simple gingerbread cookie decoratingYears ago, I worked with a chick named Melanie. She was a serious HR generalist who loved human resources. And she loved her job.

But she was swamped with shitty work.

Her client group, based in New Jersey, had a high rate of turnover. She had a million open requisitions. And we were using Peoplesoft 8, which meant that Mel was recruiting out of a paper bag.

It was ugly.

Melanie’s biggest challenge? Scheduling interviews.

“You try locking down a candidate to meet with multiple VPs, directors and a ton of peers and colleagues.”

No way.

And frankly, I told her that it wasn’t her job to schedule the interviews. It was a waste of time. I said, “Where the heck are the administrative assistants? Get their help.”

Melanie said, “They won’t do it. I’ve been told, ‘I don’t work in human resources. It’s not my job.'”

So I told her, “F that. Whip out their job descriptions. Highlight the part where it says ‘calendar management’. Then write them up for not doing their jobs.”

Melanie said. “No, I’m going to make an Admin Toolkit.”

What’s an Admin Toolkit? Well, it’s basically a 2006-version Microsoft Word document that tells your secretary how to schedule an interview. There are four steps. They involve using Microsoft Outlook.

I said, “Why don’t you bake them some cookies and give them a pedicure, too?”

But Melanie made her toolkit. And you know it was a flop.

In retrospect, I wish I would have advised her to eat crow. Hiring a great candidate — and then using that excellent experience to draw department-wide attention to process-related scheduling problems — would have been the right way to handle the problem of lazy administrative assistants. But Melanie ended up quitting her job out of frustration.

And no one got any cookies, either.

That’s a shame.

You can’t make someone do her job. But you can do yours by playing the long game and going ‘above and beyond’ when everyone else is taking the easy way out.

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I don’t think you need to buy your boss a gift.

Your hard work and goodwill are gift enough for your tired, exhausted manager. Your competency is a joy and a blessing. No additional stocking stuffers are required.

But if you want to buy your manager something, here are some ideas.

  1. La Mer’s The Eye Concentrate. This eye cream is caviar for anyone — man or woman — over 35.
  2. A good scarf. No matter the gender or geography, Burberry always works.
  3. Might I suggest an SOS Charger  Hand-Crank Emergency Cell Phone Charger with 3 LED Flashlight? A Mophie would work, too.
  4. A gift certificate to a small, nice restaurant in town — especially somewhere with a great reputation and a good atmosphere but quiet enough for two adults to have a conversation. Gen Xers cannot hear for shit, anymore.
  5. A donation to a local charity — but only if the charity is highly rated on Charity Navigator and the acknowledgement is personalized and doesn’t come in the form of another appeal for more money.
  6. GenX dudes like a quality shave and a haircut.  A gift certificate to a barbershop is a nice idea.
  7. If your boss drives a minivan or has kids, you can do wonders with an auto detailing gift card.
  8. I like cheese and champagne. (I am not your boss, but I accept bulk deliveries.) Buying dairy and alcohol can be tough, though, because most cheese is processed and most champagne is crappy. Buy good stuff or forget about it.

A note to young professionals out there:  a personalized thank you note to your boss for her hard work is always a good idea, too.

HarryHoudini1899I am tough on many HR tech companies who are lazy, dismissive and show no love for their customers; however, I do think there are incredible companies out there who believe in the value of people and understand the power of their product.

These companies don’t get enough credit for trying to make work better. I wanted to tell you about some of them without naming names.

  1. They pay their people well, treat them with respect, and employ some of the best HR practices in their own organizations. The conceit of many HR tech companies is that they’re not a human resources company. And that is exactly where they fail. You can’t sell to human resources unless you do it properly. This means investing in a stellar CHRO — someone who reports to your CEO and not your VP of Ops — and empowering that HR leader to make an impact on the industry.
  2. They use their own products religiously. I work with HR tech companies who don’t use their own products very often. If it’s easier to use Excel or Quickbooks in lieu of your own product, you should probably stop selling your product.
  3. They aren’t just accountable to VC firms and board members. They are accountable to customers. Great companies are transparent to all constituencies. They don’t just report back to investors and boards. They provide a regular state of the union to customers and brand advocates.
  4. They don’t just want to be your partner. They want to be your partner in crime. There’s nothing worse than a sales representative who sells you a product and disappears like Houdini.
  5. If you dream it, they can do it for you. Some of the biggest product advancements in the HR tech industry have come from customers who ask for more … and vendors who listen.
  6. They don’t just enable you. They make you better. Sales enablement is a lie. No tip-sheet or trend report ever changed the world. The best companies hire sales reps who are leaders, teachers and “super connectors” who will introduce you to other great HR people who are changing the world. It is not enough to socialize a blog post or throw a cheesy user conference. The best HR tech companies will physically bring you to someone who is changing the face of HR and make a meaningful introduction.

These HR tech companies do exist. They are slowly making an impact on the way HR professionals integrate technology into their daily processes.

And when all is said and done, my friends in HR have an opportunity to direct the future of work, power, politics — and ultimately money — by connecting with one of these fabulous technology firms and learning everything they can about the future of human resources.

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Did you catch this? It’s hard to explain so I’ll let NPR tell you about it.

christmas cats

Proceeds benefit the North Shore Animal League!


Hello, everyone. Happy Sunday.

I am blogging over at Medium if you’re interested. I have two articles. My first article is for job seekers who are looking for work during the holidays. My second one is more personal. Hope you like them.

Lots of stuff happening in the world regarding work, power, politics and money. Syria is still a mess. Don’t even get me started about Egypt. And you HR people who didn’t like The Sound of Music really hurt Carrie Underwood’s feelings.

She is just doing her best. Why you gotta hate like that?

Stay warm out there. Stay safe during the holiday season. Make good choices.