Archive for July, 2011
Earlier this month I received a totally unexpected and exciting email from a woman named Deb Silverberg. Deb is part of the Social Communications team at AARP, dealing with financial security and work issues. She sent an email asking if I was interested in becoming a regular guest blogger for AARP, addressing work and HR issues for the over 50 crowd.
The fact that I am over 50 and already blogging about work and HR issues is obviously an advantage for this kind of gig.
In her email, Deb explained how she found me and that she had read some of my blog posts. She was particularly interested in me, she said, because ” your content was refreshingly void of HR-speak and jargon, which isn’t always easy to find in the HR world.”
HR jargon? No one really uses that, do they?
“The idea is to determine whether an innovation warrants further exploration, not to generate a business case or estimate ROI, as too little is known about the innovation to assess the business case effectively.”
” . . . strongest driver of improvement in performance within the strategy domain.”
“With the apprenticeship scheme both parties are signing up to the idea of a structured training program, and you can really spend some time ensuring that the apprentice is building a full tool-box of techniques that will help them perform, whilst also not only developing best practice but also learning about how we do things here and fitting in with our approach rather than picking up bad habits or questionable ethics in desperation to bring in results.”
Yes, those are all examples from actual HR blogs. I could have added dozens, right?
There are other people in the HR blog world taking a stand against this type of writing. The people at the KnowHR blog are particularly great at speaking in plain English and speaking out against the over-use of jargon. And The Cynical Girl Laurie Ruettimann recently wrote
We get it. You are smart. But blogs are meant to entertain.
HR jargon is not entertaining.
Of course, what they really mean is “may I do it?”, and what they are really asking is, “Is what I want to do legal?”
The employment lawyer usually answers, “it depends,” and then proceeds to ask the client a number of questions about the factual situation, and gives the client a brief discourse on the relevant law.
Given that attorneys and accountants are the most valuable business partners that many businesses (particularly small businesses) have, I think that “it depends” is the wrong answer in a vast majority of cases. The better answer is asking the client “why do you want to do that?”
Let’s face it – we get the laws we deserve. We have anti-discrimination employment laws against certain protected classes because of a history of employment discrimination against those classes. More classes will be added, and more laws created, because discrimination continues. We have laws against retaliatory discharge because too many employers fired people who squealed, instead of fixing the problem being squealed about. We have wage and hour laws because too many employers will undervalue and overwork people who are desperate to feed themselves and their families.
So the next time a client calls and asks, “I hate gay people, and I don’t want to ever hire one. Is that legal?”, I am begging employment lawyers to be good business partners and community citizens, and not give a discourse about the state of anti-gay discrimination legislation in your jurisdiction. Instead, explain to the client why taking a stance against hiring an entire class of population is a poor business practice in general, and how that business practice is not in the best financial interest of the client.
Do this for every questionable employment practice you are asked about. It will save you, and the client, from having to deal with the law that will inevitably follow.
[Author's note 07/21/11 - Congress introduced a bill on July 18, 2011 that would make the unemployed a protected class by preventing hiring discrimination against them. Don't say I didn't warn you. ;-)]
When I started to receive emails and phone calls from vendors asking me to stop by their booth and chat with their CEO/CFO/some kind of O, I thought it was how vendors reached out to attendees prior to the massive annual Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference. It took Matt Stollak and his True Faith HR blog to explain to me that I was receiving those strange pitches because I was going to be a ribbon-wearing member of the social media press.
I felt kind of special for a few minutes. Then I received this phone call.
[Phone rings. Answered by daughter because I am feeding dogs.] Daughter yells at top of lungs: “MOM! Somebody about HR!” [Brings me phone]
Me: This is Joan.
Caller: This is (blank) from (blankety-blank). I’d like to see if you would list our client on your blog.
Me: What do you mean, “list”? Like a blog roll for vendors?
Me: Well, I don’t have a vendor roll on my blog. I don’t have a blog roll at all.
Me: Um, who’s your client, anyway?
Me: Well, they do sell to HR – I’ve even used their product. But I don’t know any HR bloggers that have a vendor roll, or a vendor blog roll. I’m kind of busy right now, so email me at ginsberg dot joan at gmail dot com, tell me what it is you are looking for, and I will try to help you out later.
Caller: Thank you. (hangs up.)
A few minutes later I received this email:
Hi Its, (blank) from (blankety-blank), if you could refer different media publications or bloggers that would be interested in included our client that would be great. Thanks.
Really. This exact email (I deleted the names).
To this day I am really not sure what this marketing company wanted me or any other blogger to do for their client. I emailed back and asked for clarification but never received a response.
Contrast that bizarre tale with an email I received from a different vendor a few days later, also included here without any change at all:
Congratulations on getting a press pass to the SHRM annual conference! I’m excited to see your SHRM posts – whether they will be rants or raves – and how you enjoy the conference. I’ll definitely be checking back tomorrow to see how your SHRM series starts. As the only Michigan blogger on the press list, I wanted to reach out to you and say hello! Baudville is located in Grand Rapids, so I’ll be making the long trip out to Vegas this weekend, too.
I’d love to connect with you at the conference, but as a VIB (Very Important Blogger), I know you have lots of people clamoring for your attention at SHRM next week. Vendors, authors, and speakers who all want you to know about them.
At Baudville, we’re different. We want to know what you think about employee recognition.
Cori Curtis, Marketing Specialist at Baudville and the author of this email, had obviously read my blog and went out of her way to make a very personal connection. I emailed her back that I would love to drop by her booth and visit. I wish I had done so (if you are reading for the first time, click here to see why I didn’t), because the videos were marvelous.
I think it is pretty obvious which vendor gets a big pat on the back in my book, and, most importantly, will be remembered as a great company when a time comes in the future to make a recommendation.
**I don’t wish to embarrass this company or their marketers by identifying them, but the client was a national insurance company who uses a duck in their promotions.
One of the things I was most looking forward to at the recent SHRM Annual Conference was working on my ability to blog faster and more in the moment. Right now I have a problem writing my blog because it takes me . . . forever. I’m too busy thinking and analyzing and considering and deliberating. I intended to force myself at SHRM11 to post at least once every day, and even more if I was able to find something to video.
Since I wasn’t able to attend, I read lots of blogs and watched the tweet stream as much as I could, because I still wanted to see if I could learn the secret to blogging fast and well. Here are some of my favorites that were posted during the merry madness that was SHRM11. (During means not before Saturday and not after Wednesday).
1. FAVORITE SNIPPETS BLOG
In a large conference like this, I like someone to give me a paragraph or two about several different topics, so I can get a real overview of the total conference experience. Long, involved posts about a particular session have their place – if you are interested in the topic and like the writer. But telling me about the weather, the crowds, the lines, etc. really gives me a feeling of being there. My favorite in this category was “Notes From SHRM11 – Day 1“, written by Steve Boese and posted on his HR Technology blog.
2. FAVORITE ANALYTICAL BLOG
Attorneys analyze everything to a fault, and I’m no different, so I am a sucker for a blog that takes some kind of fact and scrutinizes it closely. Sometimes I want to argue back, and sometimes I want to jump up and pump my fist in agreement, but the key is that it makes me think. I’m still thinking about this post days later: “The New CEO of SHRM . . . 2011 Version . . .” from Kris Dunn at The HR Capitalist.
3. FAVORITE ACTION PLAN
A lot of people like to blog about the keynotes and their speeches, and I saw a lot of cool quotes from all of keynotes. What doesn’t happen as much is translating something a keynote said into a real, actionable “go do it” kind of takeaway. In this category, I like how Charlie Judy, author of HR Fishbowl, took one single quote from Arianna Huffington and turned it into “here’s what to do” bullet points in “The HR Tribe of Trust.”
4. FAVORITE LIVE TWEETING
Tweeting is a micro-blog, remember? Nobody, and I really mean nobody, can live tweet an HR event the way Jennifer McClure (@CincyRecruiter) can. Based on the #SHRM11 stream, I am not alone in this opinion.
5. FAVORITE VIDEO BLOG
In my opinion, more and more written blogs are going to be replaced with videos in the coming years. I watched tons of interviews, but sound quality and rambling answers made me cut many of them short. My favorite? Not an interview blog at all, but Laurie Ruettimann‘s 2011 SHRM 63rd Annual Conference & Exposition Swag Video“. Sure, it’s funny and she talks about a lot of “goofy shit”, but her message about marketing and branding isn’t goofy at all.