HRevolution 2011 – Rants and Raves

I like to post a blog after attending a conference called Rants and Raves. Here’s an example, in case you didn’t know,or, more likely, you have forgotten because I haven’t posted in so long.

RANTS

HRevolution Polo Shirts – Sure, it was nice of the organizers to give everyone who has been at all three events a white polo shirt with the neat HRevolution logo on the chest. But, folks – come ON! You have known me for over two years now and I am pretty sure you can figure out my proper size.

Stuffed Monsters – Yeah, Eric Weingardner and his Monster.com team had those big stuffed monsters laying all over the place. They didn’t have ONE little one, though. The last time I took home a big stuffed monster I thought someone from the TSA was going to shoot me in the Louisville airport. Besides, my dogs like the little monsters better.

Meet-Meme Trading Cards – Okay, the people at Pinstripe had a great giveaway in those cards, so email or message Sue Marks and thank her, as I did.  BUT – 50 cards for 130 people? Sheesh. We don’t have to remind the world that HR people can’t count.

If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll spell it out – these are ridiculous rants and I was planting my tongue firmly in my cheek while writing them. Truth is, I could not find one legitimate thing to rant about, and I didn’t want to give up my post title.

RAVES

Trish McFarlane – The Queen of HRevolution, Trish acts as the true ringleader of the HRevolution planning crew. She is also directly responsible for getting sponsorships that help this event come to life.  Her work in attracting Monster.com, Pinstripe, Ceridian, Aquire, Inc., SHRM, and PeopleMatter creates a big value for the attendee buck.

Steve Boese – Most people had difficulty deciding which concurrent session to attend, and I was no different. They all sounded wonderful, and they were. Steve was responsible for assembling facilitators and sessions, and he deserves a huge round of applause for making this a learning and giving event like no other.

Crystal Peterson – Great space, nice traffic flow, good food, plentiful snacks and drinks. Crystal deserves the nod for making attendees so comfortable that all of that heavy duty brain power could focus on the discussion and not on discomfort.

Ben Eubanks – Ben kept all of the HRevolution information in your face and up-to-date, so you knew where to discuss an issue on Linkedin, or send your Meet-Meme information. Oh, and he brought his beautiful family with him to HRevolution, so the attendees got to meet Melanie, Bella, and Bree. That’s rave-able by itself.

Special Sponsors – All sponsors are special, really, but I have to single out Eric Weingardner of Monster.com and Lois Melbourne of Aquire.  Eric and Lois have both attended all three HRevolution events, adding their considerable smarts to the discussion. Both represent a corporation that sells product to HR folks, but they have been there to participate and learn, not to sell and shill. They epitomize the best of HRevolution.

Attendees – Caring, warm, intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, enthusiastic, and a little bit naughty. It was my pleasure to spend a couple of days with you.

 

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Attitude of Entitlement = Poor Customer Service

Daughter Amy as sketched by a Norwegian Cruise Line employee on the back of a bar ticket (circa 1996)

Customer service is an important issue in the Human Resources world.  As succinctly stated by China Gorman, former COO of SHRM, “As business leaders and HR professionals, we all know about the close relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.”  In the past week or so, China , Trish McFarlane, Mike VanDervort, and Deidre Honner – exceptional HR bloggers all –  have posted about customer service.

I recently returned from a vacation with a desire to write about the same issue, but from a slightly different perspective.  I want to tell you about genuinely helpful and friendly employees who bent over backwards to service my needs, and I am going to theorize why this type of service is so rare that one is surprised and delighted when it occurs.  Especially because it does not involve Zappos. 😉

I went on a cruise.

For 10 days and nights I was aboard a floating hotel city, where my need for food, drink, sleep, recreation, and entertainment was in the hands of one company and their employees.  For those 10 days, I was surrounded by cruise employees with friendly faces and cheerful greetings.  It did not take the wait staff long to learn that I like iced tea a lot, so when I sat down at a table 3 or 4 glasses of iced tea would instantly appear.  My room steward had the sweetest smile and happiest voice ever.  Her “good morning!” always cheered me, even on the day I had a bad eye infection and was running a fever.  It amazes me that she could display such a consistently positive, upbeat demeanor after cleaning my toilet and shower.  I could bore you to death with other examples.

I have been on well over 20 cruises, so I am not a gushing newbie.  I have found that most cruise line employees try very hard to ensure the customer’s satisfaction, although Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) (my recent host), did a truly exceptional job in this area.

So why does the cruise industry, and RSSC in particular, excel in the customer service area when so many other companies fail?  The sad answer, in my opinion, is entitlement.  Many US workers feel that they are entitled to jobs, and many US companies feel they are entitled to customers.  That attitude of entitlement causes both employees and companies to forget that they exist to serve their customers, and leads to the online gripes and complaints that they earned.  Remember Dave Carroll and his broken guitar?

Most cruise ship workers come from economically depressed countries where earnings don’t come close to matching the US and other Western countries.  The workers on my recent cruise -and who I interviewed specifically for this blog – came from Romania, Indonesia, Phillipines, Serbia, and India.  They work for cruise ships because they can earn a lot more money than they can in their countries of origin.  They don’t feel the slightest bit entitled to any job.

Cruise companies aren’t entitled to passengers, either.  Only  20% of Americans have ever been on a cruise, and competition for passengers is fierce.  These companies can’t afford to let lousy customer service make them lose a competitive advantage.

I’m not going to talk about other issues with cruise workers – and yes, I know there are many – in this blog.    Whatever the other issues, I am grateful for the RSSC workers who tried so hard to give me a pleasant vacation experience, and wish more companies and their employees would follow that lead.

Weigh in!  Does an attitude of entitlement foster poor customer service?

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HRevolution – Rants and Raves

Mark Stelzner as Donald Trump - sort of

Back in March I did a post following a SHRM conference called Rants and Raves.  Since I have no desire to re-invent the wheel, and I find that the title is the hardest part of my blog to write,  I am going to take the easy way out and offer this  HRevolution version.  This time, though, the rants and raves are not mine – at least not until the end.  These are comments made directly to me by some of the attendees, and not based on anyone’s blog post or tweet.

RANTS

NOT ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN SESSIONS FOR DISCUSSIONS/NETWORKING/CONVERSATIONS – This was by far the most prevalent and consistent comment I received.  People did not want to miss the sessions, but they wanted time to start and continue substantive conversations.  The tweet-ups, with a party-like atmosphere, were good for meeting and greeting, but they wanted quieter time for serious stuff, too.  When asked, people were willing to attend a 2-day session in order to rectify this.

NOT ENOUGH SPACE – Several people thought that Catalyst Ranch, while fun and funky, was not large enough for the attendees to find spots outside of the sessions to talk or even break out into a smaller group.  A related comment was that there were just too many people, making the sessions a little too large for comfortable discussion.

GENERAL SESSION/TRACK GRIPES – Some people wanted more topics lead by working HR practitioners and directly relevant to daily HR functions.  Some wanted fewer sponsor/consultant/non-practitioner speakers and facilitators. While many of the people I spoke with felt some uneasiness with the sessions, they did not articulate their feelings or dissatisfaction as well in this area (unlike the time and space rants).

RAVES

EVENT PLANNING AND LOGISTICS – As a member of the planning committee, it is almost embarrassing to admit that this was the number one rave I received. People were quick to recognize the work involved and seemed happy with the food, tweetups, transportation, information, and cupcakes.

CHICAGO – Even though there are rumblings on Twitter about having a future HRevolution in Hawaii or Las Vegas, many attendees commented to me how perfect the Chicago location was for them from a transportation and travel standpoint.  They liked Chicago and the choices it afforded them.

CONNECTIONS MADE – Many people came specifically for the opportunity and ability to meet others and extend connections with online friends and acquaintances.  While some wished they had been able to do more, many were enthusiastic about the connections they did make.

Now that I have reported on the most frequent rants and raves made by attendees (to me), I am going to indulge myself  just a little and give you a personal rant and rave (just one each!) because I can only shut up for so long. 😉

PERSONAL RANT

There have been a lot of blog posts and tweets about HRevolution.  Some were positive, some were not. Fair enough.  I get the distinct impression, though, that many people made their feelings known only through a blog post or a tweet. No personal contact with, or email or phone call to, a planning committee member – even though contact information for every committee member was given to every participant. Was this you?  It makes me wonder if some people actually listened to some of the messages that were given about the value of connection and communication.  If you have something to say about HRevolution – good or bad – say it on your blog or on Twitter, but say it directly to the people who brought you HRevolution, too.  You can’t have influence and credibility in 140 characters,  so make a meaningful connection and help HRevolution – and yourself – move forward.

PERSONAL RAVE

I was a very small part of a talented and dedicated group of people who helped bring HRevolution to life.  I learned much about effective collaboration and valuable teamwork from this experience, and I have to thank Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Crystal Peterson, Steve Boese, Mark Stelzner, and Jason Seiden for allowing me to be a part of this team. I am raving about all of them!

IT’S YOUR CHANCE NOW

I chose not to personally comment on the rants and raves of the attendees, because I want to know what YOU think!  Were you there?  Do you agree with anything?  Nothing?  Do you have other experiences that could help make an event like this better for everyone?

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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.

Ouch.

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.

bacon-book

More lessons to follow; stay tuned!