The Carnival of HR – Pick A Prize

The Carnival of HR – Pick A Prize

Pulling at the arm of my jacket, my friends futilely attempted to drag me away. “C’mon Mark!“, they implored, frustration palpable as I placed yet another quarter on the rough wooden plank that served as both armrest and launching point for my arch rival, the ping pong ball. I was two dollars in and determined that this would be the one.

The money was mine, earned through a wide variety of enterprises my brother and I had launched as creative and unfettered children. We were raised with a strong work ethic in a growing subdivision. That meant construction, which meant construction workers, which meant thirsty and hungry people who just happened to have a soft spot for the neighborhood riffraff.

Of the eight balls thrown thus far, three were underhand, four were dead aimed and one was a high floater. My goldfish had died the week prior so I was not going to leave the carnival without his successor safely bagged and in hand. Rocking back, I decided that a backspun high floater was going to win the day. My fist opened, the ball rose and I waited for it to glide over three-dozen puckered orange faces. Landing on a bowl’s edge, it took a wild bounce, struck another, then a third, and landed quietly on the hay-covered ground below. I had lost, but smirked at knowing that I would try again and again as the day wore on.

Everyday we take this same journey. We throw ourselves into the air, hoping to land in the right destination but often tossed asunder by forces both within and outside of our control. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. This is the Carnival that we who work in HR experience more acutely than many of our peers. And as others try and pull you away, we want you to stay and give it as many chances as you can personally and professionally afford.

Welcome to the May 2016 Carnival of HR.

Read. Discuss. Challenge. Be a part of the conversation and eventually you too can pick a prize.

The Amplification of Everything

The Amplification of Everything


Loud drums the deafening beat of industry, each concussive pulse calling, “automate!” – “integrate!!” – “propagate!!!” – its noise oft drowning out the necessity to ideate around the inevitable amplification of all that is the employee, the manager, the organization.

The organization says, “Define your future and let us hear of that which goes beyond work. Employee, please show us yourself – the whole human – so we might more clearly understand that which drives your purpose, your passion, and the grace of your presence.” They offer brown bags and webinars, videos and coaching that suggest you ‘Own Your Career’ while herding you into an online destination that builds an implied expectation of….

… something.


So you courageously expose yourself to the masses. Place a picture. Share an aspiration. Wish for more than you have and lift your eyes up toward a distant oasis where you just might be seen, acknowledged, encouraged, developed and rewarded. You read and re-read the mission, the values, the guiding principles, echoes of “we care….”, “we care.…”, “we care….” ever so gently crumbling the protective walls of cynicism born from that last house of false promises. You allow yourself – even for a moment – to think:

Perhaps this place will be different.

You submit, you work and you wait.

The manager says, “Be omniscient in your knowledge, omnidirectional in your management of others, and omnichannel in your delivery.  Apply data and your gut. Come with fresh eyes and a decade of experience. Consume another article, a blog, a book, a podcast, a research study. Attend a conference, absorb from thought leaders, inquire of analysts, borrow from peers. Be ready because the C-suite is now the See-Suite and you want to shine in their eyes.

The message is clear, relentless and pervasive – You. Must. Do. Better.

This is the amplification of everything.

What It Feels Like To Be An HR Buyer

What It Feels Like To Be An HR Buyer

Let’s suppose you’re an HR buyer. You’re experienced. You’re competent. This isn’t your first rodeo. And as much as you believe that logic and process will dictate what you buy, there are several emotional impacts that will absolutely factor into the bets you make.

The following list is derived from the work of the incomparable David Maister* as applied to our corner of the buying universe. HR service providers, it would serve you well to keep these ten items in mind as you prepare for your next pursuit.

What It Feels Like to Be An HR Buyer

  1. I’m feeling INSECURE. I’m not sure I know how to detect which of the finalists is the genius, and which is just good. I’ve exhausted my ability to make technical distinctions.
  2. I’m feeling THREATENED. This is my area of responsibility, and even though intellectually I know I need outside expertise, emotionally its not comfortable to put my affairs in the hands of others.
  3. I’m taking a PERSONAL RISK. By putting my affairs in the hands of someone else, I risk losing control.
  4. I’m IMPATIENT. I didn’t call in someone at the first sign of symptoms (or opportunity). I’ve been thinking about this for a while.
  5. I’m WORRIED. By the very fact of suggesting improvements or changes, these people are going to be implying that I haven’t been doing it right up till now. Are these people going to be on my side?
  6. I’m EXPOSED. Whoever I hire, I’m going to have to reveal some proprietary secrets, not all of which are flattering.
  7. I’m feeling IGNORANT, and don’t like the feeling. I don’t know if I’ve got a simple problem or a complex one. I’m not sure I can trust them to be honest about that; it’s in their interest to convince me it’s complex.
  8. I’m SKEPTICAL. I’ve been burned before by these kinds of people. You get a lot of promises: How do I know whose promise I should buy?
  9. I’m CONCERNED that they either can’t or won’t take the time to understand what makes my situation special. They’ll try to sell me what they’ve got rather than what I need.
  10. I’m SUSPICIOUS. Will they be those typical professionals who are hard to get hold of, who are patronizing, who leave you out of the loop, who befuddle you with jargon, who don’t explain what they’re doing or why, who …, who …, who …? In short, will these people deal with me in the way I want to be dealt with?

Behind every HR buying decision is a human (or more likely, a group of humans), so always keep that in mind.

HR buyers, what else would you add to this list? Your comments are encouraged, so let’s keep the conversation going.

(*Source: David H. Maister, Managing the Professional Service Firm, 1993)