Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking Forward to 2013

Have you ever been at the last week of one year and you are feeling extremely optimistic about the next one?  Well that's how I am feeling.  It's the first time in a LONG time that I am feeling that way both personally and professionally.

I know as a blogger I am supposed to make predictions about what is going on in HR next year...well I am not going to do that this year as I believe we all know what HR will be focused on in the next 5 years...given the last 5 years!  (well maybe just one little prediction, see below)

So here is why I am excited and optimistic about my 2013:

1) I am President of SHRM-Atlanta.  That is a big deal to me and I look forward in leading our 2600+ members down a path of business leadership.  I have wanted to be in this position for a long time and it's here.

2) I am personally responsible for myself for the first time in 20 years! That feels great.  I also am working hard on "motivating" my son through college as I want him to be personally responsible at a much younger age.

3) My business partner is retiring in 2014.  That's hard for me personally, but I know she is not going away as I believe her HOME is in Atlanta.  Professionally that leaves me with some challenges about what do I WANT TO do, and what direction am I going to go.  Scary but hey, its reality.  I have learned so much being in business with Barbara Hughes, so I am armed and ready!

4) My glass is half full on the economy.  I love all the positive news that is coming out regarding housing, unemployment, and consumer optimism (depending on the status of the fiscal cliff. LOL).  Good news breeds more good news.

5) HR is uniquely positioned to be a power player.  HR understands now what business leaders need.  HR understands that people are a company's competitive advantage.  HR understands it must show and add value.  HR is getting ready to prove all of those...HR is more than administration, HR is business leadership.

6) I did some personal and professional house cleaning this year.  I used to pride myself in having a full plate.  It used to be "who I was."  I cleaned that plate off completely.  I looked at all my activities and let go of those that I needed to let go of.  I looked at people and separated myself from those that aren't positive and uplifting.  I am proud to say my plate has a few very important things and people on it and I am better for it.

7) Speaking of plates...I need to get my literal one under control.  In other words I need to put less food on my plate.  That is a challenge for me and I will make progress next year on becoming a healthier person.

8) I want to learn something new next year.  I haven't figured out what yet, but I can take courses at my local college for free because I am an adjunct.  Maybe a language, maybe something technical, maybe flower arranging...not sure yet.

I am raising my virtual glass to say cheers to all my friends, colleagues, readers and family.  I look forward to a great year with all of you!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You have B.O. not a Dress Code Problem

Every time I get together with my friends and HR Colleagues Ed Nangle and Charlette Stout, I always come away with a blog topic.

Today was no different.

We like to get together once per month in our HR Think Tank and talk about relevant HR issues, the future of HR and learning experiences from our clients.  It's so fun!

Today, we began talking about leadership and confronting employee issues head on.  We were discussing the fact that many leaders do not like confrontation and can't get the real issues out on the table.  Even worse, some leaders just ignore the issue thinking it might just go away.  HA!

It made me think of an experience I had as a young HR Manager:

I worked for a technology company outside of Atlanta and had been promoted to HR Manager.  I was being trained by the Director of HR on how to handle employee relations issues.  We were located in a large call center with about 200-300 techs.  As you can well imagine we had our fair share of employee issues.

I can remember my boss asking me to sit in on an employee/manager meeting one day that involved B.O.  Yes, you got it the dreaded body odor issue.  We had many complaints from other employees that one individual had a really bad body odor problem that was really offending other workers.  My boss, started off the discussion with the smelly employee by quoting from our Dress Code Policy regarding a neat and clean appearance, etc.  She hemmed and she hawed and was very nervous trying to deliver this information.  Afterwards, I knew that smelly didn't get it.  I asked my boss, "why didn't you just say, hey man, you have B.O. you need to fix that.  Deodorant, soap whatever it takes."  My boss didn't want to EMBARRASS the employee.  Well, guess what he probably still stinks today.  The whole interaction reminded me of the time when my ex and I were trying to tell our son about the birds and the bees.  He stammered and couldn't get the words out, and I jumped in talking about babies, condoms, and sex.

Months later, I was handling my own employee relations issues and my boss was observing.  My second issue was another employee with B.O.  The employee came in, the manager was there.  My boss was observing.  I said, "We have had complaints about your body odor and we need to find a solution."  My boss just about fell out of her chair.  The employee was uncomfortable but as soon as I said it, he knew it.  By the end of the week, his act was all cleaned up and he smelled like Irish Spring.

Be a leader....put issues on the table.

I know you have observed this behavior in your own workplaces.  We also discussed leaders that talk really BIG about telling an employee this and telling an employee that.  But, when the time comes the leader has amnesia and you would think he and that employee were BFF's.  What happens to the leadership backbone?

What can we do do help leaders with this issue?  I have used a real life kinda funny example, but some of these issues are way more serious and could wind up in litigation (harassment issues).  Can you train to improve a leader's backbone or are you just born that way?

Monday, December 3, 2012

More on HR Competencies

I had the pleasure of hosting a panel for SHRM-Atlanta last week during our Power Breakfast.  It was really a blast being able to speak with Top HR professionals and Business Leaders from Assurant, Comcast and Kimberly Clark.

Last week, I discussed the new competency model SHRM unveiled this past summer at the annual conference.

Competencies have been on my mind lately.  One of the questions I asked the panel was this:

What are the top 3 competencies you think are important for HR professionals to master in order to become a true business leader?  

Here are the collective answers from the panel:

1. Credibility
2. Great communication skills
3. Great listener
4. Understand how your business makes its money
5. Strategic thinking
6. Root cause problem solving
7. Sales mentality
8. Courage (to say no, when necessary)
9. Ability to put together a winning team
10.  Understand all facets of the business

What was so interesting to me as the moderator as not one HR professional or one business leader talked about HR Knowledge.

So, for me I think its crystal be successful today in HR you need to BE A BUSINESS PERSON FIRST AND AN HR PERSON SECOND.

I know, the next question, HOW do you get some of the competencies listed above.  I can only speak from experience for myself and other colleagues but here is a short list:

1) Get an MBA and don't specialize in HR
2) Walk around in the business and ask good questions
3) Spend time with sales
4) Make your CFO your BFF
5) Practice leadership in a volunteer role

How have you learned the business?  How have you learned to put together a winning team?  How have you acquired some of the competencies I mentioned above?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The New HR Competencies

This past summer at the SHRM National Conference, hosted in my fair city of Atlanta, GA, the new HR Competencies were announced.

I personally had been waiting on these for awhile as I remember participating in the research for the project.

Here are the 9 competencies as determined by SHRM:

1) Technical HR Knowledge (like comp, talent management, recruiting, etc.)
2) Ethical Practice
3) Impactful Communication
4) Consultation
5) Critical Evaluation
6) Global and Cultural Effectiveness
7) Relationship Management
8) Organizational Leadership and Navigation
9) Business Acumen

I was very happy to see that "Critical Evaluation" made the list because I have felt that a competency that included measurement and analytics had been sorely lacking in other models.

I LOVE Organizational Leadership and Navigation as I believe that is what HR people are supposed to be doing.  Here is the formal definition:

The ability to lead or maneuver initiatives and processes within the organization with great agility.  
I think the "with great agility" is the part we as HR professionals need to concentrate on.  The ability of HR professionals to ebb and flow with the business is key.

The rest of the list I had pretty much seen no big surprises there.

What do you think about the new list?  Any competency missing?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Can't We Fill Open Jobs?

After watching my Atlanta Falcons lose their first game this season on Sunday, I watched an interesting segment on 60 Minutes.  (click the link and you can watch the segment) One of the stories discussed was the fact that in the US we have approximately 3 million jobs available.  If you talk to anyone that has been half awake these last few years, you hear how high the unemployment rate is and how there are no jobs to be found.

That is simply not the case.

After talking with my colleagues Ed Nangle and Charlette Stout about the program, we determined you have to look at the situation from two perspectives.  One is that, yes there is job loss due to the economy but there is ALSO a talent shortage.

In the 60 Minutes piece, a manager in a manufacturing plant was interviewed about not being able to find good quality technical talent.  He said young people are coming out of schools WITHOUT the basics of grammar, spelling, math and problem solving skills.  This particular company's solution was to partner with the local technical college on curriculum and train the individuals that had been pre-tested for aptitude.  In other words they are "growing their own."

I will argue that our skills problem in this country is bigger than our jobs problem at this point.

Being in education part-time myself, I understand some of the many issues about delivering what businesses need in terms of skill sets.  I wish I knew the answer to whose job is it to prepare individuals to be job ready.  According to many, it's parents and the educational system, not the job of corporate America.

I believe this issue of talent will be critical in the next few years as Boomers will be retiring in droves.  The newer generations just don't have enough people to fill the slots.  The math just isn't there.

So if PEOPLE are truly your competitive advantage what are savvy HR leaders to do?
  • I like the idea of the manufacturing firm that partnered with higher education to customize curriculum, that guarantees the skills you need will be taught.  I have seen that first hand at Kennesaw State College where they partner with WellStar to develop content for Billing coders and nurse techs.  
  • HR leaders need to look at the workforce data and project supply and demand of talent for at least the next five years.  Create an action plan based on the data on how talent will be sourced and trained.
  • KEEP the talent you have.  It's too hard and expensive to replace it.  
  • Analyze the work that needs to be done and the way it CAN be done.  Can you use part-timers, can you use job sharing?  Get creative.
  • What is your organization's training philosophy?  Is it used as an attraction and retention tool?  It may be cheaper to train versus hiring a replacement.
  • Can you offer a benefit your competitors do not, like offering healthcare to part-timers.  (understanding healthcare is changing as we speak)
What else should be considered?  How can we prepare ourselves for the looming talent shortage?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Leadership and the Government Sector

This recession has created a lot of interesting lessons.  There are many stories of leadership successes and leadership failures.  This is how we learn and teach others.  Just prior to the recession our firm began to receive a lot of governmental contract opportunities.  They were projects that were so interesting as the organizations typically wanted to move from an organization of entitlement to one that is a High Performing Organization.

I have been thinking a lot about this, given it's now the day before our Presidential election.

Yes, you heard right a government that has a goal of high performance particularly in the customer service arena.  Governments are now being faced with issues like:
  • decreasing revenues
  • customers having a choice (where to live and where to start a business)
  • doing more with less
  • customers having high expectations
What do those issues sound like?  The issues that have plagued the private sector for years but are just now becoming critical to the government sector due to the economic conditions in this country.

I have seen some governments with strong leadership teams that embrace this challenge and take it on head first and move the "big ship" in the right direction.  One of our local governments here in Atlanta has a very small but engaged leadership team that have done things like vision-based budgeting and strategic mapping to align the City's vision with EVERYTHING that is done in that city.  Simply brilliant, yet they are the exception in our experience.  Another example is a government entity near our nation's capital that embarked on becoming high performing BEFORE the recession because the leadership there saw the writing on the wall.  

It's a difficult transition moving to a culture of high performance.  Becoming high performing means having to make difficult decisions about staff, resources, budgets, etc.  High performing means that you have to make sure you keep the people that perform and you get rid of the people that don't perform.  This philosophy must come from the top down and HR must embrace and model this philosophy.  Gone are the days in private and in government where mediocrity or incompetence can be ignored or not dealt with.

I think we will look back in 20 years and say, "the recession of 2007 is what changed the way government operates."  I definitely see "change brewing" in this sector and as a consultant, a citizen and most importantly a tax-payer, I am very glad.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Create a Great HR Data Story

I had the pleasure of writing an article for the HR Examiner on "How to Create a Great HR Data Story.  Check it out here...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HR's 5 Most Important Talent Management Roles

I believe we will be seeing a crazy job market over the next few years.  With all indications, we are beginning the de-thawing process of our frozen economy.  Every day, I hear some better news regarding jobs, homes and economic outlooks.  I know we are not out of the woods yet, but optimism seems to dominate most conversations.

With the economy on the rebound employees get itchy feet.  Meaning...the employees that have been patient and performing during the downturn but not necessarily engaged are looking to make a change. Some reports suggest that number of "looking" employees could be as high as 80%.

So, I say all of this, to illustrate how important I think talent management is going to be over the next few years. I believe HR has the opportunity to really impact the organization by making sure the right people are in the right roles, doing the right things.

I see HR playing 5 important roles as far as talent management is concerned:

1) Strategic Role-Be a strategic planner and an executer.  Assist managers with their talent needs by creating talent forecasts.  

2) Performance Manager Role-Pay for performance and mean it.  Make sure accountability is part of the culture.  

3) Goal Cascader Role-Make sure all employees know what is expected and how they will be measured.

4) Talent Manager-Hire the best, Succession planning is a must to be competitive. Talent mobility allows organizations to be flexible and competitive.

5) Metrics Guru-Tracking measures like cost per hire and days to fill are no longer enough. It's all about being predictive using analytics.

I know HR wears many other hats besides talent management, but with the recent trend in outsourcing of administrative tasks talent management seems like a great place for HR to focus its efforts.

CEO's always cite talent as one of their top 3 concerns even during the downturn.  So, HR has the opportunity to add value and solve a business challenge at the same time by focusing on attracting the best talent, retaining that talent and increasing productivity.

What are your talent management predictions?  Is your company ready for the potential talent challenge that lies ahead?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

HR Alignment Versus HR Linkage

Over the last several years our company has been working with businesses to "align" organizational strategic goals to desired outcomes or to "align" a specific department (Like HR) with organizational goals and objectives.

It's work that is fascinating but also very complicated.  When you are dealing with strategy that is big picture, fluid and 30,000 feet high, some people have a hard time picturing how what they do in their job impacts the overall big picture.  That's where alignment and linkage come in.  By showing employees how what they do impacts other areas is key in this process.

I have begun to wonder if alignment is the right terminology or should we be using the word linkage.  Check out the definitions below:
Alignment- Arrangement or position in a straight line or in parallel lines. The process of adjusting parts so that they are in proper relative position. 
Linkage-A logical or natural association between two or more things.
I  have a definite bias, as I am a very linear thinker, so the first definition makes perfect sense to me about what we need to be doing in HR as it relates to organizational strategy:

1) "Align" what we do in HR to the business outcomes outlined in the organization's strategic plan.
2) "Align" action plans in HR to HR objectives in order to achieve the business outcomes.
3) "Align" metrics to those outcomes and actions so that progress and ROI can be tracked.

But...I can see where "linkage" is important as well.  For example, isn't HR's progress in the strategic arena often defined by "linking" to other functional areas like technology and finance?

I see HR using "linkage" in the following ways in the strategic execution process:

1) Determining which behaviors "link" to successful performance.
2) Determining which drivers "link" to more engaged employees.
3) Determining the linkage between the customer-employee experience and making that experience consistent throughout the organization.

So, I guess my answer is HR needs to do both.  We need to be tightly aligned with organizational outcomes and we also need to determine and understand the linkage between what drives our employees to perform at their highest ability.

This all sounds very easy...but trust me it isn't.

If it were all HR departments would be "aligned" to organizational outcomes and we know they aren't.

Yet, if you ask C-Level executives, their main complaint is that HR isn't adding value.  Well you can't add value until you understand HOW and WHERE the organization NEEDS HR to add value.

The first order of business is to complete a strategic business mapping exercise.  This tool allows you to clearly "see" alignment to an outcome like "increase market share" and HR objectives like developing a workforce hiring plan and a focus on HIPO retention.

What has your experience been...linkage or alignment, or both?

Monday, October 8, 2012

All Aboard the HR Metrics Train! (10 Reasons to Climb Aboard)

Cue, Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train music...

It's more than time...hey it's so past time.

The HR Metrics train has left the station and just a few HR professionals are on board.

Dr. Jac Fitz-Enz has spoken about this day approaching for decades.  Dave Ulrich has discussed the competencies we need to be successful on the metrics train.  I have even thrown in my two cents worth since I began writing this blog in 2008.

I know you are reading this and asking yourselves, why do I need to be on this train?

Here are my top 10 reasons for embarking on a metrics journey:

10) We are way past the piece of furniture and I will argue way past being a business partner...HR needs to become a business leader.

9) CEO's are making data based decisions PERIOD.

8) Businesses can no longer afford to be mediocre.  The same principles we use in tracking and increasing quality for our products and services must be applied to our people.

7) HR is not a hobby, it's a serious business function.  Business functions have measures that track their efficiency and effectiveness.

6) The game has changed.  The paternalistic approach to managing employees and fostering cultures of entitlement are so OVER.  It's time to be high performing in all areas.

5) HR is in a period of transition.  We are separating the transactional from the more strategic and impactful work.  But who is going to do the value added work, if HR doesn't step up its game?

4) CEO's are more demanding post recession.  They need to make sure the investment they make in people pays off in profits.  HR needs to show this relationship by telling a compelling data story.

3) Companies are importing talent INTO HR at alarming speeds.  I see major corporations bringing in business acumen talent from other business functions into HR.  I see analytics talent being imported into HR because meaningful data is not being produced from within HR.

2) HR needs skill based training that will up the game, not team building skills and culture change workshops.  (MBA.'s, statistics, finance, accounting)

1) It's the ticket for where HR has wanted to be for decades.  If you can't show your value, you don't have value.

Don't get me wrong I see positive signs of movement in this measurement direction all the time.  I spend a lot of time with HR departments ALIGNING what they do with what the organization strategy dictates.  The next natural step is to measure and track progress of that strategic execution.

Where are you in the metrics journey?  How did you get started? (#hrurarockstar)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why is Accountability so Hard?

Over the last few weeks I have heard the following:

1) I wish our managers were more accountable
2) Our culture needs to move from entitled to accountable
3) One of our core values is accountability, but we still can't reach our goals and objectives

Why is holding people responsible and accountable for their actions/goals so hard?   It must be because organizations have a hard time persuading employees and managers to be accountable.

I guess, I have come to the conclusion that accountability is just plain hard to do.

That begs the question....why is that?

Here are some theories I have, please feel free to contribute:

1) Accountability requires difficult conversations sometimes and difficult conversations are problematic at work, so manager avoid having those conversations.

2) Goals are handed down to employees without any input or direction from employees so they do not feel they "own" the goals.

3) Alignment of goals is hard work.  Key systems like performance management and the feedback process have to be up to date and effective for alignment to occur.

4) It's the blame game.  Office politics and egos force managers/employees to point the finger rather than take responsibility for actions/lack of actions.

5) Accountability has not been a part of the culture.  In some organizations accountability is not a value that the culture contains.  Post recession companies have realized accountability is a must for survival and high performance.

Here is a question, I had just a few weeks ago:

What can be done to instill accountability if an organization is just starting to move in that direction.

Great question but a hard question.  I believe leadership has to tell a story of why accountability is so important and what is going to be different.  Employees find it hard to change if they don't know the reason for the change.

Next, the organizational infrastructure, processes, and practices have to be aligned for accountability.  This step is the hard part.  So for example, if the performance appraisal process has just been a "check the box" exercise, more emphasis and work has to be focused on performance management.

Successes need to be rewarded and communicated to send the message that accountability works.  Reinforcement of the message has to come often and consistently.

Accountability doesn't happen over night, it takes hard work and commitment.  It takes leadership modeling what accountability looks like on a daily basis.  It takes HR making sure goals and objectives are aligned and tracked.

Accountability doesn't just happen by's a process.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

HR Moving From Business Partner to Business Leader

It's time for the new era of HR to roll in.

It's about influence.

It's about leadership.

It's about HR being business leaders first and HR people second.

It's about HR stepping up and becoming VISIBLE in organizations.

It's time that CEO's right hand is the Chief People Officer because that is how work gets done efficiently and effectively.

It's about time that when business leaders think of HR they think, "we have to have them to survive NOT that HR is overhead."

It's going to be a new day on HR street I feel it coming.  Forget the table, the HR Business Partner and being invisible in the's over.

Stay tuned for details on how we can make this happen...coming to SHRM-Atlanta, 2013!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to Calculate Cost of Terminations

By now, HR Professionals are so used to reporting and tracking turnover and retention.  That data is great, but we need more.  I think it is very important to uncover root cause of why people leave and stay so that you can do more of the right thing and less of what makes good people leave.

With that said, understanding root cause of turnover is like having half of the story.  Some turnover is good, some is not.  What we need to know is how much is that turnover costing the organization and how can we as HR professionals make that number lower.  

So, there seems to be several schools of thought on how to arrive at a cost of turnover.  

One theory is to separate involuntary and voluntary terminations and figure out cost separately as the theory is that the involuntary terminations could cost less.  In my view a termination is a termination and if it is involuntary, perhaps we did something ineffective on the front end that needs correcting.

However you separate turnover is fine, the real issue becomes HOW do you arrive at the termination cost?  Just like with anything else there is:

1) The easy way: take a multiple of the annual salary of those that have left the organization.  Many organizations use a multiple of one times the annual salary to estimate termination costs.

2) The not as easy way, but way more accurate way: Calculate the true cost of a termination.  This process is very similar to calculating cost per hire.  It's all about what are the direct and indirect costs of a termination.  

Let's take a look at some of the factors to consider when embarking on this calculation:

Direct costs: (departure costs)
accrued vacation payment
temp replacement help
recruitment advertising (if replacing terminated employee)
screening costs
increased salary over previous employee
manager and HR time to process term
manager and HR time to refill position

Indirect costs:
lost productivity
ramp up time for new hire to gain proficiency
customer defection costs

My recommendation would be to try and get an accurate cost for YOUR organization.  If you can determine that on average you are tracking with a multiplier of salary then by all means, use it.  

The key is to be able to defend your numbers because management will truly be surprised especially in those organizations with high turnover.  

The next step once you KNOW how much turnover is, and WHY turnover is happening, you then have to DO something about it.  

Be careful what you ask for...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's my Pleasure...Really it is!

You know the drill you order your Chick-Fil-A sandwich and a friendly employee says, "It's my pleasure."

I go to Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.

I called Comcast to order another cable box and yes you got it..."It's my pleasure."

I remember hearing this for phrase for first time during the first cruise I took.  Everything that came out of my mouth was Royal Caribbean's pleasure.  It was very different...15 years ago.  It was unusual to hear.

Now, the phrase is said so often it feels as if "my pleasure" has lost its good intention by everyone saying it.  It's not only the actual phrase itself but the way employees SAY the phrase.  It has to be genuine and contain the appropriate non-verbal and para-verbal behaviors.

I walked in to Moe's the other day.  It must have been an off-day, because I got the expected mantra of "Welcome to Moe's" mumbled to me by an individual who was talking to someone else and I could have sworn he was rolling his eyes.

Here's a tip....if you have a branding phrase and it is used disingenuously, it is not good for the brand!

How do we put the PLEASURE back into It's my PLEASURE?

1) Make sure you hire people that can deliver on your customer service standards in a genuine way.  In other words hire people that love to serve.
2) Reward for best in class customer service.
3) Hold ALL employees accountable for delivering on "It's my pleasure."
4) Train and retrain employees on world class customer service best practices.
5) Collect customer feedback and do something with the data.
6) Make sure goals are set with all employees that pertain to excellent customer service.
7) Make sure same standards are applied to internal customers, they are just as important.
8) Have a written clear set of customer service standards.  Share these standards with your customers.
9) Manage customer expectations using customer service standards as a guide.
10) Make sure the focus is truly on the customer and not on sales, if customer is the focus then profits will follow.

The above list is easier said than done.  It takes total commitment from everyone especially those at the top and in leadership positions.

It is hard work.  If it were easy then we would all have a customer focused culture like Zappo's and the Ritz.

It's hard...but so worth it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is HR a Profession?

I love this blog post, please read it.  It's worth your time.  Peter Cappelli asks the question, "Is HR a profession or a management function?"

It is a question I have been asking myself and discussing with my HR colleagues for sometime now.

So, let's get some data on this question:

A profession is:

A management function is:

I didn't see a definition per se, but if management is the process of reaching organizational goals by working with and through people and other organizational resources, then my vote is that HR is  BOTH.

Is accounting a profession or a management function?
Is finance a profession or a management function?

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

All I Want is to BE VALUED

Employees are sick and tired.

They are sick of their pay being frozen while benefits and cost of goods sky rocket.
They are sick of doing more with less.
They are sick of not being recognized.

Notice I did use the word recognize and not reward.  I did that on purpose.

I have the honor of training thousands of people every year on topics like performance management and employee engagement.  It seems I hear a different sentiment coming from employees now that we are trying to climb out of this recession.  

What I hear from the employees is the need to feel valued.  Employees want to hear, "I appreciate your hard work and you hanging in here through our tough times."  As a manager, recognition is easy and doesn't cost a thing.  Yet, we get so busy we forget to acknowledge our rockstars.  I also believe those employees that are trying and are making progress need recognition too. (future rockstars)  So, I am not of the camp that only rockstars need the love.  I am of the camp that if rockstars don't get the love they will go get it from  your competition.  So, they HAVE to receive the recognition.  It is just who they are.  

I had a recent conversation with an employee who told me that when she says, "I want to feel valued" and it's not about money.  She told me it is the simple, little things that often time makes the difference:

1) Give an afternoon off, just because...
2) Get the opportunity to have lunch with a member of senior leadership
3) Asked to be put on a special project team, that is highly visible in the organization
4) Send a personal card,  handwritten thanking employee for their hard work
5) Keep employees updated on goals and objectives and what is happening at the company, this makes them feel valued because you are keeping them informed

I am not saying that recognition is your solution to all your retention woes.  I am saying it plays a big part to how connected your employees are to your organization.  Of course there are other drivers of why people stay:

1) Challenging work
2) Opportunity for growth
3) Employee development
4) Pay and benefits
5) Relationship with Manager
6) Goal alignment with organization

Employee commitment is a crazy thing.  Not everyone is motivated by the same thing and yet managers try and use an "apply all" approach to employee recognition.  

Think about your rockstars and your future rockstars.  Do you think they would jump ship for a few more dollars?  Have you recognized them this week?  

I see so many positive signs in our economy, that means that people movement is starting and will continue.  I believe it's much easier to keep rockstars than to find new ones.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Culture is a Cash Cow

I read an excellent article that my dear colleagues Ed Nangle and Charlette Stout brought to my attention last night.  It's by Pamela Babcock, entitled, "Penn State's Organizational Flaws Make for a Perfect Storm."  (sorry it's on have to be a member) It is a GREAT article on the impacts of culture and HR's stature has on an organization.  I liked it so much I read it twice.

Regarding the culture, a 267 page FBI report talked about a janitor witnessing Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the locker shower but not reporting from fear of being fired.  The FBI investigator Louis Freeh stated, "If that's the culture on the bottom, God help the culture on the top."

One recommendation from the report on culture was to:
Vigorously examine the culture to create a stronger sense of accountability among its elders.  The report also calls for more transparency of university management and integrating the intercollegiate athletic program into the broader university community.  

All I have to say on that is, Ya think?????

The report also talks about elevating HR's position within the University as it is not seen as a strategic function.

Another example of a breakdown in culture is that in my own hometown.  The Atlanta School cheating scandal.  I wrote a blog post on that topic here.  It breaks my heart.  How many people in a system have to turn their head, a blind eye, compromise their own ethics because of fear?  Think of Enron,  same situation different company.

So let's pretend the ethical reasons to have a culture of accountability don't compel one to make sure organizational culture promotes key values.  Let's think about the cash.

1) How much money has the Penn State debacle cost the taxpayers?
2) How much money has the Atlanta Cheating Scandal cost the taxpayers and how much future earning potential have these kids lost because they were not educated properly?
3) How much did the demise of Enron cost everyone?

So this begs the question.  If an FBI agent understands HR's role in making sure a culture is strong, accountable and healthy why doesn't anyone else?

I am not sure but managing one's culture seems like an excellent way to add to an organization's bottom line and establishing a competitive advantage.  Think about those that get it much is that worth?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

5 Ways to Start Measuring HR Data

Many times I am asked by attendees at our workshops, "How do I get started with HR Metrics?"

My standard answer is...just start.  Kinda like Nike...just do it!

I know data, numbers, statistics, analytics and metrics are all very daunting for HR professionals as they aren't typically our sweet spot.

But think about the demand for people related data.  The demand is definitely up as CEO's are no longer making investments until they are relatively confident that that investment will yield a return.  The evidence that CEO's need for the business case for those investments is NOT a gut check, it's real data pointing to an increase in profits, revenue or productivity.  Period.  End of story.

So in HR's conquest to provide relevant, business related intelligence on an organization's most expensive asset (people), the journey to analytics must begin now!

Here are 5 ways, I think HR professionals can get a start on measuring HR Data:

1) Take inventory on what is currently being measured in regards to "people data."  Even if it's only turnover, that is a start.  If the answer is truly NOTHING, then start measuring one thing that is a priority with your business leaders.  After taking inventory see if there is a way to make the data you have more relevant by displaying it on a more creative interesting way.  Is there a way to dive just a little deeper into the data to tell a better story?  i.e. what is causing turnover and how can I fix it, and how much money can we save if we embark on this initiative?

2) Meet with business leaders to see what is keeping them up at night.  See what is preventing those leaders from accomplishing their goals and objectives.  I bet 80% of the answers will be people related. After these discussions see if you can help your leaders by analyzing data that you have in HR.  Maybe they are concerned with bench-strength or retention of high performers.  By analyzing workforce data you may be able to assist managers in these critical areas.

3) Try to solve a productivity issue.  These are always fun.  Maybe you have one area/department/function that aren't performing as well as previous periods.  Start looking at things like profit/employee and revenue/employee to see if you can spot trends.  Maybe, there is a process or training issue you can uncover and solve.  Think about how big of an HR hero you will be if you can assist with increasing productivity!

4) Take a business approach to data.  Don't just start reporting and analyzing data for the heck of it.  Start with a continuous improvement or revenue generation mode.  With people data being so prevalent you can get into analysis paralysis.  Make sure that you understand the strategic direction of the organization first and foremost.  Then use people data to understand what truly drives business results.  For example, in a hospital setting, choice of hospital is driven by patient satisfaction.  Patient satisfaction is driven by the level of care they receive by Doctors and nurses.  Understanding what drives doctors and nurses to deliver this patient care is critical.  Is it flexibility with work schedules, is it pay/benefits?  Is it work satisfaction?  Is it access to the latest technology?  The point is find out with your data so that you KNOW those drivers.

5) STOP WITH THE EXCUSES.  I can't think of any reason not to get starting measuring something.  I have heard just about every excuse in the book and quite frankly none of them are valid for me:

  1. I don't have time-Really?  I think you have to make time, because someone else will.
  2. I am not analytical-either figure it out or hire someone that is
  3. I don't have a budget-start small with resources you have and then when you start to get leadership's attention budget will follow.
Are you convinced yet?  READY SET MEASURE!

Can you tell I just got back from a little vacation...I am all fired up!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why is Feedback an 8 Letter Word?

Since when is feedback such a chore?  Why is feedback so hard to do?

Employees need to understand how they are doing and what they need to do to move up their career ladder.  If feedback isn't received then how do employees develop?

Yet, feedback (communication) is usually the number one cited problem between managers and employees and leadership and managers.

I think back to when I had a manager in corporate America.  I really did look forward to having that conversation about how I was doing and what I would be doing next.  Believe it or not, I did get feedback that was hard to hear.  Yes, I was told as an HR professional that I was NOT a great listener.

Imagine that...Ms. Type A personality, not a good listener.  But...realizing that weakness I began to try harder.  I really began to try to shut my mouth and not formulate responses when other people were talking.  (How am I doing now?)

Anyway, I think about many managers I know today that will go to any length to NOT have that conversation because they are conflict avoiders.  I believe by not giving feedback to your employees you are risking a lot more than just your perceived relationship with that employee.  It's just like kids, for those of us that have are not trying to be their friend you are trying to be their parent (boss).

Here's a short list of why it is important to have the "tough" conversations:

1) By not explaining where employees need to improve hurts the employee.  Whether they stay with your organization or move on to another one, the issue still is not solved, thus leaving that employee not as effective as they can be.

2) The company suffers in productivity by not developing the individuals to their full potential.  I believe that most individual want to perform well and in order to do so they need the basics; job expectations, job feedback and performance discussions.

3) Morale suffers period.  By keeping individuals that aren't performing, the high performers get...well just pissed off.  This decreased morale will then lead to turnover and turnover leads to more costs.

4) Customer relations can suffer as well.  By not having conversations with employes that interact with customers can be very detrimental.  Sometimes, we don't' get a second chance with customers....they just leave and never come back.

So, what is the solution to this lack of feedback quandary?

I have some ideas....but let me hear yours.  Come on give me some feedback!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Making the Most of Your Turnover Data

Turnover is one of the HR metrics that we have been measuring forever...and ever.  The problem is that turnover all by itself really doesn't mean anything.  What does your leadership team do with, "Our quarterly turnover rate is 28.6%?"

The questions then become:
  1. What caused the turnover?
  2. How do we stop the turnover?
  3. How much is the turnover costing us?
  4. How much will fixing turnover cost us?
  5. Was the turnover good or bad for the company?
  6. Are we at risk for losing our high performers or our high potentials?
  7. Which managers have the most/least turnover and why?
  8. Is there differences in turnover among generations? If so, why?
  9. Is there differences in turnover among managers? If so, why?
  10. Is there differences in turnover among departments?  If so, why?
In this month's HR Magazine, Adrienne Fox wrote an article title, "Drive Turnover Down."  I was honored to be quoted in the article that talks about using data to get to root cause of turnover.  The article was interesting talking about how HR used to view turnover and what is different about turnover 2.0.  

I believe to answer the questions above you have to think like a marketer and slice and dice data until it tells the turnover story.  

In the article Fox quoted Brain Wilkinson, who pointed to general attributes that impact turnover in most organizations:
  • The local economy
  • The traits of the job
  • How often employees have been promoted
  • Pay increase frequency
I believe each company needs to understand what drives THEIR turnover as the list above implies, those are generalities and when it comes to turnover, its not a cookie cutter approach.

As Fox discusses and I concur, HR professionals should strive to be less general and more predictive when it comes to turnover.  The data is there to analyze.  Using data such as historical turnover rates, performance scores, engagement data and many other variables, you can "predict" the employees that are at risk for leaving.  Managers would really value this data as they can "course correct" the employment experience so that top performers will stay with the organization.  

What has your approach been to analyzing turnover?  What has worked for your organization?

Monday, July 9, 2012

The First Step in Moving from Metrics to Workforce Analytics

I was honored to be asked to guest blog for my friends over at Visier Analytics this week.  So, I took the lazy way out this week.  Here is a link to their blog check out my article, The First Step in Moving from Metrics to Workforce Analytics.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

SHRM12: Social Media, Seinfeld and Volunteers

This is my first day back in the office after attending the SHRM National Conference in Atlanta.  It was a great experience for me for may different reasons.  I never went to any concurrent sessions as I was so busy but I had a fantastic time nonetheless.

My highlights this week:

1) I was thrilled to be able to hear Condoleezza Rice speak.  She was hands down, phenomenal.  I want to read her book.  She spoke about not wanting to be in the political arena anymore and she also discussed our crisis in the K-12 education arena.  She spoke without a single note or teleprompter and she was classy and interesting.

2) Our SHRM-Atlanta volunteers rocked the house headed up by Teela Jackson and Maureen Whatley.  Everyone commented on how friendly, efficient and knowledgeable our SHRM-Atlanta team was all week.  They worked a gazillion hours and have the blisters on their feet to prove it!  Well done.

3) I had the chance to spend time with some of my favorite vendors discussing product updates and just generally catching up.  Visier Analytics has some awesome new features in their product making it EASY to visualize and analyze your HR Metrics.  Halogen Software is brilliant.  They have a new feedback feature that makes giving feedback to employees so simple.  And yes, they have an app for that.

4) Jerry Seinfeld's show was great and yes he is still so funny.  He still talks about ordinary life, which makes his comedy so relatable.  I heard laughter for about an hour.  HELLO JERRY!

5) I think HR folks are finally stepping into social media land.  There were many sessions on the subject, there was the HIVE, where you could go and learn about social media, and I saw everyone with the phones, iPads and laptops tweeting away.  I heard that #SHRM12 was trending on Twitter...WOW!  Curtis Midkiff, SHRM's social media guy, did an awesome job this year in getting the word out and keeping the conversation going.

6) HR metrics and analytics are hot topics.  I was honored to be chosen to deliver a session on HR Analytics on Wednesday.  I think there was between 800-1000 people in the room.  I have heard different estimates, but I was just thrilled.  Attendees asked great questions and it was so cool that so many HR people want to understand this area.

If I were going to suggest areas to improve it would be the "how to connect with other cool people at the conference."  I know there was a BUZZ website and that was cool, but I was trying to find other HR people that were interested in metrics.  So, maybe a searchable linkedIn kinda ap would be cool.  With 13,000 plus attendees, I know I missed a few.  Networking is more than the social media piece, I still needed to "have a conversation" with other cool people that love what I love.

I would also have a way to keep the conversation going after the session.  Maybe, setting up groups in LinkedIn or Twitter with speakers and attendees, so that information can still continue to be shared after the conference.

There were some logistical issues, just because its hard to move 13,000 people around, but I get that.

All in all...glad I went, got the t-shirt and the blisters!!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

HR and Influence

I had the pleasure of having breakfast with one of my most favorite people both personally and professionally.  Nancy Vepraskas, SPHR with P2Excellence is one of the coolest HR professionals I know.  I can remember when I first met Nancy thinking, "Oh that is what being strategic looks like."(she doesn't remind me of Lady GaGa, but she has influence like the Lady!)

Anyway, we had an interesting conversation and part of it was focused on HR and influence.

It happens to be a topic that Nancy and I are very passionate about.  I had just done a webinar on the topic yesterday, so feel free to check out the recorded version here.  (scroll down to recent webinars and archive will be up Thursday 6/21, COB)

Let's think abut the word influence:

Influence as a verb is defined as to affect or alter by indirect or intangible means

Well, I think the above definition just about sums up HR with the words “indirect” or “intangible”.  We have been in charge of a firm’s “intangible” assets or its intellectual capital for decades.   What we often try to measure in HR is intangible.  In HR, we want to affect change, affect the bottom line, and affect business outcomes. 

Since I have been in HR I have seen many phases our profession has gone through:

  1. Personnel Phase-where it was all about command and control, policies and procedures and employee picnics. HR was a necessary evil and didn’t have influence with strategy or the C-Suite. 
  2. “Seat at the table Phase” where it was all about TALKING about getting a seat at the table but not really doing anything to EARN that seat.  We wanted to be involved in the strategic planning process but never really got involved in the execution phase of strategy.  
  3. HR Influence stage-Bersin refers to it as “Business driven HR” -I believe this is where we are today.  HR has the power to influence managers to be better, to influence employee' to perform better,  influence CEOs to invest in the right things as far as people are concerned

When you have influence you have respect….I believe that is where HR wants to be; a respected function in the organization.  ITS ABOUT TIME.  I believe NOW is the right time for HR influence!  

What do you think?  Should HR have influence?  Does HR need influence?  Join this important conversation...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Removing Roadblocks to HR Analytics

I had the pleasure of writing an article last week for the HR Examiner regarding the roadblocks HR professionals face when embarking on HR Analytics.  The good news is that I also write about how to remove those roadblocks.

Here is the link, check out the article.

I still can't believe cool people like Heather Bussing ask me to contribute to their content.  Thanks for including me!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What is Driving Employee Engagement?

What really engages your employees to give their best at work?  I think this has been a question that has stumped most HR professionals for a long time.  I believe the problem is that the answer is not the same for every company, every department, every generation, etc.

Yes, there are many large research firms that study this on a regular basis and they have norms or averages on what is driving engagement and I do believe those studies are interesting.

For example, Aon, my former employer has a recent study out, the 2012 Trends in Global Employee Engagement, which looks at global engagement trends over the last three years.

I found the following quite interesting:

The report also ana­lyzed which engage­ment dri­vers had the most pos­i­tive impact on engage­ment and oppor­tu­nity for improvement:
  • Career oppor­tu­ni­ties (the top dri­ver of engagement…communication of clear career paths, prepar­ing employ­ees for the next role, pro­vid­ing lat­eral growth oppor­tu­ni­ties for key employees)
  • Recog­ni­tion (rec­og­niz­ing the extra effort of employ­ees in a tough busi­ness climate)
  • Orga­ni­za­tional rep­u­ta­tion (being a part of a respect and win­ning team)
  • Com­mu­ni­ca­tion (effec­tive and engag­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion from lead­ers and the organization)
The above list is fascinating to me as for the first time in a study I see communication from leadership as being important to employees.  I have known this and heard this for years, but here is the data in black and white.  In my experience, the communication of the vision and the mission of the organization is key to getting an employee's heart and mind engaged.  Yet, that is where most CEO's fall down is in the messaging of organizational strategy.

Another interesting point is that nothing about pay and benefits came out as a driver in this research even during a down economy.

I am also surprised by organizational reputation making the list.  I guess now more than ever employer brand matters.

The report does say that these 4 items had the MOST POSITIVE IMPACT on engagement AND OPPORTUNITY for improvement.  So, it sounds as if the 4 items listed were the top drivers for their sample AND that employers did not score well on those 4 items.

What a shocker!

And..what an opportunity for HR.  If in fact, these 4 areas are true for your company as well, what could you do to improve these?

Does your organization rely on your engagement data and take action on the results?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Yes Please! I Want a Customer Centric Culture

I wish it were that easy.  You just decide that your organization is going to be customer focused and BAM, there it is.  If it were that simple every company would have a Nordstrom, Disney, Zappo's or Ritz Carlton type culture.

But it's just not that easy.

It is a deliberate, dare I say...process.

Every little concept and strategy must be aligned and if one thing is out of alignment, then well you know the drill.  Your culture winds up like Delta or Circuit City where the customer is confused about what is really important to the company.

Here are some of the important tenets when moving from a culture of _____________ to one that is truly focused on the customer.

1) The leadership team has to absolutely believe the customer is #1.
2) Customer service standards and behaviors have to be clear and aligned to customer strategy.
3) Middle managers have to drive the change with assistance from HR
4) HR has to align its programs and practices to align with the new customer service culture (rewards and recognition, performance management, etc.)
5) Training and communications need to take place so skills are developed AND employees understand why the company is focusing on the customer.
6) Success must be celebrated and results shared
7) Happy employees equal happy customers so treat employees accordingly

For those of you that have a customer centric focus and culture, how have you done it?  What has your journey been like?

I would love to hear from a variety of industries as I believe building this culture for a "for-profit" business is very different from building one in a government environment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

HR Has its Game Face On!

I have had the pleasure of teaching HR and Strategy bootcamp for the last 2 years.  We have probably had almost 100 attendees go through our 2 day intense workshop.  The topics we discuss are strategic alignment, metrics that matter, and data visualization.  This ain't your Mom's HR workshop.  It's intense.  It's hard.  And, most of has given me a new perspective on our HR profession.

I ask attendees to bring in their organizational strategy.  We then spend a lot of time mapping that organizational strategy to understand what HR needs to do to make the strategy happen as far as the people are concerned.  People still have to execute strategy, we don't have a software program that will do that for us yet.

HR has come a long way in their understanding of linkage and alignment.  I love that.

I have been so impressed over the last few months watching HR professionals from EVERY industry not only understanding their organizational strategy but having the ability to translate to HR strategy.  Individuals from private business, government, and non-profits were able to take the organizational strategy and translate that to tightly aligned HR strategy with corresponding HR metrics that matter to the organization.

I can remember not so long ago (pre-recession) when the above hardly EVER happened.

So, I then ask myself...why is this happening?  Are we finally getting on the strategic band wagon?  I know we still have a long way to go, but progress is important.  Here are my theories to explain the shift from a focus on picnics to a focus on alignment:

1) HR professionals were sick of being called overhead, policy police and party planners.
2) The profession started to offer development in strategic areas
3) HR professionals are getting advanced degrees like MBA's
4) HR professionals want to be taken seriously in the organization
5) The recession forced HR's hand...either get on board or get out.
6) CEO's became more demanding of HR
7) HR is being invaded by non-HR professionals that are doing a great job in HR
8) HR functions are being outsourced at a rapid pace

I believe HR professionals must continue down the path of influence and embrace HR Strategy, Metrics and keep adding value to organizations.  Strategy is no longer a theoretical concept that HR professionals don't understand.  It has now become a tool for organizational competitive advantage that HR is beginning to embrace and understand.

What are your thoughts on why HR professionals are making progress?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Drama Queens at Work

I needed a little comic relief this week, so I am off topic today!

I am from the South and there is nothing I like more than telling a story and being extra dramatic using my best Southern girl drawl.  I have many friends (and a Mom) that have a flair for the's fun.

But at work....that is another story.

Do you know this person?

You have an employee that can't make it to work on time...ever.  The excuses seem to come right out of a Hollywood script.

"I was on my way to work when all of the sudden a tractor trailer full of mayonnaise wrecked in front of me and I slid all over I- 285."

And then there is the employee that can't get along with anyone:

"Joe is making it impossible for me to work today.  His cube is right beside mine and he keeps sneezing and blowing his nose.  I need to be moved."

And then we have the managers and supervisors who jockey for position:

"I noticed Al didn't get his status report on time.  I hear he may be looking for another job.  Just know you can count on me, if you need me to pitch in, just let me know." (as he is winking at you)

I think the best of all drama comes from the executives.  I can steal a few from recent headlines:

"Yahoo CEO resigns over falsifying resume."
"HP CEO resigns over inappropriate relationship with a contractor"

When I was in HR for corporate America, I sometimes felt more like a referee than anything else.  I believe this is why I no longer work in that environment.

Why can't we just do work while we are at work?  Why do we have to bring all of our baggage, drama, and crap to work?  I guess its because that is where we spend a lot of our time and we are all human.  I know I have had my fair share over the last few years.

So what are your best drama tell!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

HR's 3 Most Important Areas of Focus

Ed Nangle is our guest blogger today.  Ed has many years of HR experience spanning several industries such as electronics, manufacturing and  management consulting. Ed has been a trusted mentor of mine for years as well as a valued teacher for Kennesaw State University.  

Knowledge Management is a topic near and dear to my heart as my business partner, Barbara Hughes and I embraced this concept 15 years ago this month!


Over the years I have determined that these three programs (Pay for performance, knowledge management and talent management) could be the catalyst that makes Human Resource Practitioners more acceptable to the Executive Management Team in successful companies.

Talent management has become more important in the past few years since the demand for experience and skills has increased when the supply has declined substantially. We continue to educate students in curriculum that does not meet the needs of the growth in industry. Business needs are not the driving force when it comes to curriculum design and education programs. So given that, companies need to retain their human capital once attracted and educated to the culture of the companies. By combining Job Analysis, Recruitment, Staffing, Training, and Retention functions into one umbrella, Human Resource Practitioners can become more visible to Executive Management Teams. The executives can see the value in having the experience and skills on board instead of continuously turning over and recreating the wheel over and over again. The loss of productivity and negative ROI is very costly and very evident to executive management.

Pay for performance is something all executive management teams understand and can see the 
are very eager to have financial rewards attached to measured productivity rather than hoping that the numbers are reached at the end of the period for a guaranteed wage. For instance, in the manufacturing industry cost analysis is paramount to bottom line results. But for some reason when we get to some companies outside manufacturing, we pay for non-performance or for almost performance at the same rate as meeting the expectations of the job. Many companies continue to evaluate performance at lower than acceptable levels but continue to pay 100% of salaries? How can we continue to absorb the lack of performance and continue to pay salaries and bonuses?

Now, that I have beat pay for performance to death and most companies still don’t want to
pay the investment of time to get the best results possible, I would like to hit on Knowledge Management as the subject today.

Many, many years ago in the dark ages I have read that the natives scribed on stones and wood so they always had a record of what occurred and so it could be used for future development. In the early 1950-70’s companies required each employee to record their daily, weekly, and monthly duties so that they could always add to the manual as they learned more or was given additional duties. Then when an employee passed, terminated employment, or became unable to perform the duties, another replacement would be able to step in and study the manual to perform the duties without loss of productivity.

Now many, many years later, we have become very lazy and most companies state that it takes too much time to record everything we do on the job. So when an employee leaves the company for any reason, we must start from square one to educate the replacement so they can start to produce up to the level of the previous employee. What a severe loss of knowledge and what a negative ROI on all the experience and education supplied in previous years.

With E-Communications and all the advanced options of data storage we should all require that our companies initiate a job duty manual for all positions in electronic format. This should become one of the job expectations of each job and become part of the evaluation for performance issues. Come on salvage knowledge management as one of our contributions to the bottom line. Be a hero!! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Unplug, Relax, Unwind...It's Vacation Time!

It's two days before I leave the office for a total of 11 days, but who is counting?  I am headed to New Orleans to speak at LA SHRM and as soon as I say, "Thank you very much, "  I am headed to the beach.

As you can see, I also have writers block, so I am rambling on about my vacation.

I have pre-vacation writers block.  I usually come up with a topic in the shower, but all I can think about is my vacation list.  Beach hats, suntan oil, romance novels and adult beverages.

I am very jealous of my fellow blogger, Chris Havrilla as she has a dozen or so topics floating around in her head...and I can't come up with one!

So, I am writing about unplugging and my need to unplug.

I am one of those annoying people that get out of bed and checks email, I get out of my car with my phone to my ear, and I am usually texting or tweeting while attending events.  I am never not typing or talking.  I believe it's an addiction.  "Hello, my name is Cathy Missildine, and I can't unplug."  "Hello, Cathy!"

So, I want to challenge myself AFTER the conference to UNPLUG.  I mean totally.   The problem is my electronics will be with me and that makes me nervous.  Also, I want to be able to show everyone via pics how much fun I am having...right?  I tell myself I have to have my phone, what if my son calls me?  He is 19, not 2, he will be fine....I think.

My advice to everyone I know, is to get away from the office.  You need a break from it all.  I am wondering why I can't do that myself?  It's not that I think the office will cave in without me as Barbara Hughes has that under control.  Maybe, it's my own need to feel connected.

I can feel myself over the last few weeks being extremely burned out.  I feel like my creative juices aren't flowing as they usually do.  It's been a tough last few years both professionally and personally (notice the last name change, @cathymissildine).  So, I believe a vacation is definitely what the Dr. has ordered.

So, now I am accountable to everyone...after Friday, no calls, no letters, no tweets, no Foursquare updates, no Facebook, no LinkedIn, no Pinterest, no Blog.

I feel like I am fixin' to break out in a cold sweat, just thinking about it...