Sorry About the Hummus, Minnesota

Ok. First thing’s first…I’m the devil for skipping out on blogging for a couple months. It’s been a crazy summer and we’ll get into that more later. For now, though, I am very sorry.

At least I didn't do this, right?

At least I didn’t do this, right?

Back to the Blog -

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about company culture. For starters, I’ve been thinking about what it actually encompasses. I think a lot of people hear the words “company culture” and start envisioning Google and foosball tables. Other people conjure memories of bad company culture and offices they hated. There has to be a comprehensive middle ground, yes? Something in between kindergarten field day and that bitch Sharlene emailing everyone fourteen times to clean out the office fridge?

One of my best experiences this summer was going on a company retreat to Minnesota with all my coworkers. We’re a very small company so it’s still possible for us to retreat comfortably to one vacation house. There were seven of us, at the time, all in a lovely home in Minneapolis for three nights.

A wonderful meal on our first night!

A wonderful meal on our first night!

For some of us, this was our first time meeting and there we were, stuck in a house together for four days. You guys know there is still a part of me (and always will be) that wants to hole up in bed 24/7 and watch “Buffy” till I starve. That’s just part of dealing with depression – making that part as small as possible and telling her to shut up 98% of the time. That part was exhausted just hearing about this trip. I’d be trapped in a house with my BOSS and EVERY SINGLE ONE of my coworkers for four days…and expected to contribute in a meaningful way despite being the only ‘non-creative’ in the room. That is the emotional equivalent of two weeks in a bridesmaid’s dress – and heels.

I could not have been more wrong about this trip, though. Yes, it was exhausting, but in a great way. We holed up, talked strategy, shared ideas, cooked meals, ate all of the M&Ms and hummus in Minnesota, drank a bit, and had an awesome time. My boss accidentally walked in on me in the shower…twice. An intern walked in on me peeing and brushing my teeth at the same time. That level of laughter and team building is priceless.

Shenanigans abound.

Shenanigans abound.

The One and Only Crystal Miller!

The One and Only Crystal Miller!

We had extended family join us for the trip – we had a great time with Chris Fleek, Crystal Miller, Caleb Fullheart and Tiffany Kuehl! We met up with some amazing clients and got to enjoy face to face time with them. Also, there’s something magic that happens between 6 and 7 in the morning when you’re all in that gray area comprising hangover, jet lag, exhaustion, and sleeping in a strange place – and you all simultaneously sneak down to get coffee still in your pajamas. We all came away super energized, focused on our goals, and more determined than ever to see this company really take off.

Fleek!!

Fleek!!

Tiffany and Caleb!!

Tiffany and Caleb!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know we’ll keep growing and one day it won’t be financially or logistically feasible for us to all get on a plane or drive to some locale and stay together for a retreat. As the Chief Culture Officer (as I have recently appointed myself), it will be up to me to create a similar vibe for everyone that works here…the vibe of a small company full of creativity and energy. I’m still refining what I want that experience to be and how we’ll achieve it, but I think I have an excellent starting point after our trip. Foosballs optional.

PS – If you’d like to see more tidbits about our trip…search Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for #repcapfamilyvacay.

Confessions of a Current (and Former) Social Media Whore

There. I said it. A lot of you already know it. I know some of you have talked about it, so let’s bring it out in the open. My attitude towards social media changes more than my underwear during any given week. Sometimes I feel like everything is so damn fake and I want to delete everyone I don’t see personally within any given month. The remaining people will be declared my close inner circle and everyone else is persona non grata. Then other times I want so many followers I find myself turning into my own little version of Jim Jones. There used to be no rhyme or reason to my whims. One day I’d have 400 Facebook friends, then whittle it down to 100, then get off Facebook altogether for months at a time. Actually that’s how the whoring started.

I think it was last summer when I decided I wasted too much time on Facebook. It was all Facebook. I had a Twitter account but never used it, same with LinkedIn, no Google Plus, no Tumblr, no Instagram, no FourSquare…all Facebook. And I was quitting. And then I replaced that addiction with what? Reading? Exercise? Cleaning my house? Nope. Twitter. If Facebook is crack then Twitter is crystal meth. It’s a faster pace, more immediately gratifying, and it will get you hooked INSTANTLY. My personal Twitter was ok for a while, but then I started the blog. And I needed a Twitter for that, which has now pretty much totally replaced the personal Twitter. Then I rejoined FB because of the blog.

meth Social-Logos

THEN I GOT A JOB AT A MARKETING AGENCY WHERE EVERYTHING IS SOCIAL ALL THE TIME, ALWAYS. I feel like a diabetic working days at Krispy Kreme and nights at Baskin Robbins. And the thing was, I didn’t expect people to be friendly. I didn’t expect people to give a crap about what I had to say…but they did. And that’s the biggest high of them all. People kept following me and I felt obliged (on Twitter) to follow them back. The more I followed, the more people followed me, and doesn’t this sound like the intro to an episode of Intervention?! It snowballed. I became friends with people. We connected on LinkedIn and then Facebook. Yes, most of this was me friending people, but some of them friended me! I swear!

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And then there was Klout. OMG for someone as bitchy and judgemental as myself, it was nirvana. A quantifiable way to determine someone’s “cool factor” as it were. First my score was 54. Then I linked all accounts to it that I could find and friended everyone and their dog catcher. I watched with glee as it slowly crept up. It lingered on 65 so long I thought I was going to have to screw George Takei to get it any higher, but higher it went. Past the scores of people that I liked and respected and just knew had more real clout that I do. It went all the way to 68 and I loved it.

mean girls

Then, I began to see the cracks in the Matrix. First off, LinkedIn is about as useless as a third nipple with regard to “clout”. I have recommendations from people I have never met. Because my world is somewhat HR-centric, I am an open networker on LinkedIn. Taking any and all requests. I know a lot of recruiters and if strangers connecting with me can help my recruiter friends find a candidate, great. But when a random boat captain (what?) started endorsing me for all kinds of skills, it became a bit silly. Really? Do you just expect me to endorse you back? For what, boat captaining? I do not feel qualified to give that reference.

This is all I know about piloting a boat. If you had anything to do with this, especially the peanut butter version, we can be friends for life.

This is all I know about piloting a boat. If you had anything to do with this, especially the peanut butter version, we can be friends for life.

Then, Twitter got ugly. I was following about 3000 people because I had largely felt obliged to follow everyone who followed me. I was up to 3800 followers and was very grateful, till I realized they mostly don’t give a shit. I can’t keep up with following 3000 people. You might be able to. Congrats. I can follow about 350 and get genuine, good info that I can use. Any more and my brain will explode. I unfollowed about 90% of my 3000 and 1100 followers went away within a week. If you are one of the ones I purged, I am sorry. It’s not that I didn’t like your tweets. It’s that I probably never saw them. I’m thrilled that 2700 people stayed with me – that seems way high. But I’m also sad that 1100 people were evidently only following me to get me to follow them back.

The exodus from my Twitter.

The exodus from my Twitter.

Remember when social media was supposed to be fun and helpful and not a spiteful high school popularity contest? Yeah, me neither. Still. It’s getting to be too much.

I purged the Twitter. I’m keeping the Facebook but using it less. The blog is down to once a week (for the most part) because I’m busy with school and work this summer. My Klout score is down to 64 and falling fast. I’m ok with that. I’ve decided I’d rather have a few good friends and colleagues in this industry that I really get to know vs. being Jim Jones with my brain falling out. I’m still super friendly and awesome. You can still find me on LinkedIn, but I’m no longer keeping score. In my mind, that means I’m winning.

Why Trusting Your Gut Can Go Badly – A Sheriff’s Tale

Once upon a time, there was a lowly HR assistant, newly tasked with hiring several manual laborers for a factory. The factory was located in a poor neighborhood with not many good jobs available. Most of the people in this neighborhood were semi-literate, under or improperly nourished, and all were affected in one way or another by the neighborhood’s high crime rate.

climbing-resume-stackThe only thing good about this scenario for our lowly HR assistant is that on the rare occasions she did have jobs open, she had many applicants for them — so many, in fact, that she often had stacks and stacks of applications on her desk without having spoken to the applicant or without being able to put a name to a face.

Such was the case with Billy. She happened upon his application one day and, on paper, at least, he seemed okay. The job was packing and lifting boxes. No one needed a neuroscience degree and it was clear Billy didn’t have one, but his app looked like he’d had steady work and could do the job. At the bottom of the application was a section marked “For Employer Use Only” and it listed out the various positions available. The site had off-duty sheriffs providing security virtually round-the-clock, but the big qualification there was that you had to BE a sheriff. Billy, like many applicants, didn’t understand that this bottom portion of the application was for the lowly HR assistant to mark on when sending his info to payroll. That’s how she’d let them know that he worked in the factory and made $8 an hour. A lot of applicants, semi-literate, mixed up this part and put what they wanted to make at what position. Billy had put down that he wanted to be the sheriff for $9.00/hr.jiFfM

That should’ve been my first clue, but I’m naive and try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Plus we needed bodies — not geniuses, just bodies. I lined up about 6 interviews and one was Billy. He came in and when I saw him, I immediately called the interviewing manager and apologized. Billy looked ready to collapse from malnutrition. The one tooth remaining in his mouth was on its last legs. When I asked him what he was applying for, he actually said he wanted to be sheriff. He thought we’d give him a gun maybe?! I have no idea. I’m all for helping out someone who is hungry and willing to work, but Billy just had this air of “WTF?” around him that I couldn’t shake. He was NOTHING like he seemed on paper. It was like he floated into the office on a leaf, just going wherever the wind blew him. He was a ‘no’ vote from this judge immediately, but we did the interview anyway.

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I have no idea what kind of voodoo Billy worked on that hiring manager, but he must’ve made a good case for himself or appeared even more needy than he did to me, because he was hired. And apart from the 3 heart attacks he faked at work, even having ambulances called only to tell him he had a “pulled muscle” (the medical equivalent of ‘quit wasting my effin’ time’), he kept plugging along. He was eventually fired and I think it was because he kept up these incidents and it was decided the work was too strenuous for him. I think. I have kind of blocked it out. That took place within my first 2 months at this particular job, and Billy was nicknamed “the Sheriff” from that very first day. I was judged for inviting him in for an interview despite NOT being responsible for hiring him. On paper he looked good. On paper, my gut really liked him. Even when I told his manager not to hire him, he went with HIS gut and his gut overruled mine. We all like to think we know people but we don’t. We’re guessing and flying blind. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes the ambulance pulls up to yell at Billy to quit wasting their effin’ time and all you can do is roll your eyes.

If we’d had a way to test Billy beforehand, that might not have happened. Granted, for such a blue-collar situation, not all tests will be applicable, but an emotional maturity assessment sure would have been nice for Billy and for the guy who told all the older black ladies they wore too much makeup and he’d like to…do things to them, but only with a bag over their heads. A better way of weeding out the undesirables would have saved us some turnover, some training costs, lots of paperwork on both those fellas (and a few others) and made work much more boring…in a good way.

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SmartRecruiters has developed an Assessment Center that would’ve been a big help back in the day. It lets you check an applicant’s skills, references and behaviors. For my particular company back then, behavior would’ve been my biggest need. Today it would be skills. New position, new company…new needs. These are all available at the assessment center and can lead to vastly improved hiring over just a resume. From an article on SmartRecruiters’ Talent Assessments page:  ”In fact, academic research (Schmidt and Hunter 1998) shows resumes are one of the worst ways to select candidates. Combining interviews with assessments improves accuracy of hire by over 3x (.63 correlation with work performance vs. .18 correlation without testing).” Imagine that! Three times better hiring through basic skills and behavioral testing before hiring.

SmartRecruitersLogo“We are adding science to the art of recruiting,” said SmartRecruiters’ Founder & CEO Jerome Ternynck. “Our Assessment Center recommendation engine will encapsulate the performance and review of every assessment to present the best test for each position and company type.” And that’s what they can do for companies that recruit. Imagine what they could do for companies that are bombarded with applications all day long whether they have openings or not! You could really hire THE ABSOLUTE BEST. It wouldn’t matter if you could put a face with a name before you called each applicant. The applicant would self-select from the pack in the testing. You could avoid being the lowly HR assistant (or manager, director, recruiter) who hired “The Sheriff” and avoid that shame and embarrassment for years to come!

The Day HR Got Real – My Worst Day on the Job

I love Louisiana and, in particular, Baton Rouge. I love LSU even though our governor, Bobby Jindal, seems dead set on stripping all its funding and turning it into a Diesel Driving Academy with a football team. I gripe about mosquitoes the size of handbags and how I can’t walk outside my door in the summer without my hairdo going full-on Kotter in two seconds, but the music, the art, THE FOOD, and the culture all make up for that, especially our culture of collaboration. People here help each other and look out for one another.

cajun-foodwelcome_back_kotter__409482

In that spirit, here are two blogs from other Baton Rouge HR gals that I’d like you to check out today in addition to mine. These ladies have helped me and taught me things. They have made me laugh on bad days and been happy with me on good ones. Their blogs are interesting and funny and educational. You’ll love ‘em. They’ve collaborated with me here on the #BRHRCarnival. Today we’ve talked about our worst day in HR. I think a counter-post about our best day will probably happen too. Mine revolves around turkeys, so there’s a teaser.

HR Schoolhouse by Robin Schooling and HR Tact by Christine Assaf

Also in the spirit of collaboration, Robin Schooling is attending the National SHRM Conference in Chicago soon. A kickball game has been organized with prominent social media personalities playing to raise money for Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry. Robin will be representing Louisiana and we want her to raise lots of money! If you’d care to, please check out the link and sponsor her.

no kid hungry

Now, onto the blog. Thanks for sticking with me through the housekeeping!

The Worst Ever, No Good, Very Bad, Horrible, Awful Birthday

My worst moment in HR was Friday, June 20, 2008 around 3 p.m. How do I remember the exact date and time nearly 5 years later? For starters, I have an awesome memory. Also it was just a SUPERBLY terrible day — that just so happened to be my 29th birthday. The first one. The real one.

I had started work at this company on a Monday, and you can see here that my first day was pretty bad. The whole week was like that. In the past, I had done some HR assisting and payroll at a small organization with less than 300 employees. When we first took payroll in-house and I began doing it, it was a difficult transition that often took me a few days to process. After a few years I had made the process so efficient that I had streamlined myself right out of a job.

I started this new job with Huge Corporation X on a Monday. I didn’t get a computer till Tuesday. On Wednesday, I was given a huge stack of folders, each containing info for a field office around the nation and told to pay around 900 people with vastly different pay structures…some hourly, some exempt salary, some non-exempt salary, some with shift differentials, and some who were paid per project/visit. I did the best I could and had minimal help from others to make sure I wasn’t paying anyone millions of dollars, but for the most part – I was thrown to the wolves.

dont-throw-to-wolves-2

On Friday, my birthday, the results of my wolf-toss would become clear. I was told that for an organization with around 15K employees, half of whom were paid one week and half the next and so on and so on, that payroll was never perfect and Fridays were more like working in a call-center where people would call to complain about their checks. Sometimes they would speak to their actual payroll processor, but we were also required to help others that we did not personally pay. Sometimes they had legit concerns and a visit or their OT had been left off. Sometimes they were just new and didn’t know how to read their statement. With all these pay structures, it wasn’t hard to sympathize with that.

This one lady, though, she was different. I can’t remember her name, so I’ll call her Susie. She was a branch manager in South Carolina. She was one of my 900 people. When I got to work that morning, I had a voicemail from Susie. Being an hour ahead of us, she’d already been in the office and was astounded and PISSED that her check had only been for $87. I called her back and tried to work out what happened but, not fully understanding the system, I mostly just sat there while she yelled at me. I told her I would move Heaven and Earth to try and help her. I got my boss — even she couldn’t figure out what had happened.

bigstock_Angry_Woman_in_Comic_Book_Styl_25804979Then more calls came in from other branch managers in South Carolina, and I noticed a few other people taking calls and looking at me. My 900 people were largely paid incorrectly (mostly little errors, but a few biggies, like Susie) and that was due to a lack of training. Susie and these branch managers, though, no one could figure out where I had gone wrong. She called repeatedly throughout the day alternately yelling and crying that her mortgage payment would be automatically withdrawn from her bank account in 2 days and she couldn’t believe this was happening. I was devastated and she was WELL BEYOND devastated. Eventually I discovered the problem. Susie was salary, non-exempt, and did not fill out her timesheet correctly. Huge Corporation X required all salaried employees to do a timesheet and automatically fill in 40 hours. Non-exempt employees, hourly or salary, filled it in exactly and were paid for overtime. Susie had received her overtime only.

When I told Susie this, she protested that she was not a salaried employee. She insisted she was hourly. Turns out the company had made her salary that same week and not told her, so she filled out an hourly timesheet that was overlooked by the computer because she was now a salaried employee. Not my fault, but that doesn’t matter to the woman in South Carolina weeping about her mortgage and utility bill. My heart was broken. We cut her a check and overnighted it and everything was ok but still, I felt her stress. I was going through some financial troubles of my own at the time and I sympathized with her and felt so guilty, even after I found out this wasn’t my fault.

The first week at a new job is mentally EXHAUSTING in the same way that driving a long distance is exhausting. Sure, you’re just sitting there, not digging ditches, but you’re tired when it’s over. You’re on alert and can’t relax, ever. Plus this place sucked. Plus I was super-PMS-ing and turning 29. I know it’s cliché but 29 and being a payroll specialist and having people screaming at me was NOT part of my life plan back when I was so bright-eyed and fresh-faced at a boarding school for gifted kids and going to be the world’s first supermodel/astronaut/vibrator-tester. My life was not supposed to turn out this way! We got Susie all squared away and then it all just hit me, all at once.

So then, I start to cry. Just little tears at the corners of my eyes, lump in my throat, biting my tongue to distract myself and not lose my shit completely. I’m doing ok. I WOULD HAVE BEEN TOTALLY FINE, but then the super sweet girl across from me notices and “Awwww…what’s wrong?” and I’m all “I’m fine. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’m ok.” and thinking to myself that this is like when you’re nauseated…don’t make me open my mouth or I’m gonna lose all control. She goes and gets a supervisor. By the way, the ENTIRE DEPARTMENT was female. What do girls do when someone is crying? Huddle and focus and make it a million times worse, that’s what. I became an ugly, tear-stained, snotty and blubbery mess. “Everyone’s been *hiccup* screaming at me all day and *sniff* I don’t know what *sob* I did wrong and *hiccup* it’s my *hiccup* birthday and *sob* I just need *sniff* a minute. I’ll be ok.”

sarahmichelle_447685

giftedBy this time it was 3:30 and they let me go and clocked me out at 5. Thanks Huge Corporation X. Twenty something dollars totally makes up for a day of abuse that will haunt me forever. When I showed back up on Monday (my next mistake), everyone was all “We didn’t think you’d be back.” and I was all, “Me either.” and they had no idea how serious I was with that response. It was one of those moments when you summon all your personal strength and courage and persistence and apply it in the completely wrong direction.

I was, by no means, in charge of anything on the day HR became real for me. I didn’t even work in HR; I was in payroll. This wasn’t me firing someone or announcing layoffs. This wasn’t about giving bad news or any other ways in which HR can be terrible. This was when I learned that HR was a big deal — because when it’s done so blatantly wrong, it can really destroy a company’s image and an employee’s self-esteem. I learned on that day that EVERYTHING Huge Corporation X did was the total opposite from what I wanted to do in my career. The interviews, the hiring, orientations, training, everything was so glossy and pretty and sparkly on the outside and it was a box full of crap on the inside.

A transparent box inside a Tiffany box...that's the ideal.

A transparent box inside a Tiffany box…that’s the ideal.

HR is not about the bows on the package. It’s a transparent box. You might not like everything in the package at any job, but it’s clear and it’s straightforward and it’s not a pile of shit hidden in a Tiffany box, you know?

I called my mom that afternoon from the grocery store and told her how I had screwed over the entire state of South Carolina and countless others. It was kinda funny by that point, since I knew it wasn’t my fault. I’ll never forget. She asked, “Well, what are you gonna do the rest of the day?” and I answered, “I’m going to buy a frozen pizza, a key lime pie, go home, fall into a food coma, watch TV and go to bed.” That was exactly what I did and it was awesome. Not a huge birthday spectacular, but definitely the most memorable birthday of my whole life.

Would you like to share your HR horror stories in the comments? I’d love to read them and so would the others from #BRHRCarnival. Check out their blogs and them come back here and wallow in the comments!

Have a great weekend! Zumba on Monday at 7:30 — think happy thoughts for me! – HRGF

The Most Important Component of Your HR Career

This is how I’m feeling today – I need coffee and lots of it. Yeah, I could have tea but it doesn’t pack the same punch, let’s face it. Today I need caffeine strong enough to put some hair on my chest. 

human_resources_person_voice_coffee_mug-ra9ad70780e52452cb0b2e4e8fe2e0b68_x7jgr_8byvr_512 need_coffee_human_resources_mousepad-r96566028db9740cfafa11256e59c5443_x74vi_8byvr_512

 

 

 

 

 

 

before coffee break

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dilbert_decaf cat

 

otter

 

 

 

 

 

Dilbert Coffee 001

baby dog a.baa-Dog-need-Coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the MOST ACCURATE description of what will happen in about 10 minutes when I finally get myself some java…

bitch

Embracing the Discomfort – The Plan

Expand-yourself-Get-out-of-comfort-zone

The 5th anniversary of my 29th birthday is in a little over 3 weeks and I’ve been thinking about things that I’ve learned about myself over the years.  I’m nosy.  I have an extraordinary memory, which passes for intelligence about 95% of the time.  I will probably never be a morning person no matter how hard I try.  I can be very envious and insecure…and I have an absolutely incredible tolerance for pain.

imagesThat last part is going to sound like bragging when I explain it, but it’s really not.  When I know something is SUPPOSED to hurt, I let it hurt.  Case in point: I had horrible dry socket after my wisdom teeth were extracted because no one remembered to give me a syringe and the instructions to prevent dry socket.  So when I was in pain 2 and then 3 weeks later, I just thought, “Well I just had surgery.  It’s supposed to hurt.”  The oral surgeon was appalled at my final visit.  I’ve had the same thing happen to me in the ER on Christmas Eve with strep throat*, from the neurosurgeon who diagnosed those ruptured discs in my neck, and from a different neurosurgeon after the operation to remove those ruptured discs.  “How are you sitting here without writhing and crying?  Why aren’t you asking for more pain meds?  Why aren’t you taking the ones we gave you?” or something along those lines.  My answer is always the same:  “I’m sick, I’m injured, I just had surgery.  It’s SUPPOSED to hurt, right?!  Complaining doesn’t help.”  I just always assume that the amount of pain I’m in is the amount I’m supposed to be in and deal with it.  Evidently some of you are whiny little drug-seeking bitches, though.

That being said, while I do have an incredible tolerance for pain, I have ZERO tolerance for discomfort.  I hosted a bridal shower for my friend Lea many years ago, the weekend Pope John Paul II died (great memory, right?).  I was outside planting flowers in pots for several hours the day before the shower.  It was early April in Baton Rouge, sunny but not hot, and there was a lovely breeze.  It was a beautiful day.  For a week after, my lips feel like they were constantly covered in cellophane and it was all I could do to get out of bed.  I don’t think I talked about anything else for a week except which lip balms I liked and which I didn’t.  In the case of discomfort, complaining does help because it makes others around me miserable too and, seriously, why should I suffer alone?

Me in a room that's too stuffy.

Me in a room that’s too stuffy.

If the thermostat is too hot or cold, I’m dying.  Bug bites and paper cuts make me want to check myself into a mental ward for a sedative.  People have found me in my office before, rubbing myself on a door jamb trying to scratch my back like a cartoon bear.  I really would rather be stabbed in the gut than sleep in a room that doesn’t have a fan.  I’m the whiny little bitch in this scenario and I’m ok with that.

What does all this nonsense have to do with my plan?  Well…summer 2013 is going to be The Summer of Dominique’s Discomfort.  For starters, I’ve signed myself up for a 7:30 am Zumba class on campus.  This isn’t a fun class that I can drop anytime.  This is for credit and I will be assigned a grade.  I don’t need this class to graduate, but it only cost $60 more and for 2 months of Zumba, I might as well.  Did I mention the part about not being a morning person or liking to sweat?  What have I done?  Did I mention also that I’m a former smoker and since my knee surgery 14 years ago I have become about as limber as a rusty lawn chair?

ive-made-a-huge-mistakeAlso, I signed up for one of those Color Runs at the end of June and roped 2 friends into joining me.  It’s a 5K.  I haven’t started training AT ALL yet, and I haven’t run in…EVER.  My whole life I have been able to swim a mile before I could run one, so that’s gonna suck — and I paid money to do this.  Holy shit.i-exercised-once

Once I lose some weight, I want to start biking again.  For now balancing all this heft on my hoo-ha on a bike hurts my hiney more than is worth it.  That will be later in the summer.

I’m going off sugar.  I’ve done an Atkins-esque plan before.  No, it’s not high protein.  No, it’s not all bacon.  You basically eat your body weight in veggies.  Look it up.  I feel a lot better when I do that and I have a lot more energy but that first week is a bear.  None of you are going to want to give me even the slightest criticism on Facebook, Twitter, over the phone or in person or we might both end up on the news.  What is the opposite of the Twinkie defense?

Or you'll do what I do which is to watch all the good food go bad and order pizza.  And ice cream.

Or you’ll do what I do which is to watch all the good food go bad and order pizza. And ice cream.

I’m going to be in school (the Zumba plus another easy class) and working this summer.  At the same time I have plans to do a lot of HR and finance education to make myself more valuable at work.  That won’t be uncomfortable but will be a bit time-consuming.  My summer reading list is already at about 8 books and that doesn’t include anything for school yet.  I’m very lucky to have a cool boss who is grooming me for bigger things.  ”Learn More Stuff” is actually my number one summer assignment.

There is still the elephant in the room with Dad, and considering my birthday and Father’s Day always go hand-in-hand, at some point some awkwardness will have to be addressed there…I hope.  I’ve reached out.  We’ll see.

What has inspired all of this apart from this blog and all of you?  Two friends that I HATE.  Remember when I said I could be envious?  I really can.  And I don’t hate them in the way I hate Al-Qaeda or Gwyneth Paltrow.  I’m not angry at them.  I hate them in a way that you can only hate someone you really love.  The truth is that I adore them both but they have achieved so much while I have been stagnating that it just makes me sick with happiness, admiration and seething, undying jealousy.  They are AWESOME and I am NOT (yet).  They’ve been through the pain already and I have yet to begin.

Here they are together.  At once the banes of my existence and my reason for getting up in the morning.

Here they are together — at once the banes of my existence and my reason for getting up in the morning.

Look at the guns on this b...est friend of mine!

Look at the guns on this b…est friend of mine!

Julia** lives in Portland and is raising 2 wonderful boys with her husband.  I lived with her for a while in college and she was never ever fat, but she was not the lean machine she is today!  She’s taken up fitness as her life’s purpose pretty much and she looks amazing.  Even more than the changes to her appearance, though, she has achieved so much.  She has run a couple full marathons, I think.  I know at least one was for Team In Training, so she did a good deed there.  She did an Olympic-distance Ironman, I think.  She routinely does half-marathons and smaller triathlons. Some of that may be wrong, I have no idea.  All I know is she has a shitload of medals and I have an assload of cellulite.  She is in incredible shape and really enjoys what she’s doing.  I’m jealous.

This one used to shun photos like the plague and now he's taking them all the time.  And always smiling!  It's like he knows something that I should be learning.  Hmmm.

This one used to shun photos like the plague and now he’s taking them all the time. And always smiling! It’s like he knows something that I should be learning. Hmmm.

My friend John** lives in Houston and he has recently lost something crazy like…200 pounds.  I don’t know the exact number but it’s a lot.  He was depressed and fat (I’m familiar) and something just clicked for him one day.  He went to a medically-supervised weight loss program, began working out, and now he’s lost all this weight, toned up, and has also been bitten with the running and triathlon bug.  His confidence has gone through the roof.  He’s a fitness evangelist now that makes Jimmy Swaggart look like some stuttering wallflower in comparison.  He is so much healthier, so much more vibrant and a real inspiration.  Again, I’m jealous.

And I know I could do something about it and change my life but it’s just so much easier to sleep in, to watch Netflix instead of studying, to order pizza instead of cooking for myself, and make “easy” choices instead of difficult ones.  BUT…since hopping out of my comfort zone accidentally worked so well earlier this year, that’s what I’ve got to do now.  I’m slowly learning that lesson.  The fact is, this summer is probably going to suck.  Maybe even more than the summer of mental illness or neck brace.  It’s going to be sweaty and uncomfortable and painful but hopefully I’ll be better for it at the end…waist a little smaller and brain a little bigger, or more wrinkly or something.

Growth does not happen in the comfort zone.  I have to remember that.

Growth does not happen in the comfort zone. I have to remember that.

My official motto:  Embrace the Discomfort.  It’s Definitely Going to Suck, But It Probably Won’t Kill Me.

Will keep you posted!  Any words of encouragement would be wonderful, but I’m warning you guys…June 1 and all the carbs are gone.  At that point, any criticism will be viewed as an act of war.

Hope everyone had a great long weekend! – HRGF

*Don’t ever go to the ER on Xmas eve.  The morgue will feel sorry for the ER staff and send up a ham.  Apart from the gross irony of getting meat from the morgue, the ER staff will be overjoyed at ham and will forget about you for 2 hours.

**Names and locations changed to protect friends I hate.  With love.  But then I put up their pics so whatever.

I’m a Big Ol’ Liar – Orientation Guest Post Instead

I know, I know.  I said “the Plan” would be coming out today BUT…

liar

a) The weekend got away from me and I haven’t written it yet.

b) My guest post was published!  I want to tweet about that and get that some notice first.  SmartRecruiters, and in particular Lexie Forman Ortiz (@LexieFO), took a chance letting me write for them AT ALL, let alone about a topic that isn’t about recruiting.  The least I can do is plug that as much as possible.

 

Here’s the link to the SmartRecruiters blog:

http://www.smartrecruiters.com/blog/5-tips-for-getting-new-employee-orientation-right/

Please enjoy.  ”The Plan” will be revealed later in the week.  Cross my heart!

Change Doesn’t Take Time – It Takes Change

My life has been through some great changes recently and I think it’s got me hooked on the whole concept of change now.  I’m jonesing for more change.

A Brief Recap

joanIn May 2011, I was in pain.  I had 2 ruptured discs in my neck and ended up having major surgery.  That summer kinda sucked.

In May 2012, I was in a different kind of pain.  I was severely depressed and having panic attacks and afraid to tell anyone about it.  My family, friends and coworkers knew I’d suffered depression for years but it had gotten markedly worse in April/May and I didn’t want anyone to know that part.  I thought they’d be worried that I’d do something awful and irreparable, even though nothing like that EVER crossed my mind.  I was in pain though and suffered largely in silence.  Last summer definitely could’ve been better.

slothNow it’s May 2013 and life is AMAZING.  I’ve made great progress in school and I can see the finish line, somewhere.  I have a new-ish and fantastic job that is a PERFECT fit for me.  I love the people I work with, I get to wear sweatpants/no pants about 80% of the time, and still be bossy and a perfectionist.  My family and friends are doing well.  My $$$ is doing well.  My depression is under control.  I have quit smoking for a while now.  Life is good.  Change is good.

What Happened?

welcomeDid it take a year for all this change to happen?  No, it’s taken 4 months and 13 days.  How do I know that?  Because I started this blog on January 4th.  Unemployed at the time, I wanted something to occupy my time and learning more about HR seemed a good start since that was my field and I was basically faking it…or that’s how I felt.  Since then, this blog has been received warmly among people who clearly AREN’T faking it.  I’ve been invited to do guest posts for other blogs (will change link to my post once it’s published) and awesome people have assisted with mine.  I’ve met lots of new people, become more involved in my local HR and business scene, and “met” thousands more on Facebook and Twitter.  HR Rock Stars.  I have met some in real life, others I know I will one day, and some have become great confidantes, advisers and friends.  Remember when I said HR was a big ol’ clique?  Still true.  But when I said they were friendly and welcoming, I had no idea what an understatement that was.

The Change Process

How did I accomplish this?  Did it happen naturally and without any effort from me?  Absolutely not. I butted in.  I interjected in Twitter conversations I found interesting, I commented on blogs, I asked total strangers for advice and opinions, and totally crashed that party.  Was it always comfy for me?  No.  I am still intimidated by these rock stars since I have no degree (yet) and I’m only informally studying HR.  Why should the talent acquisition chief from Expedia ever talk to me?  Guess what?  He did.  He does.  You’re not reading this, but just in case…hi Jer!  (Honestly, when I reached out to him on LinkedIn, I thought he was someone else, but whatever.  He’s cool.  There’s a pic of him wearing a cape on my FB timeline, so he’s clearly odd, which is EXACTLY the type of people I like to be on my FB.) There were a few moments of awkwardness with some people but for the most part, it wasn’t too bad.  Stepping out of my comfort zone, not into a neutral gray area of I-don’t-give-a-damn-ness, but into active discomfort has achieved great results.

Now What?

Is my life perfect right now?  No.  I am still woefully overweight and out of shape…not beating myself up over this, though, cause I did quit smoking, so yea.  I want to add more value to my company, so I’m trying to learn accounting and more HR this summer.  I’m not quite done with school yet so there’s still some work to be done there.  My dad and I are talking, but there’s an elephant in the room we haven’t addressed.  I’m not going to link to it, but regular readers will know what that is.  I haven’t spent enough time with my local friends or talking to my distant ones (my real, non-HR people).  My apartment is a disaster.  I need to floss more.  You know, the usual.  It’s time for some more change.

People say change takes time.  No, it doesn’t.  It takes change.  Real, actionable, quantifiable CHANGE.  I look at my life right now and where I was 4 months and 13 days ago and it could not be more different.  So that’s my new project — the next three and a half-ish months.

project

I have a few weeks now before summer school starts.  Then 2 months of school and another few weeks of freedom.  On Labor Day, I want to look back and say, “I remember that day…sitting on my boss’s sofa at the ass crack of dawn because she accidentally scheduled herself a flight so early not even Superman would put up with that BS, blogging while her daughter slept, about to get her ready for school — and look how much my life has improved since then.”  Rolling over and watching Buffy till I fall asleep right now, though tempting and guaranteed to be awesome, is not going to bring about the change I’m seeking. That’s the old path; I already know where that leads.  I’m on a new path now.

I didn’t have a plan 4 months and 13 days ago and I still accomplished a lot…with some luck, some great friends/family, and some innovative interrupting, if you will, on my part.  This time I do have a plan and I am looking forward to BIG RESULTS and BIG ACCOUNTABILITY from you guys!  So what’s the plan?  What are my goals between now and Labor Day – and how do I intend to achieve them?  Ahh.  Check back on Tuesday and all will be revealed.

tuesday

 

Have a great weekend everyone!!  I’m starting my plan immediately!! – HRGF

ERISA Part 2: The Return – With Guest Andrew Douglass

My wonderful friend Jeremy Bordelon was kind enough to answer some basic ERISA questions for me a while back.  You might say he gave me just enough rope to hang myself.  He really freaked me out about how much of this I don’t know — and don’t understand even when it’s being explained to me.  I feel like, should I ever become some kind of HR bigwig at a huge firm, I’m going to inevitably be led away in handcuffs to ERISA jail.  What’s worse, rather than some evil mastermind, I’m going to come across as one of those idiots on TV who didn’t even realize they were pregnant.  I’ll be screaming, “But I didn’t know!” while they throw me in a cop car.  Ugh.

Probably not the bra, but the rest, I assume, will be remarkably similar to this.

Probably not the bra, but the rest, I assume, will be remarkably similar to this.

That’s where my new friend Andrew Douglass comes in.  He is also an ERISA attorney and offered to answer more questions for me.  Jeremy gave me just enough info in Part 1 to have more questions and now I’ve been somewhat reassured by Andrew in Part 2.  Read on for ERISA Part 2: The Return…if you dare.

My attorney friend, Jeremy Bordelon, answered a few questions in my first post.  I know ERISA started out as a way to benefit employees, but it sounds like a nightmare now.  How did anyone ever think this was a good thing?

The enactment of ERISA was, in large part, a response to tragic events during the 1960s when employer bankruptcies wiped out pension plans, retiree medical coverage, and other benefits without any recourse for the affected employees.   In 1974, Congress responded by creating, for the first time, a comprehensive framework to provide greater protections to employees and more certainty to employers in sponsoring their benefit plans.   Of course, there are still tensions between employers and employees with respect to their benefit plans, but I think ERISA has generally been very successful in its stated aims.

hostess_cupcake_sos

The 5 points he made about denial of health and disability claims – those seem completely punitive and unreasonable.  If my bone cancer treatment is denied and I lose my leg, then find out it wasn’t supposed to be denied, there is NO RECOURSE?!  Has ERISA been hijacked by insurance lobbyists?  How did this come to be this way?

In my view, ERISA has not been hijacked by insurance lobbyists or any other special interest groups.  Instead, I think ERISA has matured significantly since its enactment in 1974.  For example, a recent development in the last few years is the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Amara v. CIGNA, in which the Court allowed employees to pursue equitable remedies against their employers if they could prove they were provided misleading information about their benefit plans.  The Amara decision will be huge in the coming years in situations similar to the one you posited in your hypothetical  example.  Well that’s a relief!!

da-vinci-robot-surgery-injury-lawsuit

The “ERISA test” about highly compensated employees – can you explain to me how that’s an issue to begin with?  If employees have an opportunity to contribute and be matched up to 6% of their salaries, for example, and everyone does…obviously the CEO is going to have a higher 6% than the receptionist.  I’m obviously misunderstanding something here because that seems too obvious to be a problem.

One of the goals of ERISA is to ensure that broad-based retirement plans do not discriminate in favor of highly-compensated employees.  In tandem with various testing provisions in the tax code, ERISA generally requires a retirement plan to have minimum “coverage” (i.e., the categories of eligible employees cannot be skewed in favor of highly-compensated employees) and to provide non-discriminatory benefits.   In response to your hypothetical, a uniform contribution for all employees (when expressed as a percentage of compensation) is generally non-discriminatory.  This is the case even if, as you noted, a highly-compensated employee ends up with a higher contribution when expressed as a dollar amount.

I asked Jeremy what else I should know to have a reasonable understanding of ERISA and he responded with the truly terrifying (from an HR perspective) tale of Krohn v. Huron Memorial HospitalHow would you answer that question?  What other finer points should I know?

It takes many years to fully understand ERISA’s detailed statutory scheme.  I’ve been working in the employee benefits world for 18 years, and I’m still learning new things.  My recommendation is to talk with as many people in the benefits world as possible.  Make a point to sit down with an actuary, benefit plan auditor, investment advisor, or other benefits professional as often as possible.  You’ll be amazed at how your understanding of ERISA will increase! 

My chief takeaway from all this -- all kidding aside -- hire a lawyer.  Always.

My chief takeaway from all this — all kidding aside — hire a lawyer. Always.

Anything else you’d like to add re: ERISA?

There are tons of free resources available to HR professionals that explain the requirements under ERISA, the tax code, and other laws that apply to employee benefit plans.  For example, the DOL and IRS have both, in recent years, expanded their websites and outreach programs to provide information geared to both employees and employers regarding benefit plans.

andrewW. Andrew Douglass has been practicing law in employee benefits and executive compensation matters for 13 years.  Prior to becoming an attorney, he worked as a pension actuary for a large public accounting firm.  There can be no doubt, now though, that he is an ERISA nerd through and through.  His words, not mine.  His favorite TV show of all time is The Wonder Years. Excellent choice!  “I’ve always related to Kevin Arnold and the ups and downs that came with growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.   That said, there was no way I was cool enough as a kid to have Winnie Cooper as a girlfriend!”  When he goes to a non-buffet Chinese restaurant, he orders off the “secret” menu because he’s cool like that…or actually, spicy, like that.

His official bio can be found at:  http://www.seyfarth.com/W.Douglass, or you can reach him on Twitter: @theERISAguy.  See?  ERISA nerd.  I believe I shall keep him on speed dial for when I need bail money in ERISA jail. :)

Losing a Job Before the Interview – Facebook No No’s

Hola all!  While I was out for finals week, other people were kind and generous enough to surprise me with offers of guest posts!  I LOVE THAT.  It’s like the Tooth Fairy for grown-ups!  In case any of you are wondering, I definitely accept guest posts.  Email me or contact me on Twitter if you have some ideas.  In the meantime, enjoy this excellent post about cleaning up your Facebook during a job search from Jeri Johansen, PHR.

Hope you’re all having a great week!  I am! – HRGF

 

facebook popularityFacebook.  People either love it or hate it.  One thing’s for sure, its popularity can’t be beat – Facebook has now surpassed Google as the most visited site in the U.S. with over a billion users.  It didn’t take long for employers to understand that a lot of information can be learned about prospective employees from their Facebook page.   While those pictures of you doing a keg stand provide a great memory of a great party, recruiters are not usually amused by this activity.

Effective January 1st, 2013, new state laws make it illegal for some employers to demand access to their worker’s Facebook accounts, although that does not mean they won’t try to view them.  It’s hard to believe that employers had been taking it upon themselves to demand employees’ social media passwords!  This tactic just screams Title VII violation.  Just think of the type of information an employer could possibly learn from your social media page: gender, race, religion, sexual orientation; the list goes on and on.

mehWhether or not hiring managers should use social media for employment screening, recent surveys show that about 37% do check Facebook before making a hiring decision.  Below is some information to help you clean up your Facebook page before embarking on your post-graduate or post-layoff career search.

 

Facebook Privacy settings

Take the time to set up your privacy settings so that only “friends” can view your timeline.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you restrict a lurker’s access to your information, it makes it all the more difficult to not only find you, but to dig up dirt on you.

stalk

Photos

Quite possibly the biggest indicator of a person’s “social media maturity” is their photo section. Would you be interested in going into business with someone whose first impression of themselves is a picture of them chugging a 40-ounce beer and making an explicit hand gesture? Yeah, neither would your future employer.

abort

 

 

 

 

 

 

Status Updates

What you choose to share about yourself on a widespread social platform like Facebook says more about yourself than what you actually say. Constantly complaining about your life, putting other people down or stating controversial opinions with disregard to others’ feelings are all sure-fire ways to have strangers judge your personality before actually getting to know you. You had a bad day at work? Posting about it on Facebook makes it seem like you hate your job and could concern employers that you would bad mouth them as well.  

job status

Proper Grammar & Spelling

Not being an English major is no excuse for improper grammar or spelling errors.  Profanity is another huge turnoff for employers, with 61% saying that they view the use of profanity on social media sites negatively.  Maybe you have great things to say but you can lose your credibility if your spelling or grammar is off.   Let’s review the following post:  “Im so exsited for there company to schedule my inter-view”.   Although you may mean well, this post could be viewed by the interviewer who may become “not so ecxsited” to schedule your interview.

reply

This is my blog and I have a job already, so profanity is ok.

Likes

Your “likes” on Facebook can be extremely telling.  While you may well be a fan of “Tattoos by Deviants”, it may come off as unappealing to some more conservative employers.

While changing or updating your Facebook profile is a good practice for job searching, it’s important to remember that nothing you post on the internet is ever completely hidden.  I can still find pictures of myself that I posted during my “only cool people post self-timer shots of them alone in the bathroom” phase in high school.  If in 10 years from now you think you could be embarrassed by the stuff on your social media page, don’t post it!  You don’t want a profile picture or status update to be the determining factor between you and a competing candidate!

jeriJeri Johansen, PHR is an HR Blogger, Manager of Human Resources at Crimcheck.com, and Chair of the 2014 Northern Ohio Human Resource Conference (www.nohrc.org).  She has never been skydiving but claims she would do it, if given the opportunity.  Her favorite vacation is cruising around the Caribbean. 
Crimcheck.com specializes in employment screening and background checks. You can follow Crimcheck.com on Facebook and Twitter also.