Editor’s Note: The following is the final installment of a three-part series featuring influential women from Paychex. Part I of the series kicked off on Sept. 22 in conjunction with American Business Women’s Day.
I’m a big believer that professional development is the basis for achieving success in almost any field, and HR is no exception. It’s important to assess your own strengths and opportunities to determine what competencies you need to master in order to advance to the next step, and then execute an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that is targeted to help you achieve your career goals.
Over the course of my career, I’ve made it a constant point of emphasis to be self-aware of my performance in areas that I consider to be key competencies in my current role and the next role that that I aspire to attain. This has enabled me to develop an IDP that leverages my strengths and close my gaps through actions that provide me with valuable exposure opportunities, hands-on experiences and continued learning. My philosophy is to invest in yourself because the ROI is priceless.
Business leaders today know that their employees are the driver of business success. While employees are valued, many business leaders rank human capital as a top challenge. This presents a huge opportunity for HR practitioners to add value to their companies and grow as professionals, if they can help their organization reimagine HR’s role as a key business partner. Here are some key competencies that can help you tremendously in achieving that goal:
Functional knowledge and expertise. The field of HR is extensive and continues to advance and transform. It’s vitally important to stay abreast of the field so that your knowledge – and practical application of that knowledge – is modern and relevant. Having strong functional knowledge and expertise better equips you to quickly align HR and business strategy.
Business acumen. Understanding the big picture and the ability to look out the windshield at what lies ahead are critical. Having strong business acumen will result in the aptitude and knowledge to become a more critical thinker and capable problem solver. Developing business acumen involves being keenly aware of the economic and social issues that are affecting your company, staying close to emerging industry trends, your companies competitors, and truly understanding the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of your organization. When all of these things come together, you’re in a position to diagnose a business problem and offer a strategic solution that will drive business outcomes and your company’s success.
Executive disposition. It’s more than about what you know. It’s also about how you perform in your role as a HR practitioner. You want to be viewed as a leader not only in your profession, but in the organization as a whole. HR practitioners have a really unique opportunity to develop relationships that are both cross-functional and cross-hierarchical. When doing so, it’s important to convey an image that’s consistent with the vision and values of the organization in order to be an effective advocate for the company. You want to exude a demeanor of poise and confidence, especially in times of change, ambiguity, or stress. It will command respect and reassure others within the organization – from front line employees all the way to the C-suite.
If you’re a HR practitioner who may not yet have these competencies mastered, don’t fret. Simply make a pledge to your professional development by formalizing your IDP and making it a priority. That commitment will pay huge dividends, both for yourself and your organization.
About the Author: Leah Machado is the director of service for HR Services at Paychex, a leading provider of integrated human capital management (HCM) solutions for payroll, human resource, insurance, and benefits outsourcing services. She leads an organization with over 500 HR practitioners who provide HR outsourcing services to 32,000 Paychex HR Services clients with 880,000 worksite employees. Leah’s career spans over 22 years in the retail, restaurant, and HCM outsourcing industries, and includes HR practitioner and leadership experience.
Today, we officially celebrate national American Business Women’s Day. The date coincides with the September 22, 1949 founding of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA). The strides and accomplishments of women in businesses all over the United States have been monumental, giving us the opportunity to recognize the day’s intent all year long.
To put things in perspective, in 1949 no woman had reached the Chief Executive Officer title at a Fortune 500 company. The most recently published list counted 24 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. That’s a record and one that will certainly be surpassed as barriers continue to be broken.
Similar to many business executives – male or female – my path didn’t start out with the intent of becoming an officer of a Fortune 1,000 company. As a matter of fact, I didn’t fully realize that level of leadership was within reach until much later in my career.
Women are breaking barriers left and right every day. While I don’t necessarily view myself as a trailblazer – there are plenty of other women who fit that bill – here are some quick tips to keep in mind when starting down the path to executive leadership:
- Keep your options open. I went to school for computer information technology and worked in that field for a time at General Electric. Eventually, I was asked to lead a specific program for the GE Aerospace business that involved recruiting on college campuses, hiring, training and compensation. This really sparked my interest in HR. GE sponsored me to get my graduate degree in management from Purdue University, and I officially transitioned into HR. The moral of the story here is just because you earned your degree in or began working in one field doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Keep your options open, especially in the earlier points of your career.
- Step outside your comfort zone. Research has shown that women may not be as willing to take on something very new or different as men. Step outside your comfort zone, and you might find that you’re very successful in that area. During my time at Bausch and Lomb, I realized I wanted to take my career to the next level. I knew I had the drive, passion, and work ethic to make that happen, but I also knew there were some necessary skills that I didn’t own at the time. I then purposefully took a role in compensation and benefits knowing full-well they were both areas of expertise I would need to add to my repertoire. I knew nothing about either area, which made it scary and completely out of my comfort zone. It was a very challenging time, but that cross-functional move taught me what I needed to know to further advance my career.
- Develop business acumen. It’s one of the most important competencies for an HR professional to have in their back pocket. HR’s purpose is to ensure the company has a workforce that’s capable of driving the business goals. To do that, you need to understand what the overall business goals are, the financials, the operations, all aspects of the business. Then you can determine how HR will contribute to achieving those goals. Be proactive and strategic in developing HR initiatives that will drive the future success of the company.
- Always be on the lookout to learn new things and have new experiences. Change is constant, and accelerating at a rapid pace. It is critical to keep learning and growing to stay relevant. Look for projects, change jobs or functions within your company or change companies. I did that a few times in my career and it worked to my advantage. Not only do you gain valuable functional experience, you also develop agility and leadership skills.
- Don’t let anything stand in your way. I grew up with two brothers and a dad who didn’t discourage me from getting my hands dirty with him and the boys. Those experiences encouraged me to look at men and women as having the same level of capability. A good part of my career was spent working in male-dominated fields. In fact, I’ve only ever had two women bosses. I worked my hardest and did my best and went for what I wanted. I never thought of myself as a woman leader, I am simply a leader.
- Surround yourself with good people. This may go without saying, but form meaningful relationships both at work and at It will do wonders for your productivity and happiness. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook once said, “The most important career choice a woman will ever make is who she marries.” This could not be more true to life. My husband has been incredibly supportive of my career, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. Surround yourself with people who share your goals, values, and motivations.
- Never stop networking. It’s absolutely critical to stay connected with people. My first two jobs in the HR industry are the only two I landed through traditional ways. Every position since then – especially the ones later in my career – happened due to a connection and recommendation. I am still connected to people at every company I have worked for. It is a great way to learn about best practices and find out about career opportunities. Also, LinkedIn makes networking easier than ever. Make sure your profile is up to date and you are connected to the right people.
Most of these pieces of advice ring true for aspiring male or female HR executives. But it’s American Business Women’s Day, so let’s take a pause to reflect upon and celebrate how taking these steps could help the businesswomen around us advance.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
About the Author: Laurie Zaucha is the vice president of human resources and organizational development for Paychex, Inc., a leading provider of human resource, insurance, and benefits outsourcing solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses. In this role, she is responsible for all aspects of human resources, organizational development, and the company’s award-winning training department. Laurie boasts more than 20 years of experiences as an HR executive. Previous positions include vice president at Bausch & Lomb and senior management positions in HR for Footstar, Inc., Starbucks, and Pizza Hut. Laurie has a master’s degree in management from Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind. and a Bachelor of Science degree in computer information technology from Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.
“It’s not what you know, but whom you know,” is a phrase with which many of us are familiar, and in today’s hyper-connected world it’s truer than ever. The power of one’s network can’t be diminished, an essential part of professional life that can further your career like nothing else. The right network can solve business problems, expand your knowledge, and catapult your career. It’s a personal advantage that shouldn’t be understated.
With all that said, I find most of us relegate networking to the bottom of our to-do lists, buried under other items that require more immediate priority. But I’d urge you not to delay developing this powerful tool. Building and maintaining one is easier than you’d think and, as I’ve recently discovered, one of the best endeavors you’ll ever undertake.
In the past 18 months, I’ve spent a great deal of time building my own professional network. Truth be told, I previously gave little thought to the power and importance of my professional network when I was in a corporate role, but once out of the daily grind and starting my own enterprise, I’ve realized the incredible value of active networking.
With that said, I’m keen to provide some quick networking strategies that can help you build a successful network, simple time investments that should benefit you for years to come:
Market yourself – Begin by identifying what you have to offer. Look at networking as a way to build your personal brand, which in today’s social media-driven world is incredibly important. Your network is your means of building connections that matter, regardless of your current level or position, so take stock of yourself and understand what you bring to the table.
Know what outcome you desire – Networks work best when viewed as reciprocal relationships, and you should understand what you could contribute as well as wish to receive going in. Here are the criteria that shape my choices:
(1) I create networks that are international in scope because global reach is important to what I do
(2) I wish to connect with people keen to disrupting traditional thoughts and business ideas, sharing ideas centered on changing how we think about the world of work
(3) I wish to embrace connection with other senior executive women across various industries and interests. I am passionate about what women can do in the workplace, and wish to support other women in our professional endeavors
(4) I desire to build a powerful portfolio of HR professionals at various levels. Giving back to my profession and shaping its future direction is something I am keen to do.
Be clear on your objectives – It’s important to be clear on what you wish to achieve. If it’s building your personal brand, select connections that can raise your profile. Identify people of prominence, and not necessarily in your same field. Also, set clear goals for yourself when it comes to building this aspect of your personal life. For instance, this month’s goal could be connecting with five new female technology executives across the industry. This helps you stay focused and provides you with tangible metrics you can track.
It works if you work it – A network is not something you turn on and off when you need it; those who are successful know it requires a regular investment of time and effort. Be consistent, as you’ll have a harder time reestablishing connection if you disappear for an extended period of time. A minimum of an hour a day networking with others via social media and/or in person via events helps to build your network tremendously over time. View your networks like any important relationship: get to know them, learn what’s important to them, and assess how you can help them reach their goals. The more you give, the more you’ll receive. That’s the true ROI in networks.
What are some of the best ways to connect with people?
Connection is easier than ever. Social media and networking sites, numerous professional associations, charitable connections, online meeting groups based on interest, etc. Before you find yourself overwhelmed with choice, decide on which means suit your intended result. I’ve found LinkedIn to be a superior means of interaction, both professionally and personally. It keeps you active in the eye of a good number of professional bodies, and it’s a great means of maintaining your professional contacts. It’s also a bit less intrusive and overwhelming than email, which can be challenging due to the size of everyone’s inboxes these days.
Twitter is an acquired taste: you either love it or you hate it. For me, Twitter is less about building lasting networks than a means of receiving and sharing real-time information. If used for networking, be certain that communication stays brief, and move it into private conversation as swiftly as possible so others aren’t disconnected by a connection that’s best fostered one-on-one.
Measure the ROI of your network – It helps to periodically take stock of your efforts. Some tangible ways to assess good networking ROI include an increase in connections and social media followers; more requests to contribute and/or share your expertise; an uptick in invitations to network events and in-person gatherings; and an increase in opportunities and social events, from coffee dates to interviews and/or business meetings.
Creating an ecosystem of peers, mentors, business advisors, friends, and advisors will reap rewards far beyond your dreams if you take the time to develop your approach, work diligently, and nurture it well. This ecosystem can support your career for years to come and bear opportunities you can’t imagine. Start networking today!
About the Author: Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.
Let me start by saying that no, this isn’t some 50 Shades of Grey reference in an attempt to capitalize on it’s odd popularity.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the impact a shortage of women in crucial management and executive levels can have on a company’s culture and treatment of it’s female employees. But I’m not going to spend time in this article going on and on about why this is needed, even though I do believe it is, because ultimately, it makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite. You see, for all my conviction, I don’t want to step up and be in management myself.
I have zero desire to manage employees or a company. None. I don’t want to “Lean In” as it were. I’m not really entrepreneurial minded. It’s not because I am being pushed out by a male dominated industry, wanting to raise a family, or any other legitimate and concerning reason there aren’t more women in executive roles. In the end, management is just not something that I personally want to do.
And to be honest, I’m tired of feeling guilty about not wanting it. On all sides of the issue is guilt. If you have kids but want to work, you are a bad mother/wife. If you don’t push for management you are slacking and are not doing your part for other women. There are no winners in this game; there is only more societal pressure and insecurity that holds us back from living our lives the way we want to. I know I’m not alone in this either.
But as much as we truly do need women in management, important public positions where they make the decisions, management is not the only path to leadership and influence. All women, regardless of their career level, employment status, personal beliefs and convictions, can be leaders in their own way. All women can have influence, even if it is only within their own circle of friends or family. All women can choose to speak for themselves and be advocates for others. Every one of us has that power and should use it. Frequently.
Leadership and influence is not solely for those in positions of power. I don’t have to be a manager to influence the culture and direction of a team. But it sure does help to have someone in a position of power to help back me up. So how about we make a deal? I’ll will be an advocate for other women in the workplace and I will encourage others to do the same, if some of you out there with the desire and drive to be in those positions of power promise to listen to our collective voices and help enact real change. Sound good to you?
About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR and is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show.
Editor’s Note: From time to time, we like to recognize some of the projects and accomplishments of our regular contributors beyond their work for the site. Kristin Kaufmann’s second book in her “Is This Seat Taken” series, “It’s Never Too Late To Find The Right Seat” was just recently published, and here she gives us a sneak peak.
As we ‘start again’ in this new year AND we are already 3 weeks into 2015, how can we make the most of the coming 12 months? The first step, from my perspective, is to HONESTLY assess where we are today and also gauge where we want to be tomorrow! We have to take a hard look in the mirror (not always easy) and ascertain ‘how we did in 2014’ AND if there is still room for improvement. There are a few questions, which I encourage my clients to ask themselves, as we embark on this new year…….
The 2014 year at a glance:
- How did I spend my time?
- What were my greatest accomplishments?
- What were my greatest disappointments?
- How did these experiences change me?
- How am I different now (December, 2014) than in December, 2013?
- How can I further integrate this awareness as I enter the 1st half of 2015?
- What am I tolerating? Why? What steps can I take to make a change?
- What am I trying to force to happen? What would happen if I ‘let go’?
What are my intentions for 2015?
- What will be my primary focus going forward?
- What do I really want? What is still holding me back?
- What do I want to contribute to the world?
- How will I hold myself accountable?
- What is working for me? How can I have ‘more of that’?
- What kind of partners do I want going forward into this next chapter?
- What may need to change? What are the first steps to make that change?
- At the end of 2015, where would I like to find myself? Physically? Spiritually? Professionally? Financially?
- What is my intention for my life in 2015?
Also, if you need further inspiration , and feel like ‘life is passing you by’ and you are not where you thought you would be at this stage in your life…..you may find inspiration is my latest books in the ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ book series. I personally was inspired by each and every one of these individuals who completely hit the ‘reset’ button in the last 15-20 years of their lives. What I know for sure is this – what we make of our lives is 100% our choice……what will you choose?
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken? Random Encounters That Change Your Life, was released on 11/1/11 to national acclaim, and endorsed by Stephen Covey and John Maxwell, among others. Her second book in the series, entitled Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat was released 1/13/15. It has already been endorsed by notables such as Marshall Goldsmith, Sean Covey, and Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. This book shines the light on late in life reinvention and encore ‘second half’s’ of diverse individuals. The individuals are in some cases widely known and others are somewhat anonymous to the mass public. The common thread is their ‘post-50’ resurgence in life and in some cases their ‘fork in the road’ is quite serendipitous. Kristin’s third book, a sequel to ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ will follow later in 2015. Kristin is on Twitter as @kristinkaufman.
Simply, you start at the top and you go from there. One word at a time, which then forms a sentence, which then forms a paragraph and before you know it, a whole page indeed.
What has this got to do with you and HR? A lot.
Consider this. You do have a blank page.
There’s the corporate vision of your company that you have been made aware of. There are the goals and aspirations of your team, whether they have made that known to the other teams, or kept it quiet. There’s the individual goals and dreams of each one of your colleagues, both your downliners and your leaders. And there’s you.
And you can start by being guided by everything that is out there.
But it would be so much better …
… for you to start, with what is within you;
… for you to not draw within the lines but to create the outline yourself first;
… to start with your vision and see how you can meld that with the vision of the organisation you are with;
… for you to start with what matters to you.
Because the truth is that what matters to you, does matter. And no one can tell you otherwise. They simply cannot push and prod and try to create visions, frameworks and models of how things should be, without it crashing into your own ideas of what these visions, frameworks and models should be.
So, to start with your own is to establish where you come from and to where you must go.
And how do you start?
Start with a dream. Start with an empty page on which you carefully lay your dream. Start with an unfettered dream as dreams that are shackled by limitations, placed by you or anyone else, simply will not do.
Let yourself wander around, go beyond and explore.
Consider what possibilities might be… and see what might happen as a result.
You are here to lead, you are here to inspire, you are also here to heal, to mend, to make anew.
To do so, you need to have the capacity to see things from a new perspective and to see possibilities where others see none.
To do so, you need vision and hope, you need a plan and you need to execute. No one said it would be easy. But easy is not the point, is it?
So, if you’re at the beginning, it’s exciting, hopeful and risky all in one.
And if you are in the middle, there’s always a chance to start at the beginning again. You need only think of the possibilities to make that happen.
How can a blank page scare you? How can a new job, new opportunities scare you? In so far as you see the limits and challenges far more than the possibilities of what may be.
So, what are you starting now? Where will you go from here?
Rowena Morais is the Editor of HR Matters Magazine, a quarterly print publication aimed at Human Resource professionals. She is also the co-founder and Programme Director at Flipside, a business services company with offices in Malaysia and Singapore, providing professional certification training. Here, she provides strategic direction as well as oversight on client training and corporate functional areas. Rowena blogs about developing habits, execution, growth and personal development. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband, two young kids and now, a newborn. Connect with Rowena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got a whole lot more attention than he bargained for when he opined that women in technology could do more for their careers by being patient and relying on “karma” rather than asking for raises. The implication was that if they’d just hunker down and do their jobs, women would find that their pay would naturally rise to the right level and everybody could be spared the awkwardness of the dreaded “salary conversation.” Though Nadella backtracked quickly, it’s hard not to have the impression that he was sharing his honest belief: That in the meritocracy of technology, people are paid what they’re worth, regardless of gender.
Of course, no business is a pure meritocracy, and gender matters a lot. On average, women earn just 77 percent of what their male counterparts do, and hold just 5.4 percent of the top jobs in the Fortune 1000. The good news: The discussions about inequality are more open now. The bad news: We still have to have them.
Obviously, then, women who are looking for work face the prospect of gender discrimination. Sometimes, the discrimination is overt — we’ve all heard stories about the hiring manager who calls you “sweetheart” during the interview. But sometimes, it’s more subtle, entwined with a culture that penalizes those who even ask about family leave, or hidden in questions about children or aging parents.
Many companies are trying to do better, though, aggressively working to recruit women into their ranks. One approach they’re taking is to post open positions on job boards that focus on women.
These websites — which range from a handful of standalone offerings to postings on the sites of women’s professional organizations — don’t offer any kind of magic bullet. Employers can’t set aside specific jobs for specific genders, after all, and chances are each position’s been posted in more than one place. But by seeking out women through these sites, the company is sending a message that it’s serious about diversity.
How do you find these sites? Google is a good place to start. Enter search terms like “women accounting job postings” or “women technology job postings.” The results will usually include links to appropriate organizations and their career sections.
Practically speaking, many of the best listings are on the sites of women’s groups in specific industries. For example, the websites of Women in Technology and the National Association of Women in Construction offer full career centers, featuring job listings as well as the ability to post your resume. In many cases, you don’t need to be a member to view the postings.
Unfortunately, these sites still leave the seeker with a lot of work to do. A posting by itself says only so much about a company’s culture and workplace, so the onus remains on you to search out intelligence using your network, social media, online forums, and the Web.
Dedicated job sites provide women with a reasonable place to begin their search, especially when they’re hosted by an organization focused on skills that match the candidate’s interests. Does posting there prove a company’s commitment to gender diversity? No. But it’s a promising signal.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
About the Author: Mark Feffer has written, edited and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance and technology. His work has appeared on Dice.com, Entrepreneur.com as well as on other top sites. He is currently writing for JobsinVT.com, the top local resource for job seekers, employers and recruiters in Vermont.
Men have always dominated the workforce, winning out over the fairer sex in both wages earned and positions held. Sadly, this trend is continuing in the tech industry today.
Even though Google has often been called one of the best places to work, it doesn’t appear to be for women who make up just 30% of their total employees. That number dwindles further to only 17% in departments that are specifically focused on technology.
Women seem to be fighting an uphill battle, but they are still climbing the mountain. Let’s look at ten facts about women in the tech industry that show both positive and negative figures:
1. Women hold 51% of all professional occupations in the United States while only 26% of those are computer-related. While women are getting more white collar recognition, they aren’t gaining much ground in the tech arena.
2. The CIO (Chief Information Officer) position with Fortune 250 companies is 19% female, but of the Fortune 100 firms, only four have a women as their CEO. Women are present in these companies, but not many of them are seated in the president’s chair.
3. While women comprise only 7% of tech company founders, those led by women are have 12% higher revenues using 33% less capital. Those in top management roles are more successful than their male counterparts.
4. Further figures show that twice as many women are leaders in successful startups over those ventures that failed or are failing. Women at the top in the startup game are again more successful than men.
5. More than half (56%) of women in the technology industry leave midway (10-20 years) through their careers, but 22% of them go on to be self-employed in the same market. If you’re going to go out, then go out swinging.
6. Men and women software developers start out with similar pay, but men have a higher upper range and end up earning more in the long run. Perhaps that is their motivation for women exiting the venture to pursue their own interests.
7. The gender pay gap is less for computer programmers where women are down only 7%, but that is still better than some other professional occupations, where male lawyers earn 13% more and female accountants take home 24% less pay.
8. Ethnically speaking, the numbers are very dismal. In 2012, only 3% of our computing workforce were African-American women, 4% were Asian and only 1% of these females were Latino. Adding race into this equation makes it even more difficult for the placement of women into tech fields.
9. Even worse, these numbers are down from 2010 where 16% were African American, 9% Asian and 6% Latino. Let’s hope that 2013 and 2014 show more promise, but it is not looking good thus far.
10. Facebook is mirroring that of Google and the rest of our leaders in technology, with a tremendous lack of both women and minorities in their employment diversity data. The overwhelming majority of tech workers are either caucasian or asian men.
Even though these numbers are depressing, thinly veiled underneath is the fact that women are more successful than men in the business and tech worlds. Take a second look at items three and four to see why businessmen should be taking a hard look at these statistics. When leaving their tech positions, some women didn’t give up, they become self-employed instead, leaving their bosses behind and leading themselves down a better path.
About the Author: Megan Ritter is an online business journalist and entrepreneur with a background in social media marketing. In addition to having a passion for technology, she also enjoys writing about business communications, globalization and online branding. Connect with her on Twitter.
“If you limit yourself to what’s comfortable, you deny yourself what’s possible.”
This week I’m at the 2014 New York State SHRM Conference in my hometown of Buffalo. At the time I’m writing this, we’re about three quarters of the way through the conference and have seen four of the five keynote speakers. As you’d expect, and as is typical of conferences such as these, the keynote speakers had numerous what we would call “tweetable moments” – tidbits of information that translate very easily into 140 or less character tweets. These are typically key ideas and calls to action, and if you search the #NYSHRM14 hashtag you’ll see many of them. But amid all of the ideas shared by the speakers, I keep coming back to the one above. This particular nugget came from Sunday night’s keynote Dan Thurmon, who entertained the crowd with his juggling and unicycling skills while encouraging us to live life “Off Balance on Purpose.”
I think this idea resonates so much with me because it’s something that is so easy to forget. We get comfortable. We tell ourselves that this comfort equals happiness. But does it? Is it happiness, or is it complacency? I was reminded of Robin Roberts in her keynote at SHRM National this year, when she encouraged attendees to be thankful and grateful for what we have, but never, ever get content; always ask yourself if you’re ready for something more, something bigger.
The danger when we get complacent is that we stop challenging ourselves. We convince ourselves it’s good enough. It’s easy. It’s routine. We’re happy. Right? Right?? Or are we really just complacent?
In our personal and professional lives, in the midst of the frenetic pace many of us maintain, sometimes it’s just easier to be content with where we are. Life’s pace can get tiring, and it becomes easy to say we don’t have the energy to push ourselves further. It’s too much effort. And besides, we’re happy. We have the right balance. But as Dan Thurmon reminded us, there is no such thing as sustainable perfect balance…and even if there was, it would get boring fast.
Are we happy? Is the illusion of balance really making us happy? Or again, is it simply complacency?
When we’re complacent, we stop learning, we stop growing… we stop bettering ourselves, our lives, our companies, our personal situations.
Are we actually ready for more? Do we deserve better?
Tuesday morning’s keynote Mark Murphy, author of “Hundred Percenters” aligned with this message by reminding us that “no great accomplishment happens within our comfort zone.” Great accomplishments are hard, require learning something new, and require pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. We can’t accomplish anything worthwhile without effort, without pushing outside what we know and what we’re comfortable with, without stepping into a little uncertainty. I think that goes for each of us in both our personal and professional lives. Keynote speaker Jennifer McClure shared with us a personal story about how and why should “step out” – to face fears, uncertainty, and even naysayers and just go for it; to believe in ourselves and take risks to strive for bigger and better things.
Stepping out can be scary….but I think it’s worth it.
So I ask you, what are you ready to do? What are you going to change? What are you going to stop just accepting? As HR professionals. As business people. As humans.
How are you going to embrace possibility?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
It’s been said before that the problem with expecting Common Sense from others is that common sense just isn’t that common. It’s kind of a judgmental statement, right? It almost implies that there are general “rules” for life we should be following but most of us aren’t. What’s worse is that there are a lot of people out there who like to put HR down by saying “It’s just Common sense”. For those of us who actually work in HR, we know how untrue and unfair that statement is.
Forget about common sense, let’s talk about “HR Sense”. I often get the chance to chat with people looking to break into HR and sometimes I am surprised by what they think HR entails. It makes me wonder, is HR sense something you are born with, or is it something that you develop over time? Now, some things you obviously can’t know without experience and study. No one instinctively knows how to handle FMLA or navigate payroll. But what about the less technical aspects of the job?
Can you teach someone how to be empathetic and approachable while simultaneously being firm and direct? How about staying calm under the pressure of a workplace emergency or assisting an injured employee? Can you learn the level of professionalism HR truly requires?
Important questions all. But ultimately, those aren’t the questions we need to be asking. Instead, ask anyone who has worked in HR for a while: What keeps you in the profession? What excites you about what you do? I can almost guarantee that the HR Pros who truly love what they do will make the answer clear.
A lot of people think they can do HR. It’s just “common sense,” right? Which is why you can’t focus on why someone wants to get into HR; you have to find out why they’ve stayed and how they’ve been successful. Only then can you discern how a person’s natural talents meld beautifully with the skills only experience and education can develop and hone over time.
So the answer is: HR sense is both something you are born with and something you learn. A person’s natural HR sense is what helps them take an interest in HR and lead an individual to learn more and improve upon their abilities. For example, a natural willingness to communicate effectively and professionally can lead someone to take a business writing class or join Toastmasters. It’s the ability to know what you need to improve upon and being willing to try. This is what makes HR sense something both innate and learned.
So for all you aspiring HR pros out there, don’t give up. Trust your instincts but be willing to work on your skills. It’ll not only make you a better HR Pro, it’ll help you maintain your passion for HR for a long time to come.