this time sweetheart!). Oh, how do I tie this one in with the workforce lesson? Don’t let your boss be surprised by anything (thank you Bobbi) and certainly not a stripper at the dinner table. If your boss needs to know its simple: inform them/include them. ‘Nuff said.

Don’t date an employee (Gretchen-either fire Slade, like really separate him from your business OR break up with him!) This is not a good idea for obvious reasons! Of course I have my own beliefs on “falling in love” and yada yada so I buy NO excuse in this arena. In the staffing world when we get a client (particularly mfg) where we will have a lot of employees I always throw out to them “We do not run a dating service”… Why? Because we  do not run a dating service. Quite frankly I have more important things to do than have a meeting with you and my client about the 3rd Ashley in the facility that you are dating and how the other two are going to kill you for cheating on them and devise a way to separate the 4 of you and keep production going and morale up. Stop it, just stop it. No I’m not the heartless HR person that no one wants to see, but I’m the HR person no one wants to see when there is workplace drama resulting from a relationship that started after they were told I do not run a dating service. And my goodness, if you are in a position above other employees direct reports are ALWAYS off-limits. Think big picture here and scroll up a few lessons to your reputation and your organizations reputation.

If you are determined-you CAN make it happen (Go Bethenny! #TeamSkinnyGirl) No matter how many people don’t buy your vegan cookies or refuse to support you or acknowledge your baking efforts you may one day stumble upon the genius idea of Skinny Girl cocktails and ditch the real housewives and all their drama for good to run your empire! Make a goal. Do you want it? I mean do you really want it? Then make it happen! Everyone is capable, your drive and determination can set you apart from everyone else.

So I left your favorite housewives out? My bad, that was intentional. I don’t watch the other ones. Please refrain from going “Oklahoma on me”!

The age old game of chicken

I just got back from a visit to DC with AL SHRM to meet with our congressmen and women as well as our senators to discuss some issues that we are concerned about. We spent a full day at the capital talking with them and their staffers and by the end of the day we noticed everyone was on the same page, but was it the right page? As our government creeps into sequestration the house and the senate seemed to be locked into an unhealthy game of chicken. With neither side willing to take their foot of the gas we could be in big trouble. The common response to our concerns was “blame the other side” & “nothing will be done until after the election”. While all of this is understandable it’s also unacceptable! Have you ever tried to bring forth change in your organization only to run into a brick wall? I’ve been there and can totally relate. How do we overcome this?

My first response is to restore the value of teamwork. Maybe each side of the fence has become so infatuated with its own side they have forgotten what our goal is. First hand I witnessed the House and the Senate unwilling to admit that their own ideas and solutions could be improved and maybe, JUST MAYBE if they started talking these ideas out they could come to a happy medium. What do we call this? We call this collaboration… So where do our organizations lack collaboration? Most of my customers fall under the manufacturing umbrella and all too often I see plant managers and shift supervisors that do not appreciate the function of their own HR departments. They all have different reasons why, but most of them have these feelings because they have never sat down on a collaborative project with HR and observed HR at its finest! Many times I see a plant environment where the top management team does not encourage interaction between HR and other departments, but do not hesitate to throw out directions to HR like “make sure we don’t get sued”. Obviously the best way to do that is to make sure communication is open and both sides can bring their concerns and ideas to the table. Encourage collaboration! If we are only talking about our ideas with like-minded people we are not necessarily opening the door for improvement on our ideas! Let’s utilize all of the different personalities involved in day-to-day business to develop the ultimate ideas that lead to positive change and innovation.

Next we should clearly define what is at stake. What happens if sequestration happens? FORCED BUDGET CUTS… and most of them not the right ones! We have already accepted that there will be no resolution before the election so government subcontractors are now faced with the decision of giving out a notice to employees on October 31st that they may or may not have a job in 60 days or waiting it out in hopes that there is a resolution that doesn’t cause them to have to lay off 33% of their workforce. This is a dicey situation: you give out notices people get worried, they start looking elsewhere for employment, maybe they leave the world of government subcontracts and start seeking employment in the private sector. If your workforce is worried everyday they come to work they aren’t producing their best quality work. If your workforce is afraid they won’t have a steady paycheck in two months they will ultimately stop putting money into the economy above necessities, leading us back to where we started. What is the other side of the coin-if they do not give out the notice and then are forced to lay off at least 33% of their workforce they are not in compliance with the law; thus opening themselves up for multiple lawsuits. Ok capitol hill, have we clearly defined some of what is at stake yet? If we do not take the time to define what is at stake no one in the organization knows what we are working to accomplish and/or prevent and that is a problem all on its own. Imagine if we all went to work everyday without knowing what our purpose was? What the company we work for stands for? What we could lose? What our employer could lose? What our customers could lose?

Now that we have ignited the spark for teamwork and everyone knows what is at stake its time to come up with a solution! Do whatever it takes to get both sides in the same room sharing ideas and devising a process that works. Do not attempt to wait it out for one side to take their foot off the gas; a game of chicken is never healthy for an organization. If your side has to be the first to make a move then do it, but do not make your organization and its employees suffer because you think your way is the right way (maybe your way is the right way, but the other side won’t understand that until there is some interaction between the two sides). As HR folks I think it is important that we do what is right for the people who will be effected in the long run, no matter the obstacles we face when trying to do so.

Here is our group from AL SHRM (minus 3)

Cultivating Talent (and blessings in disguise)

I promise not to do too many football related posts (for the record I’m completely convinced I can recruit in the world of football too-maybe one day)! This one will just have a tiny reference to a somewhat first hand story, for picture painting purposes of course. My husband and I were leaving the movies tonight and frantically checking all of the football scores that we missed and the conversation led to someone I know that is now playing in the NFL. Way cool right (we can overlook the fact that he plays for the one team that I absolutely hate); anyway he never played football when we were in high school. He showed up for practice one day in jr high or something and never came back in order to focus on basketball. That wasn’t a bad choice considering basketball ended up paying for his college, but some error on the university’s part landed him a football scholarship when his basketball one ran out in order for him to finish his degree. From here he was picked up by an NFL team and landed a spot on their practice squad followed up the next year with a spot on the active roster of another team. Now we can occasionally see him on Sundays in the role of offensive tackle-how did this happen? Obviously he’s quite the athlete;  you don’t earn 1/2 million dollars with a short bit of experience unless you’re working hard! In fact he is making more money than their starting running back. 2 things happened in this scenario: 1) he took advantage of an opportunity and 2) someone cultivated his talent! This wouldn’t have been possible without someones flub at his university (thus the blessings in disguise reference), but it sure wouldn’t have gone this far without some dedication and drive. My point is these days we have geared our recruiting to also focus on a cultural fit combined with skill fit & sometimes we hit a gold mine with a cultural fit that is trainable to becoming a skill fit. I much prefer to train on skill as opposed to find a skilled person that I have to reprogram. When you find that person that is trainable you have to cultivate their existing talents into your useful talents and if they are driven then you’ve found your NFL rookie worth paying 1/2 million dollars to. Of course all of this is relevant to your organizations vision and long term goals so I fully acknowledge that this plan of action isn’t for everyone. I am simply pointing out that you shouldn’t discount a candidates abilities based on their current skill set, but consider where that current skill set could lead them and how far it could take your organization.

Attitudes in the workplace

I couldn’t be happier that football season is in full swing: College, NFL & Fantasy… my life is once again complete. One player really shocked me today (& I’m not talking about RGIII)… Chris Johnson! I was the big voice previously screaming GIVE THAT MAN THE DAMN MONEY & now I’m scratching my head as I watch his performance on the field. For those of you that don’t know he had 11 carries today for 4 yards. One. Two. Three. Four. Granted their offensive line is terrible right now, BUT we are talking about a running back that has previously run for 2000 yards in a single season. If he continues like this that won’t happen again. So what’s the problem CJ (past the O line)… attitude?

Here’s a quick breakdown: Once upon a time his contract was set for a measly $1.065 million, until he decided he was worth more than that [& when he decided he was worth more than that he refused to show up or participate until everyone agreed with him]. I happen to believe that you should pay top performers accordingly (which is why I was screaming for his new contract that ended up a fat $53.5 million), but since then his performance has been on a steady decline. Maybe the way his contract was negotiated caused this? Maybe its just sheer luck or lack of give a …. ? Maybe his ego is out of control and he has lost touch with reality?

How can we prevent a top performer from discontinuing his/her best efforts once they have been rewarded the monies or other perqs they are demanding? Here are some ideas: 1stbe realistic. Yes CJ2K you have the most rushing yards in a season with our franchise; yes you have the longest rushing attempt with our franchise; yes you have the most total scrimmage yards in one season… These are all wonderful accomplishments, but lets break this raise down in a simpler process- you get x amount now and if you repeat all of these feats you get xx amount…(performance review anyone?). Which brings me to point 2-set new goals for your performer! If they feel like they’ve accomplished everything they have come to your organization to accomplish, well, they are done “Thanks for the payday-I’m just going to hang out now and remind you all [verbally] everyday of how AWESOME I once was”. Make sure your workforce still has something to work for and make sure they still want to work for that. 3-cut your losses. Running back formerly known as “CJ2K” played his worst season last year & isn’t starting off well this year. Decide when enough is enough and cut the deadweight from your team before it starts to weigh everyone else down. When a team players attitude sets him above the rest of your team chances are your other players notice and they don’t like it. If you can’t coach that attitude back into the right place the damage to team morale will outweigh the benefits of his ability to perform top numbers.