Archive for March, 2012
I’m a bit of a volunteer junkie. Since high school – which was a long time ago – I have been the first one to raise my hand or sign my name when someone asks for volunteers. When I was a police officer, I moved to the other side and managed a large contingent of volunteers while running the Neighborhood Watch program. In the past several years, my volunteer efforts have been concentrated on HR related groups and animal rescue/shelters.
Through all of these years of interacting with organizations that rely on volunteers, I have seen the same mismanagement and mistakes made again and again. Just like mismanagement of a paid workforce, these errors cost the organization their most precious resource: people.
1. Micromanagement by boards of non-profits. The main function of a board of directors is to set goals and policy. The details of carrying out those decisions should be left to the staff or volunteers of the organization, whichever is appropriate. When boards debate every little detail about running the organization, causing eager volunteers to wait around for their decisions before they can accomplish any goals, those volunteers are going to walk.
2. Making it unreasonably hard to join your organization. Some organizations, such as the HR groups that I belong to, require membership in the group, and it is from that membership group that volunteers are solicited. Homeowners associations rightly require you to actually live in the subdivision or community. But if the organization takes too long or has you jump through too many hoops to get in, potential volunteers may just decide that your organization isn’t worth their efforts.
One HR group I joined took two months to approve my membership – because their board had to decide on every potential member. (They obviously were violating #1.) One humane society made everyone attend an orientation scheduled sporadically in the middle of the business day after filling out all kinds of forms online. When I attended my meeting there were 3 volunteers. By contrast, another humane society has an orientation once per month on a Saturday morning, and no forms required before orientation (that is done at the meeting in an ultra-organized way). There were about 75 people at the meeting I attended. In response to my question, I was told they sometimes get 125 people.
3. Failure to follow through. When I worked at a law firm (before the proliferation of email) I was required to respond to every phone call within 24 hours. When email first came on the scene, it was considered polite to do the same. So if your organization depends on volunteers, then you must respond to their emails and phone calls and offers to help with the same type of urgency. I could give you several examples of organizations that have literally begged people to volunteer, but then failed to followup for weeks or even months with the people who responded. How much work can you expect from a volunteer after that kind of treatment?
4. Accepting animosity between volunteers and paid staff. If an organization depends on volunteers to function, then those volunteers are just as important as the paid staff, and both groups need to be able to work together harmoniously. If the paid staff is disconnected from the volunteers or fails to embrace them – your organization has a big problem managing both groups.
In my experience, this is often created by poor management communication with either group, as well as failure to properly train either. No matter what the reason for the problem, needed volunteers are not going to tolerate the issue the same way paid staff will, because nothing is as valuable as their time.
5. Failure to include. A lot of volunteer organizations have some kind of yearly recognition lunch or dinner, for their volunteers. That’s all well and good, but if you have spent the remainder of the year shutting them out of other functions, or ignoring them when you are planning an event, or never asking their opinion about areas where they have valuable knowledge, then that yearly function isn’t going to keep your volunteers from an early exit.
One organization I am a part of goes so far as to have a board position that is filled by a volunteer, and acts as a liaison between the volunteers and the board. They learned very early that volunteers need to be included to keep them interested and engaged.
Do you have volunteer experience? Was/is it good or bad? Let me know in the comments!
Our topic for March was “is it in the interest of SHRM chapters and councils to embrace other HR groups?” The point of this topic was to discuss whether partnerships with these groups- particularly those groups who have emerged with the explosion of new media and offer conferences and other learning opportunities- limited the ability of SHRM state councils and local chapters to attract members and conference registrants.
The discussion yielded a resounding “yes” for collaboration.
Most of the people chatting felt that SHRM chapters and councils risk stagnation if they fail to embrace outside groups. While some of the chatters felt that stagnation was the result of a need for new leadership, many felt that collaboration with other groups helped overcome the tunnel vision that many current SHRM leaders possess, and offered the current SHRM leaders new insights, or innovation, into HR-related areas.
When faced with a tweeted concern that having outside groups provide knowledge might keep potential members from joining their local chapter, most of the chat participants claimed that the added value from effective collaboration would prevent an exodus of current members, and attract new ones.
So in the minds of the March chatters, collaboration also yields added value.
With the case for collaboration firmly made, we asked the chatters what groups SHRM states and locals should look to when developing some kind of partnership. One of the most frequently mentioned partnerships was the Chamber of Commerce. Not only do Chambers have an interest and need to promote business-related programming, they also help SHRM locals and states reach businesses that have no traditional HR presence.
Beyond that, it was felt that the groups that might be effective partners for SHRM chapters was highly dependent on the specific needs and focus of the chapter.
One of the best examples of SHRM affiliate and outside collaboration was revealed by guest Craig Fisher of Talent Net Live and John Jorgenson, Conference Director at Illinois State Council (and faithful #SHRMChat moderator), who announced that Talent Net Live was kicking off the 2012 Illinois SHRM state conference with a pre-conference session on social recruiting.
I also humbly added my own chapter as an example – in April, Human Resources Association of Greater Detroit (Detroit SHRM) is partnering with the Michigan Diversity Council to present renowned diversity speaker Joe Gerstandt.
So if you belong to a SHRM affiliated state or local chapter, make sure you take any opportunity you can to suggest collaborative partnerships with other HR related groups.
SHRMChat is held on Twitter the second Tuesday of every month from 8 – 9 pm Eastern. Join us for the next chat on April 10th. Details will be announced in an upcoming blog post.
Inc. magazine posted a blog a couple of weeks ago entitled “5 Reasons You Need to Meet in Person”. Reason #3 was “make an impression”, and the author made hers with a pink, faux ostrich purse.
Now, pink is probably my least favorite color, and ostrich – faux or otherwise – is not my preferred texture in a handbag. But I always like messages that encourage people to accept and embrace their individuality. Joe Gerstandt, noted diversity and inclusion author and speaker, calls it flying your freak flag.
Embedded in that paragraph about carrying a pink purse, though, was a sad and telling sentence about the state of diversity in the HR/recruiting world today: “I was worried it was perhaps not professional enough for business.” With that sentence, the author turned her message “make an impression” into “make an impression – but only if it’s safe.”
HR and their recruiting counterparts claim to believe in diversity, but only because they try to be color or race-blind in their hiring decisions. When it comes to tons of other things that are marks of individuality – where you went to school, what you wear, what kind of company you keep,and what kind of jewelry you like – HR is incredibly close-minded. They want employees to think and look like them, and like everyone else in the company. That’s why people who write job seeker advice tell you to cover your tattoos and hide your flashy wedding ring, because diversity in HR is a no-no unless it is legally mandated, like race and religion.
In his latest book, Social Gravity (co-authored with Jason Lauritsen), Joe Gerstandt tells a story of working at a job fair with another recruiter when a gentleman visited their booth wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. His co-recruiter dismissed the gentleman as “clearly not management material” without knowing a thing about his talent, competency, or ability.
As Joe points out, we all make assumptions about other people that are often incorrect. HR pros and recruiters like the one in Joe’s story, though, are truly disadvantaged when they don’t fight back against that natural inclination to stereotype, and fail to embrace the worker who may look, talk, or dress just a little bit differently than everyone else. As a recruiter once said to me at a SHRM chapter meeting, “I don’t know why HR cares about all this stuff. They should only care about whether or not the person is going to help them make money. Period.”
So I continue to wear my Fit-Flop brand flip flops to business meetings, because they are the only shoes (except athletic shoes) that my problem feet can tolerate. If people talk behind my back, or if I fail to impress a potential client, so what? I just think of the song “I Am What I Am”, from the musical La Cage aux Folles, where Jerry Herman writes
So what if I love each feather and each spangle? Why not try to see things from a different angle?
Why not, HR?
Our question for February was: ”Which programs or issues do you think are important and appropriate for a future SHRMChat?” That question was posed because it seemed clear that participants in SHRMChat wanted to be able to speak about all things SHRM, not just about social media.
But as we discussed different potential topics, it became clear that our audience preferred that the topics be focused on the state/local chapters, instead of being specifically concerned with the intersection of national and its affiliates.
It was also suggested that we establish a committee or include more than one moderator – an idea that I was already pursuing and embrace totally. Again the topic of speakers or guests was brought up and it is clear that our participants are committed enough to SHRMChat to start inviting guests.
Finally, the age old issue of breaking the bubble was discussed, thanks to China Gorman who tweeted about “seeing the same old faces”. This discussion led to the suggestion that everyone who participates in SHRMChat should try to recruit one new participant each month. It was a great suggestion and I hope everyone tries to expand the group.
You suggested, I listened. Going forward, we now have 3 additional SHRMChat moderators: John Jorgensen, Dave Ryan, and Nicole Och. We will be working behind the scenes to create topics and obtain speakers, etc., so be sure to reach out to one of them, or me, if you want to suggest something. Also, after this month, I will be separating the recap and upcoming chats into two different posts.
For the March chat, our topic will be “the interaction of SHRM chapters with other HR or business related groups.” Social media has brought an explosion of these groups to the web, especially groups that provide knowledge and education, like Tlnt.com, HRevolution, and Talent Net Live. There are also more traditional alliances of SHRM chapters and other groups, such as Chambers of Commerce. Our questions are:
1. Is it in the interest of SHRM chapters to partner with or embrace other HR related groups? Why? Why not?
2. If SHRM chapters should pursue some kind of alliance, which groups would be best and why?
Join us for SHRMChat Tuesday, March 13th at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST, where our guest will be Craig Fisher of Talent Net Live and #TalentNet chat. REMEMBER TO TRY TO BRING AT LEAST ONE NEW TWEEP!
When I was in law school I had a professor who was positively gaga about policy. It was her belief that students who understood what policy objective the courts and legislatures were trying to achieve would have a better understanding of and rememberence of any given law. It would also help those future lawyers, when confronted with facts and situations that had not been previously addressed, analyze those facts within the existing law and come to some type of reasonable conclusion (especially on her exam ).
I used that technique to a large degree myself when I was a law professor, and I found it an invaluable way to keep sight of a law and its potential impact when faced with an endless series of “but, what if . . .?” questions from my students.
So it puzzles me a bit that there is such a fuss about the NLRB and the so-called “Facebook cases”. After all, the Wagner Act, or NLRA, has been the law for 75 years. Not exactly a new, untried law. Under the NLRA, all workers have the right to engage in concerted activity for the purpose of mutual aid and protection, and, if you think about it, the workers of today have always had that right. The policy objective underneath that act is to protect and encourage the formation of unions, which takes a whole lot of communication between employees about their common grievances.
So why would any employment lawyer worth his or her hefty fee advise a company to write a policy that forbids them from discussing work on social media sites such as Facebook? Or draft a policy that forbids an employee from making a “negative comment” about their employer?
The many lawyers who advised their clients to adopt such policies, or even suggested outright social media bans – and based on these cases there were plenty – forgot the policy behind the NLRA. They forgot that this law was intended to protect certain kinds of communication among employees in order to keep them safe from those activities that might lead to unionization.
Not only did the lawyers forget the policy behind the law, they were so concerned about risk avoidance and so frightened of social media that they didn’t take the time to understand that it constituted an essential shift in the way that Americans, including workers, were communicating with each other.
Maybe the lawyers who advised employers to adopt these overly broad policies just simply forgot about the existence of the NLRA and its commitment to helping workers discuss their joint concerns about wages, hours, and working conditions.
Whatever the reason for the lawyer’s failing, it was not just a situation of “the rapidly changing law”, as many want you to believe. So if you have an overly broad social media policy suggested by a lawyer, that you are now struggling to change in light of the NLRB’s recent activity, you may want to throw out the lawyer as well as the policy.