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Categories: Uncategorized

Tuesday in the Trenches: A Groovy Kind of Love

January 19, 2010 9 comments

This week’s #TrenchHR post is from Robin Schooling (@RobinSchooling).  Robin, an SPHR, is VP of Human Resources with a statewide organization in Louisiana and has over 20 years HR management experience in various industries including health care, banking and manufacturing. Robin is a Past President of the Greater Baton Rouge SHRM chapter and serves as Professional Development Coordinator on the Louisiana SHRM State Council, and as VP Membership with ASTD Baton Rouge. She is a board member of the Louisiana Business Leadership Network (LBLN), a non-profit network of businesses which values persons with disabilities as customers and employees. She encourages everyone to cheer for the Saints in the NFC Championship game…..Who Dat!

When I entered the HR profession circa 1988, we wore jackets with huge shoulder pads and acid-washed denim.   SHRM was soon to change its name from ASPA and the word “personnel” was being banished from the nameplates, office directories and (ideally) the vocabulary of folks the world over.  We were working to change the perception of HR from paper-pushing-party-planners to organizational partners. 

We KNEW we had the insight and knowledge to transform our organizations by harnessing the power of people’s capabilities.


Most HR professionals believe that people are amazing, and nowhere is individuality more apparent than when viewed through our eyes.  We see people at their absolute best and their absolute worst; they can be frustrating, maddening, or inspiring.  We laugh with them and we laugh at them.  Gather any group of HR professionals together and invariably we talk “shop.” We don’t talk about 5500’s, FMLA or the latest software conversion – we talk about applicants, employees, managers and executives.  We chuckle and find solace in sharing our observations and reflecting upon the absurdities of human interactions.

Deep down, of course, HR professionals know that what makes people unique is what makes them fascinating.  We enjoy finding out about people’s personal stories, motivations, and their goals and aspirations (or lack thereof).  This, I believe, is what draws many of us to HR – tapping into the strengths of individuals by helping clear obstacles and creating the path for their journeys.

While I don’t want to hand-hold, babysit, or do for employees – I DO want to support them.


But in order to free up our time to support employees and lead them to personal and organizational excellence, we must become better at tackling the un-sexy aspects of the HR function – process improvement to increase quality and reduce costs.   Learning, understanding and applying some basic process improvement techniques can lead to dramatic results at the departmental and organizational levels.

Reflecting back on the low-tech era, my day was filled with laborious HR tasks:   I created a monthly employee newsletter using a typewriter, clip art book, and a glue stick.  I shared a PC with 6 other HR employees (MS-DOS, thank you very much). I made 6 copies of every single Employee Action Form for my co-workers.    When personnel files were destroyed, I typed up Employee Record cards which were stored in a recipe-card box. I planned the picnic.

And since it’s easy to take the path of least resistance, many HR Departments TO THIS DAY utilize 15-20 year old processes.  Just as with any business discipline, we must continuously strive for improvement, efficiency, quality and value.  We must banish phrases such as “we’ve always done it that way” and “we have to do it that way for the auditors” (my personal favorite).  


Continuous improvement can directly lead to HR enhancement in providing value to the organization.  With every HR process that is eliminated, streamlined or re-engineered, we free up time to spend on talent management, employee development and working with other departments to meet organizational goals.

I would rather spend my time brainstorming with the VP of Sales regarding how to grow revenue than making extra copies of the medical insurance invoice in case the auditors want them.

Looking for Guest “Trench HR” Bloggers…

January 17, 2010 2 comments

So much of what we do in HR is behind the scenes.  I was referred to the other day as the “wizard behind the curtain.”  Still trying to figure out if that was a compliment or not…doubt it, though.  I’ve always said that we could write a book based strictly on the interesting experiences we have in the world of corporate HR…most of it, after all, comes from “the land of you can’t make this shit up.”  I’ve also noticed that there still aren’t many HR bloggers out there.  Let me clarify: There are lots of people blogging about HR, but very view of them are currently practicing in a corporate environment.  The theory, the strategy, and the direction provided by subject matter experts and consultants is really important.  But hearing from those in the trenches is a perspective we need more of.  So let’s marry the two…

If you practice HR in a corporate environment (private, public, small, large), and would like to share your perspective on:

  1. What it’s like to be in the trenches these days
  2. Crazy stuff you encounter, crazy stuff your people do, crazy stuff you have to do to fix it
  3. Things you’ve done to simplify your HR practice
  4. How your career in HR has evolved and lessons learned along the way
  5. Etc.

then send me your post – shoot for 400 words or less.  I’ll gladly post it…and promote it…on HR Fishbowl.   There are lots of people who would like to see more Trench HR out in the blogosphere and maybe…just maybe…this would help.  Just Email me at #TrenchHR

Have Some Humility – Shut Up for Haiti!

January 14, 2010 17 comments

I’m the first person to find a way to complain about my life, my job, my earnings, my house, my boat (or lack thereof), my summer home (or lack thereof), and on and on and on.  I’m getting better about that, though.  I think to some extent that comes with age, maturity, and self-confidence.  Isn’t it crazy, though, how perspective changes every thing?  Have you been paying attention to what’s going on down in Haiti?  Have you seen the images of destitute, death, destruction, helplessness?  It is unbelievable to me that in this age we have parts of this world that suffer these conditions.  And I’ve lived in India.  What makes this even more f’d up is when I come into the office and hear someone complaining about their job.  Are you kidding me?  You HAVE a job…and a paycheck…and a house…with electricity…and running water…and most likely your health.  WTF are you talking about?  Take a moment and really think about it…seriously.

So I propose that the rest of January is Shut up for Haiti Month.  Work really hard to stop complaining about your job for just two more weeks.  Recognize how lucky you really are.  And save everyone else from your ignorance of what really matters.  And although I’m a sympathetic and empathetic HR guy, if you complain over the next two weeks, I’m not listening.  PASS IT ON!  #ShutUpForHaiti

Bang Head Here

December 9, 2009 5 comments

Just wanted to post a quick note to my regular readers (all 16 of you) that my day job right now has me running in so many directions that the idea of even looking at my blog is inconceivable.  Although I plan on remaining radio silent in the blogosphere for the coming days, I’m sure I’ll have much to rant about when I get through to the other side.  In the meantime, thanks for your patience, keep checking back, and keep the faith around “HR Under-Engineered!”

The beating will continue until the morale improves

December 4, 2009 7 comments

I hear this all the time in jest.  Then I started to wonder whether there is something to it.  Why is it always the employer’s responsibility to improve morale?  So much of what effects negative sentiment in the workplace is a result of things that cannot be controlled – whether by employer or employee.  Sure, there are a bunch of asshole managers out there…always will be.  But there are also a lot of droopy eyed sorry ass no fun sonofa you know what employees out there too.  I got news for you, u sorry souls…work sucks!  And as long as you’re working “for the man” it probably will.  In my mind you really only have two choices (some would say three): 1) get over it, cheer up, smile and laugh a bit more, be thankful for the little things, and make the most of what you got  or 2) quit and bring your black cloud somewhere else.  The third choice is you stick around and make everyone else miserable.  That’s not a choice in my book.  I’m still going to play my role in helping create a productive, challenging, rewarding, and fun workplace, but I’m also going to encourage our leadership team, our mangers, and our employees to take responsibility for their own satisfaction.  Real lasting positive change comes from the grass-roots level – always has.  Employees need to stop waiting for someone else to brighten their day…and they definitely shouldn’t be expecting HR to do it for them.

Does it Matter what they Say?

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment

hrfishbowlzTo me  HR is all about one thing – optimizing the performance of people in organizations that are highly reliant upon human capital for their success.  All this talk over the years about “getting a seat at the table” becoming a “strategic partner of the business” is great…it’s helped move the needle for sure.  But I would argue that getting to the table is the easy part…staying there is the real test.  Forget all this lofty strategic thinking for a second; get back to focusing on the fundamentals of serving your customers – the operative core to any business dynamic.  HR’s clients are many, but above all else they are the employees.  Does it matter what the “Average Joe” is saying about HR?  If Joe is my client, damn right it matters…even if he has a completely warped sense of who we are and how things work.  HR Fishbowl is dedicated to surfacing and socializing what others are saying about HR primarily to heighten our awareness.  Most of it probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously.  All of it, though, should cause us to pause.  There will definitely be a negative slant to the matters we bring to a simmer…we don’t need another blog devoted to patting ourselves on the back.  So buckle up, strap on the chin-strap, and get ready to take your lumps…but do it with the understanding that knowing our clients better – just knowing how they may be thinking about us – only helps us to serve our purpose with distinction.