Messed up HR

I just finished reading “Grow Your Value” by Mika Brzezinski and have some thoughts to share! I first heard Mika at #SHRM15 in the lively city of Las Vegas. She was a replacement for the previously scheduled Sheryl Sandberg and before that event I had never even heard of her. I remember watching her fumble with her notes that I was sure she probably prepared in the car on the way to the venue and judging her for having her sunglasses still on her head and an awful shade of pink lipstick-the kind that all of the housewives were wearing a couple of seasons ago. At one point in her presentation she realized she could walk away from the podium and still be heard and I thought how dumb could she be? She really didn’t know she could walk away from the podium, but the truth is that is the kind of silly mistake I would make in front of a similar audience.

Later this year I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about my first reaction (and all of my female friends first reaction) to Mika and how she presented herself. Not just our first reactions to Mika, but all other females as well. This is going to be a year of digging deep and sharing secrets, some real truth bombs coming at you later this year!

Reading through her book, Mika never hides how busy she is, how much she scrambles to keep it together, how hard it is for her to say no to events, how hard it is for her to shut her brain off at night and sleep, how hard it is to make every event for her children, etc. Real life things that real working women struggle with at all different levels of the “ladder”. I appreciate her digging in and sharing about these things and working hard to get other women to share about these struggles and offer advice. There are some great examples of powerful women that she uses in her book and they all have wonderful advice for women looking to balance it all or “choose” between family and career. I didn’t think I would say it, but that book is definitely worth the read. However, let me get to the point, there is one story that caught my attention as an HR professional first (and as a woman second).

One of the many women in the book is sharing her story of her career and the time she had to find new employment. She proceeds to share lessons she learned about valuing what she brings to the table, leveraging her network, and being confident. She talks about applying to a TON of jobs and having a hard time translating her previous skills to a new role because she works in an industry that was challenged by change. Then she says this:

“I know it can be demoralizing to fill out your hundredth job form-and you realize just how messed up the entire HR system is-but knowing that I was moving toward a next step kept me pushing on.”

Did you see what I saw? How messed up the entire HR system is? Yikes! My first reaction was to be like “whoa, don’t blame us!” My second reaction was more like “I wonder why she thinks the HR system is messed up?” Finally, my third reaction was “Oh God, is the whole HR system messed up?” If in fact it is perceived as “messed up,” is it really messed up? Would we call her a jaded job seeker and move on? What if she specifically shared that with the world about YOUR organization? Would you call her  jaded and move on or would you look internally at how you handled her process and try to identify areas for improvement? It’s very easy for us to blame the other person and use excuses about why they may perceive the HR system as they do, but that doesn’t solve much for us. I’m curious how job seekers view your HR system and processes, are you?

HR System

You’re doing diversity wrong #SHRM15

Today is the first full day of #SHRM15 and us bloggers have been busy bees! I’m pretty proud of myself for getting up before the sun over here and cranking out a run AND getting back to the room and ready in time for a 7 am session! By the way, it’s really really hot here. As our friend Penn Jillette says “Its 100 and hell out here.” This mornings session is the one I have been looking forward to the most, even more so than the general sessions lined up this week. The session, “The Black Guy in the C-Suite: Diversity Hiring Practices.” This one caught my eye over all the other diversity sessions, because its all about a perspective from a diversity candidate.

I’ve been poking around about the diversity issue in my own organization and I’ve given up on the meetings with other white people in the building and decided to start asking diversity candidates how they feel about it, what their challenges are, what education they think the workforce needs, etc. I’ve received some awesome feedback that has verified that the group of (us) white people trying to talk numbers and initiatives were headed in the wrong direction. Truth be told, how dare us act like we understood this issue in the least bit without getting their perspective.

I’ll give you an example. Last week before I left town I had lunch with a group of female engineers to get some feedback and perspective about their experience and challenges. You may not know this, but engineering is still a majority male industry. I wanted to know how they feel about that and most of them, don’t even notice anymore. Granted these are young female engineers so I know their experience isn’t the same as other female engineers 10 or 20 years prior to them. The top two things that I walked away from after meeting with that group is that they do sometimes feel like they have to work twice as hard to prove they are as good as their male counterparts and that they do NOT want to be hired just because they are female engineers, but because they are good engineers. You know why they said that? Because they know we have numbers to fill and percentages to meet and they don’t want jobs just to make your AAP a little sexier. They want you to hire them for your job because they are the best candidate for the job.

Here’s the deal, we like to throw things at our managers that they have to do and expect them to follow the rules, but my friend Famous Heather has a great point. If she makes her son eat carrots then he’s never going to like them or appreciate them. Are you forcing carrots on your managers? Are you chasing your initiatives the right way?

I appreciated Marlin, a fellow HR practitioner, calling the HR profession out on this one very bold fact: We, as an HR community, have been talking about how important diversity IS, but doing almost nothing about it. He shared some survey results to back this up and challenged the room to think about their own organizations in regards to this. He also provided tools to the audience to consider in understanding the differences in groups and why people perceive others the way they do.

More to come on this topic over the next few weeks, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Who leads your diversity issues? What’s most important to your org in reference to diversity? What have you done that has worked?