Do You Write HR Jargon?

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?

Sentences like

“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.”

or maybe

“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.

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Connecting By Phone? Use A Landline And Make An Appointment.

Laurie Ruettimann has a large following and a lot of influence and credibility in the blogging world.  So I’m glad she said it first: Don’t give up your landline phone. (Like my bedroom phone above. :-))

She said this in her presentation for the recently concluded online conference “The Career Summit“, and, in all fairness, she was talking directly to job seekers about how to land a job over the holidays.  While I am sure there were a lot of groans emitted or expletives shouted when she said this (many think landlines are duplicative and expensive),  I think she was right on.  Recruiters and hiring managers want to be able to talk to job seekers over the phone without losing the connection or listening to traffic sounds in the background.  I have been on a conference call where one of the attendees was walking on a busy city street while talking on a cell phone, huffing and puffing as well as cutting in and out.  How much value did he add to that conversation?

Which is another problem that Laurie mentioned: professional conversations need professional attention. People don’t want to talk to someone who has screaming babies or barking dogs in the background.

So, if you want to have a serious phone conversation with me, make an appointment. Really.

Why?  Because I own 4 dogs, and those 4 dogs sometimes often bark when I would prefer they didn’t.  When one barks, they all bark. Dogs, in general, have the mental acuity of a 3 year old child, which means they are most disruptive when they know I am on the phone.  Just like toddlers.  When they start barking, I absolutely cannot hear anyone speaking to me, even on my landline.

I try to make appointments to talk to everyone I seriously want to hear, if the conversation is going to last more than a minute or two.  This way I can isolate the dogs so that I won’t hear them if they start barking, and neither can my conversational partner.  If I am forced to make an appointment when I am only available by cell phone, I make sure I stay in one quiet spot where the cell service is strong and there will be no interruptions.

It takes a little planning (and maintaining a landline adds expense), but the results are well worth it.  Not just for job seekers, but for networking, conferencing, and catching up with old friends.

Send me an email – my address is all over the Web – and set up a time to have a great conversation without interruption.  I welcome it.

What do you think?   Are landlines a waste of your precious resources?  Do you hate listening to screaming children in the background of your phone call? Is making an appointment to have a serious phone conversation overkill

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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!

HRevolution – The Future of HR

Saturday afternoon the gloves came off.

The last session of the HRevolution un-conference, introduced in my previous blog, was called “The Future of HR”.  It was facilitated by the incomparable Mark Stelzner, whose admitted purpose was “to be provocative and shake the room up a bit.”  His mission was well accomplished, and the passionate discussion was described by @KristaFrancis on Twitter: Great minds *don’t* think alike and that’s a good thing.  Mark summed up the discussion on his blog, but I want to focus on this particular statement:

There was a great discussion on how people need to quit their HR jobs if they are that miserable. In other words, stop complaining and lamenting your non-strategic role and instead find a company that values your contribution.

That “call to action” has been repeated since on blogs (here ), and the HR Happy Hour blog talk radio show.


Why does it pain me to hear and read that people who want to make a difference should just quit their jobs and go elsewhere? Because it’s a strategy that’s far too over-simplified, and the consequences of failure are too dangerous for that simplification.  I speak from personal experience.

My Personal History

I come from a small (less than 50 employees) food processing/manufacturing plant.  My husband and his partner own the business.  When I began working there, no one knew exactly what my role was going to be.  I fell into an HR function almost immediately, because there was NO HR function there at all.  I started learning, and I made myself a HR Manager/Generalist.  I had a seat at that strategic table, usually at the head.  I made those P&Ls sing.

So why did I leave in June 2008?  Because I had a nagging feeling that there was more evolving to be done, and I couldn’t do it where I was.  There is only so far you can go in a really small company before some of the work becomes redundant, and some becomes impossible. So I quit (read: no unemployment benefits) and went looking for a company that would “value my contributions”.

It’s now November 2009 and I have yet to find that company.  Telling a recruiter or a hiring manager that I left my job because “I needed new challenges” makes them hang up on me.  Layoffs and downsizings create sympathy, self-indulgence does not.

I’m lucky – my husband still owns the company and has a job, so I still have sufficient funds to go to un-conferences and listen to people tell me to do what I’ve already done.  But suppose I was a sole breadwinner with kids to support and a mortgage to meet?  That strategy would have placed a lot of other people in jeopardy.  Is Laurie Ruettiman’s philosophy is the better one? She says, ” You get a paycheck. Be happy.”

Going Forward

By sharing that with you, I want to emphasize a point that was touched on at HRevolution but not sufficiently embraced: the enlightened HR group that we are a part of is a very tiny minority of the entire HR population.  The solutions and suggestions we propose inside of our “HR echo chamber”  will not be embraced by them  and will often be actively resisted.  We need to help others examine themselves and their roles to see how they can evolve and revolutionize, even if circumstances and paychecks keep them in their positions.  A large majority of HR pros don’t even know that people and technology exist to help them make this journey.  In other words, they don’t read our blogs.  Until a very short time ago, I was one of those people.

When Alicia Arenas asked us in a video to leave HRevolution with a commitment to spread the message, she mentioned college students and local SHRM chapters as examples of avenues to spread our enlightenment. Let’s collectively think of more, and start an outreach program, because we will not succeed without  converting others. With that in mind, I am picking up the flag of  HRevolution and making this commitment:

I will use social media, personal connections, and any other soapbox that is available to me to encourage, aid, and advise HR Pros and other business professionals to embark on a course of personal development that will expand their knowledge and engage and enlighten others.

By doing this, I hope to move past the idea that HR people should just be happy to get a paycheck.  The people I will try to reach may not be able to leave their companies, but they may be able to avoid doing everything “The Company Way.”  Viva la revolution!

The Company Way

HRevolution – Beginnings

I attended a strange and amazing “unconference” two days ago.  It was called HRevolution and it was a collection of HR and recruiting pros coming together to discuss social media and its intersection with their professional life.  It was the first out-of-town HR conference I had ever attended, made up mainly of bloggers (including Twitter micro-bloggers).  The ideas flew fast and furiously, and I already have several HR University lesson plans in the works based on thoughts generated at the Revolution. Those lessons will have to be spread out over several posts, but I want to start here with some introductory remarks about the Revolution in general:

  • One of the attendees at HRevolution, Frank Zupan, lives and work in Cleveland.  He eats corned beef at a deli called Slyman’s; they buy corned beef made at United Meat & Deli (UMD) in Detroit.  The corned beef is injected/pumped with pickling brine with a machine operated by Joaquin Arredondo.  Joaquin is a permanent resident alien (has a green card) – a status that I helped him obtain as the HR manager at UMD.  That circle (Frank to Joaquin to me to Frank) of connectivity wasn’t created by HRevolution or Twitter, but it was discovered there.  It makes a compelling argument for the continuing exploration of social media, and it slaps the argument that “people only connect on social media because they can’t connect in person” right in the face.
  • Laurie Ruettiman of Punk Rock HR is a true superstar of the HR blogosphere.  Ooohs and aaahs were audible when she arrived, and I am old enough to be her mother.  In fact, I discovered through conversation with her that I am older than her mother. But she, like the other Gen X and Ys present (which was most of the room), was absolutely energizing.  Boomers like me can learn a lot from these smart kids, if we will listen.
  • None of the attendees at HRevolution had met me before; they only knew who I was because of my Twitter presence. Yet almost everyone who knew who I was (because of my avatar) hugged me. It was marvelous because I really like hugging.
  • HRevolution attendees have an absolute fascination with bacon.  I have no idea what the origin of this fascination is, or why it continues.  I am happy to indulge the fascination, though.  The first HRevolution attendee who comments (10 words or more required) on this blog post will receive the book “Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon” as a gift from me.


More lessons to follow; stay tuned!