SHRM Chat – December 2011

So what happened to SHRM Chat – November 2011? Lots of things.

November was the inaugural month of the Twitter #SHRMChat, where interested folks could spend an hour on Twitter discussing how to leverage and use social media for the benefit of their state and/or local SHRM chapter. Before the first chat, I spent some time researching the different ways chats were conducted and the formats people were using successfully. Being a boomer with slowing reflexes and arthritic hands, I thought that having a specific set of questions would work best.

I was wrong.

There were a lot of enthusiastic and knowledgeable attendees, and they wanted to TALK. I was trying to tweet from two different accounts, my personal account and my SHRM local account, and I just couldn’t follow the conversations sufficiently to gain any in-depth insight. Also, people wanted very much to add to the published questions, and either did so with abandon, or were shy about intruding on the format.

I also promised to blog a recap of the discussion. That didn’t happen, either. Too much personal stress and a massive time-suck caused by a cross-country move.

This month I hope to do better.

I would like to back up a bit and sort of start over. I would like to discuss the chat format itself.  The topic is: “How can we use #SHRMChat to intelligently and effectively discuss how to use social media for betterment of our state and local chapters?”

If you have some insights and suggestions that you would like to share before the chat, please leave your thoughts in the comments, or email/FB message me directly.  Even if you can’t attend the chat, I will make sure your voice is included.

Join us on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13th, from 8-9 pm Eastern (7-8 Central) on Twitter using hashtag #SHRMChat.

Let’s do this right – together!

Less HR In HRevolution?

At the end of the recently concluded HRevolution conference unconference  event, Steve Boese asked the audience for their thoughts and insights. Two different people made comments that essentially said that they wished there had been less HR content. One person asked for other disciplines (such as marketing) to be represented, and one asked for more tech-related content.

Those comments peeved me a little bit, perhaps because these comments came not long after I read this tweet from an attendee:






The thing that bothered me the most about this tweet is the assertion that the term “engage” is somehow an HR word that no one else uses.  Apparently the tweeter has never read The Unmarketing Blog (“Stop Marketing. Start Engaging”), or the Brian Solis book Engage!, or heard of the digital technology event “Engage!”

The verb engage has several different definitions, but HR pros, marketers, and others use to word to mean an emotional, interactive experience between people. lists the terms “involve” and “engross” as synonyms for this particular meaning, but nowhere does list the word “participate” as a synonym for engage.

This is obviously because HR pros know that there is a vast difference between an employee who “participates” and one who is “engaged”.  While I understand that buzzwords (or buzz-phrases, like “seat at the table”) are overused, and have myself written against using jargon, sometimes the reason a particular word achieves buzzword status is because it is the only word that definitionally fits the situation.

She may be right about people/talent,  although it seems to me that both are used pretty frequently by HR pros, making “talent” less of a buzzword and more an alternative.

Right after I left HRevolution I attended a workshop in Phoenix, where I spoke on using social media to communicate employee benefits. The terms SPD, SBC, wellness, and compliance were thrown around the room with aplomb. No one complained that the people in the workshop should use words that people outside of HR (or benefits administration) do. No one tweeted that attendees should say, “can’t understand this paper, not  SPD”, or “don’t  get sued, not compliance”.

If you don’t want to hear about HR at an HR event, perhaps a marketing, finance, or technology event will better fit your needs. You may hear some buzzwords, though.


Five Tips For Handling Problem Employees

( While I am in Florida closing on our new house – more on that later – I am happy to turn this week’s post over to friends at Bisk Education/Villanova University. See their info at the bottom of the post. Back next week with news from Mid Michigan Human Resources Association and OHSHRM.)



It is inevitable that you’re going to run into a problem employee at some point in your career. How you handle the situation will determine whether a problem is minimized or becomes an ongoing struggle. A good suggestion is to identify the who, what, where, why and how of the matter. Only then can you start finding the best solution.

1. Head problems off at the pass

Problem employees often have the same sense of entitlement as a toddler. When a two-year-old realizes she isn’t getting what she wants, the pouting starts. After a short five minutes with no results, she turns on the waterworks. If that doesn’t seem to work, she ups the stakes again with a shrill scream until her parents give in, or she wears herself out and comes back down to reality.

Employees will often work in the same way. What might start as a low grumble to a co-worker can quickly escalate to a big problem involving multiple employees, managers and HR. Be proactive and try to rectify the situation before it becomes a screaming situation.

2. Don’t fight anger with anger

It’s natural to feel angry when someone is being unreasonable, but fighting anger with anger isn’t going to fix any problems and will often only create more headaches. If the problem employee sparks your temper, take time to gather yourself before handling the issue. Two angry parties are likely to talk over one another and aren’t often inclined to listen. Talk with the employee after giving him or her some time to cool down. Only then will you start to fix whatever issue is at hand.

3. Don’t ignore the rebel with a heart of gold

It is easy to root for movie characters that are a mix of rebellion and kindness (think Ferris Bueller). Rebelliousness may work in Hollywood, but it can get everyone in trouble at the office.  A lot of companies have that employee who may do a great job and perform well, but also can’t help themselves from breaking company rules.

While looking the other way might seem like a good answer, it’s merely like putting a piece of gum over a leaky pipe…sooner or later it’s going to fall off and start gushing. The problem employee will start breaking more rules and other workers will see that corners are being cut and be apt to follow suit. Your mouth is going to get really tired trying to chew all that gum to cover up the leaks!

As soon as you see a rule being ignored, address it with the employee. Explain that procedures are in place for a reason and that no one is above following them. By giving them a warning and handling the situation with respect, you’ll send the message that you’re aware of what’s going on and that you won’t tolerate rules being broken.

4. Inconsistent attendance might be caused by a problem

Do you have an employee who is always calling out of work? Are the excuses getting more and more stretched from the truth every time? Your employee may have a serious problem that they’re trying to deal with at home. It’s important to sit down and try to find out what might be going on. Try to work out a plan of action (from a work standpoint) to help the employee with the issue and get them back on track. If it seems to be a personal problem that isn’t going to go away, action may need to be taken to ensure the company is running at its greatest capacity.

5. Know your limits

Not every problem can be solved by you. Understand when professional help might best serve everyone involved, especially the well-being of your employee and co-workers. Some problems won’t ever be solved, often because the person refuses to make the necessary changes required. Termination may be the only alternative.

No matter the problem, treating everyone involved with respect should help relieve tension and move toward fixing the issue at hand.

University Alliance submitted this article on behalf of Villanova University’s online programs. Villanova offers online human resources training courses in addition to a masters in human resources development program. For more information please visit their site at

Blog Comments – When To Delete?

Four months ago I published a post about HRevolution, that most excellent of all HR conference-type events. In case you don’t want to click here to read the post, I will just tell you that in that post I mentioned Sue Marks, CEO of Pinstripe Talent, because her company was nice enough to furnish the attendees with Meet-Meme cards. I didn’t endorse her company or say much of anything except thank you.

So I was a little surprised to receive notification of the following comment just a couple of weeks ago:

 Now, I presume you will agree with me that the comment is not offensive, vulgar, discriminatory,  or any other negative type that we all agree is fair game for deletion. It contains spelling and grammatical errors, but I think we can also agree that poor writing skill is a problem up and down the social web, and certainly not a reason to hit the delete button.

The issue with this comment is that it is really not about the substantive content of the post, but a politely worded political commentary. Not exactly spam, but . . . close. A troll? Not quite.

Since that comment was posted, I have been thinking a lot about the spirit of free speech and whether, in that spirit, I should allow this comment to stay. I was reminded of a case I studied in law school, which discussed whether private property owners of large open-to-the-public shopping malls should be required to allow picketers and other public speech demonstrations. The argument was that these places have supplanted public parks and town squares as gathering places, and that free speech principles should be allowed to follow the public.

In law school I argued vehemently against such a law, believing that business owners can best determine whether allowing demonstrators on their property was in their best financial interest. Now, with this blog comment, I’m not so sure.  Even though I own my blog and can delete any comment I want to – should I? If the social web is the “democratization of communication”, as pundits claim, do I have a social responsibility to honor that democracy by allowing political comments on an HR blog?

What about you? Would you delete this comment if it was your blog? Does it matter if you agree with the comment? I’d love you to tell me your thoughts.

ILSHRM11 – A Twitter Success

Patty Grossert is the Human Resources Director at North American Medical Management in the Chicago, Illinois area. She currently has 155 contacts on Linkedin, about 3 times the national average of 60, so she is not an absolute stranger to social networking.

When Patty started a Twitter account in 2009, though, she did what many people do: she tweeted once, then abandoned the account.

That was Patty’s first, and until last week, only tweet.

Then Patty attended the Social Media Boot Camp at the Illinois State SHRM Conference. This pre-conference session, led by Jessica Miller-Merrill, was intended to help HR pros learn the tools necessary to make informed decisions about how and when to use social media platforms.Part of the session naturally covered Twitter. Here’s what happened to Patty:

As read from the bottom up, Patty started tweeting at that pre-confrence session, and she didn’t give up. The coaching and information kept coming, until Patty had become so enchanted with Twitter that she posted the day after the conference was over:

The freak flag reference is to Talent Anarchy,  first day keynote speakers. So not only is Patty tweeting after the end of the conference, but she is referring to something she learned there.

To me, there is no greater measurement of the success of the Illinois state conference than Patty Grossert. The conference planners saw a need for practical, how-to, hands on information in an area beneficial and important to HR practitioners, delivered that knowledge, and encouraged the attendees to use that information before they even left the building. I give all of the credit for this to John Jorgenson, chair of this conference. He saw what was needed, and did it without apology.

Can you say the same about the last conference you went to?



Competition Is Not a Four Letter Word

This past weekend I played in a flyball tournament with one of my dogs.  Flyball is a sport or game in which teams of four dogs compete against each other for speed and accuracy in a combination relay/drag race.

During a flyball tournament, or at a practice/training session, or even at a flyball club Christmas party, I often hear the human handlers say (in a snobbish or haughty voice), “I don’t care about competition.  I only play flyball to have fun with my dog.”  These people speak as if the idea of engaging in a competition with a dog was somehow negative, and “having fun with a dog” the only lofty goal.

Who are these people kidding?  If they only want to have fun with their pet, why don’t they take him/her to a park or an open field somewhere and play fetch or frisbee flying disc?  Alone – without anyone counting wins and losses?

I think you know why.  The people that claim they don’t care generally do so right after their team has lost a race, or they have made a human handling error, or their dog isn’t properly trained and has made an error (or consistently makes errors).  Instead of admitting, building on, and learning from their mistakes, though,  these people choose to ignore them, pretending that  the “competition” is somehow beneath them or irrelevant.

But if you are not going to try your best and work hard to succeed, why compete in the first place?

This is not my flyball club, but it’s a cool video, and at least I did compete at this tournament.  Just in case you don’t have a clue (like most of the world), what flyball is. :-)

REACH OUT AND TOUCH – February 2010

At the end of January 2009, I decided to recognize a member of the online HR community for doing what I asked in this Carnival of HR Vlog.  I recognized Laurie Ruettimann.  Now, I have decided to make do this at the end of every month this year.  This month the recognition goes to Franny Oxford of the blog Do the Work.  Check out my video to see why!

The Social Media Ladder

“You really ought to be on Facebook.”

My daughter, Amy Elliott, spoke those words to me in early 2009.  I don’t recall my exact response, although I am sure it was something like, “you’re nuts”, or “what for?”, or “isn’t that for kids like you?”  I probably said all three.  She knows me well, though, so I took her advice and signed up anyway.  I enjoyed it immediately, and I remember becoming SO excited when I actually had a dozen Facebook friends.

Two months later she persuaded me to sign up for Twitter.  I again did as she suggested, but like many people,  I didn’t understand Twitter at first.  Then I read an article in HR Magazine, published by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), about using Twitter.  It included some links and people I could follow.  One of those people had a Twitter instructional video, which included other links and ideas, which led me to  . . . well, you get the picture.  I was hooked.  Addicted.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was climbing  Forrester‘s The Social Technographics Ladder.

SocialLadder Starting out on the very bottom as an inactive non-user, I went to the top, as a blogger, in less than a year.  I may not be doing everything well yet, but I am doing it.  All it took was intellectual curiosity, patience, and the willingness to step outside of my comfort zone.

I began writing this blog with the idea that I was going to encourage everyone to start climbing their own social media ladder.  To quit lurking or listening on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and to start commenting and interacting.  But I realized that not everyone wants to climb a social media ladder.  People have different levels of contentment for different things; who am I to push my passions on someone else?

So instead of encouraging you to climb a social media ladder, I am going to encourage you to find some ladder that you are passionate about – whether it revolves around work, family, friends, hobbies, or charities – and start climbing.  Get better, or smarter, or more involved, or more interactive, but START CLIMBING.

Need an incentive?  I’ll give you one, as suggested by the songwriting team of  John Kander and Fred Ebb:  “boost me up my ladder, kid, and I’ll boost you up yours.”*

I am offering a cash prize of $100, and the book “Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon” to a lucky reader who boosts me up my (or my daughter’s) social media ladder by commenting, tweeting, adding to a blogroll, following through Networked Blogs, etc.  Details in the video below.

Don’t understand what bacon has to do with social media and HR?  Look here.

The Social Media Ladder VIDEO

*I’ll put your name in the raffle drum an extra time if you can tell me (in your comment) the name of the song and the show it is from without looking it up.  Be fair.