#SHRM22 Recap Part 1 — Care for your People

Someone asked me on LinkedIn the other day the age-old HR dichotomy: “Is HR’s job to protect the company or the people?” My response? “You protect the company by taking care of the people. When you take care of people, they feel valued, seen, and appreciated. They will take care of your business every time.” My takeaway from #SHRM22? I’m not alone in this belief — we need to take care of our people.

I had a healthy dose of skepticism for Sunday’s opening general session with two healthcare insurance carrier executives on the stage. Please don’t tell us the solution to this mass exodus of talent is found in benefits…However, shortly into their discussion, I saw the most beautiful display of vulnerability and kindness as a leader. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, including Humana’s President and CEO, Bruce Broussard as they recalled a story about the personal medical challenges of the Chief Administrative Officer, Tim Huval. The obvious care, compassion, and concern for this person on the CEO’s team was palpable in the room. It was a living demonstration of empathy and culture – setting the example from the top. What a way to start the conference!

The theme of humanity and taking care of ourselves and one another continued throughout the conference experience. Humanity was present in the halls — as per usual, there was a DJ in the main area to get people moving. A time or two, you could find me and several others, connecting through a mutual love of the Cha-Cha Slide, letting loose and forgetting about e-mails, HRIS demos, and anything outside of the four walls of the convention center.

In the Expo Hall, an unfamiliar site reminded us all of the importance of culture 365 in our companies. Motivosity had a sign in their booth that clearly demonstrated their culture. The expo started on Sunday, but that was a protected time for “Yeti families,” as they called their team members, and they were spending Sunday with their families. This value wasn’t situational — Sundays are for family unless we have a conference to attend.

The leadership at Motivosity lives their values 365 — conference or no conference. What a powerful message they sent to their teams and their prospective customers! I know I made a note to return the next day.

Speaking of culture…Steve Browne, CPO of LaRosa’s reminded us the importance of taking care of our people and being people-first, sharing with his attendees a photo of a simple block of wood they made and handed out to each team member with “We are PEOPLE FIRST” AND “2,4,4,2 KEYS TO SUCCESS” carved into the block.

Steve shared that the meaning behind the “2,4,4,2” was this:
“If you do more to people than for people, your life will not be successful. Do more for people than to people for your life to be successful.” – Mike LaRosa, via Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP

Imagine joining that team and knowing that your leadership is not only people first, but they are promoting that value and holding themselves and others accountable to it.  Is your organization practicing people-first leadership?

If you attended SHRM22 or even simply followed the hashtag #SHRM22 SHRM22Influencer, you can find photos, videos, and tips for making your organization people first.  It can be a little overwhelming during the conference itself to absorb all the great content that is shared.  That’s the purpose of the Influencer team.  We capture soundbites and ideas and share them – not just during the conference, but long after!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

#SHRM22 Annual Conference & Expo: Power Skills with Rachel Druckenmiller!

We are in the homestretch, and if you’re anything like me, you are in the app planning your sessions carefully so that you can make the most of your #SHRM22 experience!

Whether you are in person at the conference or virtual this year, I invite you to check out Rachel Druckenmiller on Tuesday, June 14th at 3:30pm CST for her session: The Soul Behind the Role: Igniting the Power Skills of Intentional Leadership.  I’ll be there, and I’ll save you a seat.

Rachel is the Founder and CEO of Unmuted, and she is the daughter of two entrepreneurs, so she always had the drive and ambition in her to start her own business. If you aren’t already following Rachel, I encourage you to start with her LinkedIn.  She goes live frequently to share her heart and her voice – literally and figuratively. Rachel is known for her singing key notes! Rachel says that it’s part of her “unmuting” when she sings:

“I think all of us can think of an area of their life, where they silence themselves or hold themselves back, or they doubt themselves or mute an aspect of who they are because there’s a certain way you’re supposed to show up.”

-Rachel Druckenmiller, Unmuted

Rachel’s talking about power skills of intentional leadership in her session this year, and she shared a preview of one of those skills with me: Curiosity.

This session will be both in-person as well as virtual, and Rachel has plans to keep the virtual attendees engaged and feeling like they are part of the in-person! You’ll have to tune in/head over to see just what those tricks and tools are.

I asked Rachel how this session will empower attendees to #CauseTheEffect in their organizations and impact the future of work:

“It starts with practicing the behaviors you want people that you work with to practice. Turn the mirror on yourself. How could you show up with greater curiosity?”

I hope this piqued your curiosity, and we’ll see you on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 3:30pm!

#SHRM22 Annual Conference & Expo: The Introvert’s Guide to #Conferencing

#Conferencing is a term that has been coined by the #SHRM19Blogger contingent that took on Las Vegas.  The annual conference is an EVENT, and it can be overwhelming for those that are first-timers or even recurring attendees.  There are a LOT of blog posts by my fellow #SHRM22Influencers that will help you every step of the way for first-time attendees.  We are HR people, People people, and we are here to help!

This guide is a little bit different.  I’m a card-carrying Introvert, INTJ, and I’m here to help.

#Conferencing is not a spectator sport as I’ve shared before.  Conferences are designed for a few purposes:

Connect in person. I hear you, you’re an introvert, and you’re happy with the people you’re already connected with — or you don’t know where to start.  Lucky for you, I have some card-carrying extroverts that would LOVE to help you.  It’s a little-known fact that extroverts love helping out their introvert friends.  Allow me to introduce you to a few of the #HRCommunity’s pals:

My friend and unofficial mentor, Steve Browne.  Steve not only wants to connect with you, he wants to help you!  Find Steve, and tell him Nicole sent you!  Also check out Steve’s sessions!

In the event you don’t know him, this is Steve.

One of my favorite humans ever and wine buddy, Kyra Matkovich. Kyra is the keeper of the #HRShenanigans and held down the fort with the virtual conference last year.  She will be in NOLA with us this summer, and she’d love to meet you!

Speaking of making life-long friends, this is Josh Rock and Kyra — in Kyra’s hometown.

Attend the events!  There is Tuesday night entertainment, Sunday reception in the Exhibitor Hall, and plenty of other events provided throughout the conference.  Attend the events and don’t just go back to your room at the end of the day!  Sign up for Jess Miller-Merrill’s VIP Text Alerts from Workology’s Party People.  Text ‘SHRM’ to 512-548-3005 and get live updates on where all the activities are taking place!

Pre-Conference Meet-Up at SHRM21!

Connect virtually. As mentioned, Kyra held down the fort for the virtual conference last year, and SHRM is offering a virtual option for those unable to join in person in New Orleans this year as well!  Follow the following hashtags: #SHRM22, #SHRM22Influencer, #CauseTheEffect (our 2022 theme). I can’t tell you the number of genuine connections I’ve formed with my virtual #HRCommunity that have become real-life friends that I’m sure I’ll have for a lifetime.

Learn New Things and SHARE IT: There are 11 content tracks with 200+ expert-led sessions in store for you at SHRM22 this year.  Check out the full conference schedule and PLAN your experience.  The app will be coming out shortly.  Pay attention to where sessions are located and when you arrive, don’t barricade yourself with your bags at the end of the row and check your e-mail until the session starts.  Get comfortable and be open to meeting others around you.  Chances are if you’re in the same session, you share interests in the subject matter. Take a chance and introduce yourself, and if you don’t take the first step, at least be open to those sitting around you.  Be present and ask questions/participate. Share your key learnings on social media — and don’t forget the hashtags!

Hope this helps!  Remember to make the most of your time while also still being true to yourself and your boundaries.  These are suggestions from one introvert to another.  Enjoy and please connect with me if I can help in any way.  See you there!

Culture Check: Is it Safe to Make a Mistake?

When mistakes happen, what is the go-to behavior in your organization? Do you have people who will vehemently defend their actions, try to solve problems in a vacuum, attack others, or deflect/misdirect the attention? Do you have people who will attempt to hide or cover up mistakes? Do you have people who will reach out to their teams and leadership to get guidance, support, and help? Do they own their mistakes, acknowledge their part, and look for ways to improve?

If your organization is more aligned with the “own your mistakes and ask for help” vs. “blame and CYA”, you have a healthy organization. Your people should never be afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are where we learn what doesn’t work. Mistakes are where we have the opportunity to look at a problem from another perspective and problem solve, brainstorm, and come up with a solution together. Healthy cultures take the ego out of their processes and are open to the possibility that there is a better and more effective way to do things.

Where does your HR/People Operations (whatever you call it) team fit in here?

Do you have a culture of service, support, and help, or are you punitive and focus far too much on the past and what can’t be changed vs. the future and how to move forward and make things better? Are you the policy police? Are you the principal’s office? Are people afraid when you show up unannounced? If so, make efforts, even small ones today, to change that. HR is not the principal’s office or the policy police. Your leadership teams are not judge, jury, and executioner. If you observe a leader being punitive with someone, have the courage to speak up and address it. Behavior not addressed is behavior condoned.

We want to have healthy cultures where our teams and leaders reach out for help when they need it. We want to be given the opportunity to address a situation and to get the support needed. We have to create safety to ask questions, make mistakes, and ask for help. We need to be the go-to for counsel, support, consultation, and guidance. If people aren’t reaching out for help, it’s indicative that they don’t truly believe that reaching out will have an impact.

Disengagement doesn’t happen overnight. Unsafe cultures aren’t built overnight. There is a consistent trend of unmet expectations, and eventually, people lose faith that their situation will improve. Just as this doesn’t deteriorate overnight, it also can’t be repaired overnight. Trust in you, your team, and the organization starts slow — commit to doing something and then do it. That builds trust. If people trust you for the small things, they’ll trust you for the big things, and we all need to be trusted and relied upon for the big things.

Where does your organization line up? Where do you? Are you proud of the culture you foster? If not, what are you doing today to make an impact and start the transformation?

Let’s Err on the Side of Human

Things are crazy right now. That’s not a secret. You may be tired, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do next. That’s okay. No one expects you to have all the answers – right now or frankly ever. They do expect you to get answers. They do expect you to make the best decision with the information you have in front of you.

You have to keep going. You have to make decisions. When you go radio silent, that’s when people let their fears and insecurities get the best of them. Have confidence that you were put in your position because the organization believed in you. Believe in you.

Lean on your network. If you are an HR professional, search #HRCommunity or ask questions and add that hashtag. We are here to help. There are so many wonderful resources right now to help you. This is new to all of us. We’re all taking things day by day.

You will have times when you feel overwhelmed. That’s okay. Take a breath and wait until you are calm and clear headed before you respond or react. Keep the assumption of positive intent in others at the forefront. I know it’s not easy, and not everyone is behaving with positive intent, but you must keep that assumption in your own behavior. Other people’s behavior does not dictate yours. If you feel you are losing control, close the e-mail, walk away from the chat, close your eyes. BREATHE.

If you find that you are getting the same questions, schedule a call to get people together to talk through things. Something wasn’t clear, and you getting frustrated with people not reading your e-mails and being able to read your mind and your intent is not helpful to anyone — especially to you, my stressed friend.

If you are fortunate to support an essential business, that’s your honor and privilege right now. They are so fortunate to have you. We all thank you and want to support you. Not everyone has the same style under stress. Grant grace to people who are scared and may not be the best version of themselves right now, including yourself. If you have a misstep, own it, apologize, and make it right.

Now is the time for real, human communication. Now is the time for compassion to yourself and others. Now is the time to check in with people daily and ask for feedback. You want to be effective and add value. You cannot be helpful and effective if you are unable to communicate with people.

We don’t know a lot about the days ahead. What we do know is that while we don’t know how long this will last, it’s not going to last forever, and we are all doing everything in our power to take care of those in our care. Maintain perspective and remember that you have a 100% survival rate for difficult things and you are not alone in this – no matter how isolated we may be right now.

I’m rooting for you. We all are — from 6 feet away. You’ve got this.

People are the Purpose — You Can’t Love HR Without a Heart for PEOPLE

Note: I wrote this October 24, 2019, and the blogging equivalent of leaving an email in the draft folder happened…

I attended a workshop yesterday on mental health in the workplace. It was helpful, informative, and I feel more prepared when a situation arises as a result. The focus was on identifying and responding to possible signs of struggle in the workplace, including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicide, and substance use disorder.

At one point in time, when the instructor was teaching us techniques and questions to ask to gain understanding of the situation, one of the attendees expressed that she was not comfortable asking an employee if they were thinking of committing suicide — that this person wasn’t their close friend or family member, and that they would prefer to get someone else to talk to them.

Despite my best efforts to be objective and listen non-judgmentally – a skill we had literally just gone over, I had a visceral reaction to this statement, and I said out loud that we don’t always get a choice to be comfortable in our conversations. The purpose of the workshop is to be better prepared when these situations happen. We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

Pretending that this isn’t an epidemic doesn’t prepare us to help our people when they need it. I highly recommend for anyone to attend this training. There have been times in my career when I felt that I wasn’t the most prepared for the direction the conversation turned, and I’m encouraged to see that we have identified this skills gap and are providing these programs.

During lunch, I overheard a conversation where someone was referring to their soda fountain at work having 2 specific types of pop because it was what she preferred. The “perks” of being in charge of the project, she said. I was so disappointed that a peer, representing HR to her organization, completely missed an opportunity to love on her people and get what they might have preferred. It’s a little thing, but the focus was way off the mark.

My faith in humanity was restored attending #DisruptHR last night. These are my people. No one talked about how to make their job better for them or how to use the system to benefit themselves. In fact, there were discussions of enlisting the help of non-HR people to be grassroots culture ambassadors and appeal to various pockets of the population – not just the typical ideas. You can learn more about DisruptHR here: https://disrupthr.co/.

The Power of Community

A few weeks ago, I had a pretty significant health scare and ended up in the hospital. I openly joked how inconvenient it was the week before Christmas, and I almost waited it out because I’m a stubborn, independent woman, but that’s a post for another day…I called one of my best friends, scared, and she came over immediately and drove me to the ER satellite by my house.

I believe in the power of prayer. That’s my belief. I don’t require that you also have that belief. You can talk to any of my friends. We don’t have to have the same beliefs whatsoever in order to have a relationship. Because of this belief, when I arrived at the ER, scared and not knowing what was going on, I went to Facebook – which is my more private social media account, and I simply asked for “prayers, please.” The response was – and continues to be overwhelming.

In that post alone, 77 people commented that they were praying for me, or if prayer wasn’t their connection to healing, they were doing their thing. Let me tell you, I felt the support. Not long after that post, I received countless FB messages, Twitter DMs, and texts. Not just texts from my friends that I talk to every day, people that I have only occasionally connected with took time out of their evening to reach out to me and lend their support and words.

The next day, one of my dearest friends came to visit me, lamented over the outrage that I wasn’t allowed to have anything to eat or drink, and we even took a very much out-of-focus selfie to commemorate the visit. She’s an amazing human, and I’m so thankful to have her in my life.

I also received a visit that day from someone who works with me. She brought me a care package, including a cell phone charger, facial wipes, and lip balm — I had definitely not planned to be admitted into the hospital when I went to the ER the night before. She has no idea how much it meant to me that she took time out of her day to visit with me and bring me those things so that I could stay connected and keep my family and friends updated.

The photo on this post is from the Ohio SHRM Conference Committee, which I am so thankful to be a part of. They arrived within minutes of my discharge from the hospital, and it completely brightened my day. You see, we (my mom was there with me) had just gotten that call that my grandmother had passed away. She was 93, no longer in pain, and she was with my grandpa now, but nevertheless, it was a loss, and we were grieving.

Flowers, packages, kind words, phone calls – those things mean so much to me because they all require a priceless commodity: TIME. We all have it, and yet we don’t all use it the same. Each person that reached out to me or sent me flowers or came to visit me took TIME out of their day to do so, and I am truly thankful for that.

I continue to receive, even today, check-ins from those in my community, asking how I’m feeling, and extending their support and well wishes.

Friends, can I tell you that we are so incredibly blessed to have this global group of people, looking out for one another, sharing in our joys and our tragedies? Thank those that are in your squad, cohort, crew, tribe, band, team – whatever applies to you.

To my amazing circle of outstanding humans in my life: THANK YOU.

The Importance of Giving Back

The mentors in my career have provided invaluable support, feedback, and a gut check or reality check, when needed.

As we grow in our careers as leaders, it is our honor and privilege to also give back. Suggestions and advice that seem like no-brainers to us because we have been in the workplace for as long as we have, are sometimes just the Epiphany someone else needs.

We also have the ability to use our vast network for others. For example, I met a wonderful, bright, and engaging “girl,” @ohiogirlkate, to be exact. We connected on Twitter awhile back, and we finally connected in person this year at OHSHRM. I saw her in the Expo and later saw her again, and she joined me in helping a vendor unload their free beer. Picture Oprah, but with beer. “You get a beer, you get a beer!”

She even won a prize from a vendor on the last day, and we managed to snap a picture together! Success, right?

Not long after we returned from the conference, she reached out to me to let me know her position was being eliminated.

Now what is the point of having a network of thousands if you can’t use it to help a young HR pro land her next gig? It’s pointless, so I shared her info with my network, and it was shared by others and I’m sharing it here as well. http://linkedin.com/in/coxmary.

Your network is not for you. It’s to help and impact others. I can’t wait to post the story of the power of networking and Mary Kate’s wonderful new opportunity!

There’s No Lukewarm HR

I engaged in a conversation yesterday that went something like this:

Person: “I see you work in HR…how’s that treat ya? Can be a tough job.”

Me: “I’ve been in HR for 15 years. I love it.”

Person: “It’s a position of passion for sure…”

Me: “It can be, but also has the potential for the greatest impact.”

Person: “Indeed.”

Me: “You either love it or you don’t. There’s no lukewarm HR. When done right and with passion, it can be the greatest asset to a company — when done poorly – or “just enough,” it can sink the culture.”

I’m not alone in this sentiment. My good friend Steve Browne (yes, that Steve Browne) expresses this sentiment in his best selling book HR on Purpose: Developing Deliberate People Passion:

If employees are a pain point or source of frustration for you professionally, then get out of human resources. It isn’t the career for you. Quit trying to tough it out because you are this administrative superstar who can make systems hum. Administration is an important facet of HR, but it is not the reason we exist. Without people, we are nothing.

Steve is 100% accurate with this statement. HR is the for the people. It’s our job in HR to help and to support. Yes, we are there to advise, consult, and provide guidance. Yes, we are there to analyze trends and to make suggestions using predictive analytics. We are there for all of that, but at the end of the day, the people are the reason we are there. The rest is just details.

Whether you have authority or not, you have the potential to have a great deal of influence and impact in HR. Why? Because you impact the people directly. You are quite often the first impression of the company to a candidate. You are quite often the first person they meet on Day 1. You are the person who explains benefits (or someone on your team is, but you get it.) You have the possibility to make a tremendous impact on the employee’s view of the organization.

While HR is there for the happy moments: anniversaries, promotions, expansion, development, etc., it is the times of tragedy that are the most important part of our job. When someone leans on you, they are trusting you. Be present. Be there. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you ever in HR. Come to terms with that and find your joy and satisfaction in others.

One of my favorite quotes that I apply to our work: ” Do everything with a good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.” I don’t mean that cynically. I genuinely mean that if your focus is not yourself, you would be amazed at the happiness in your work.

One final note of distinction: You notice I didn’t say: You are the dress code police. You are the time card police. You are the [insert control measure here] police. We are not. It saddens me when people are afraid of HR – even in jest. If you got into HR to control people or things, kindly see your way out. You are there to be there for the people, and if you ever forget that, do whatever self-care you need to remind yourself of that or kindly vacate this field that myself and so many of my amazing and passionate cohorts love.

Be on fire for people. Work hard. Do great work.

You Can’t Help if You Don’t Take the Oxygen Mask

At some point in your career, you will inevitably encounter a situation where the most important aspect of your job will be supporting someone else – maybe one person, maybe a department, maybe your entire organization.

Here’s the thing. If you don’t first take care of yourself, you will be in no position to take care of anyone else. This is the reason for the flight attendant saying to put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing on anyone else.

Understand that it’s not selfish to practice self-care – or whatever you call it. You can’t bring your best if you don’t first take care of yourself.

You are also showing your team and your org that you are human, humans require care, and it’s not only safe for you to be human, but it’s safe for others as well, and you will support them as they care for themselves as well.

It is our responsibility as leaders to not only take care of ourselves, but to also create that safety for others to understand the strength both required and displayed at recognizing when you need to take a breath.

Your breath may not look the same as someone else’s. What refills and renews you is personal, and what works for you may not work for someone else, but it’s not for them – it’s for you.

Take care. Love yourself enough to be healthy to help others. You have no idea how much they need you – even if they don’t ask.