Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Recipe for an Engaged Workforce

Employee engagement is like that thing that kids have which we all wish we could bottle up and sell to make our millions. It’s that unexplainable energy and drive that is evident in their behavior. How do I connect children’s energy and employee engagement in my brain you may be wondering? Well, wonder no more, I’ll tell you. I am always amazed at how my children can spend 5 hours running around a zoo and still have the energy to go play at the park and play for a few more hours when they get home. I wish I could bottle that energy up and sell it to the world.

I have come across employees in my years in HR that have a similar energy in the workplace. You wonder how they can do X for 8 hours and still be smiling and full of life at the end of the day. Maybe they are in sales and despite 100 rejections, they keep their game face on and keep smiling and do their best on every customer interaction every time which leads to the next 100 sales. How can they stay so positive? Or for a person working in a labor intensive or physically or mentally demanding job, how do they still do their best all day and even in the proverbial 11th hour?

Here is my theory, observation and subsequent recipe for an engaged employee… Start with good leadership, throw in a dash of continued support and encouragement, whisk away all negative feedback and pour in positive reinforcement, and combine that with a person who is both willing to do the job and qualified to do it. This is your recipe for an engaged and happy workforce. Granted, some employees will defy logic and be happy and engaged even with the worst manager and the worst working conditions, and I wish I knew how to find more of those folks. However, we can help employees to be engaged and thriving in the workforce with my recipe.

I know it sounds easy enough, but how do you get all those ingredients to work together? Training your managers to lead and not micro-manage is an important first step. I highly recommend that every manager read ‘Whale Done!” by Ken Blanchard, Thad Lacinak, Chuck Tompkins, & Jim Ballard. It is a great book about the power of positive reinforcement in relationships. It’s a short and easy read with some great insights. Positive reinforcement is an important tool to help employees feel empowered and encouraged to do the right things at work without the shame and resentment that is often brought about from negative reinforcement.

No matter how much positive reinforcement you provide an employee, if they are not qualified or trained to do a job, they are not likely to succeed or at least not to thrive. It is important to make sure that you have the right employee in the right job. To be fully engaged at work, an employee needs to be in a position that they have the ability to thrive in. If they struggle to understand core concepts and what is expected, they are not likely to really be tuned in and using their strengths to make improvements to efficiencies and to tackle tough assignments.

Is your workforce engaged and doing their best? If so, great! You are doing something right! If not, start by working with your staff to ensure they are getting the support and encouragement they need from management to tackle the challenges they face every day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I-9s, part 2

So, yes, it has been a while since I broached the subject of I-9s and the need for employers to complete an internal audit BEFORE the immigration office comes knocking on your door.  Delayed yes, but forgotten NO.  I wanted to make sure to provide a few more helpful tips for your audit. 

Resources are a vital key to help you know exactly what is expected for the I-9, and there are two very helpful resources that every HR person should save in their internet favorites... which was just updated 5/14/2011 and

These two resources can answer a lot of common questions about the I-9 and give you all the tools you need to get the form right or to correct your I-9s during an internal audit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

For those curious minds...

I've been in the HR field for about 10 years now (and I wouldn't trade it for any other profession), but I sometimes wonder how much easier life was for hiring managers before the government started imposing more and more regulations like the I-9 requirement for example.

Just out of curiousity I did some research on the history of I-9s (thank you WikiPedia, and learned that the U.S. government began requiring the use of I-9 forms November 6th, 1986 following Congress' passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. As you know, employees fill out the form to prove they are legally eligible to work in the United States.

For those curious souls among you that did not work with I-9s way back when... here is a peak at an I-9 form from 1987... (yes, I know this serves no purpose other than to satisfy one's curiosity... but in case you are interested... take a peek.) I will blog about more important, relevant and timely I-9 issues throughout the coming weeks, stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Paperwork Nightmare, The Dreaded I-9 Audit

Okay, for all you HR pros out there reading this... this is not a news flash.  The I-9 has got to be THE one form that has more mistakes than any other regularly completed employment form, and as some large employers like Abercrombie & Fitch can attest to (now over one million dollars lighter in the pocket book)... it can come with a LOT of fines and penalties if not done correctly.  This is true EVEN IF you are hiring only legal authorized workers... the technical errors can have a big financial impact if you are on the wrong side of an audit.

So, what should you do about it? Make sure you are dotting your i's and crossing your t's (as the expression goes) before the immigration officers comes to check on it for you...  Do your own internal audit! 

If you've never done an internal I-9 audit before, let me offer a little tried and true wisdom for you.  One key bit of info to remember is the required time keeping guidelines.  An employer MUST RETAIN the I-9 for EITHER 3 years from the date of hire OR 1 year from the date of termination, whichever is LATER.  Why is this important to you in your audit?  It is important because if you have errors on an I-9 that you still have on file which should have already been destroyed, you can still be penalized for it!  So why keep that liability laying around? Shred it and discard it! 

Remember also that when you get a notice from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)  or DOL (Department of Labor), you have only THREE DAYS to comply.  If you are not keeping your I-9s separate from your employee folders, bring a tent to work and prepare to camp out if you get an audit notice!  You WILL be eating and sleeping there until you get every last I-9 pulled for the audit.  It's best to keep these separate, such as in a 3 ring binder in alphabetical order for all active employees which you would then move to an inactive employee folder upon termination. 

Of course, with the sensitive nature of I-9s and the information they contain, these binders need to be kept in a secured office not accessible to any unauthorized personnel.  If you are not already doing this... as a part of your internal audit project, I recommend pulling them now to avoid the future headache when your official audit comes knocking (just assume it will because frankly, the government is over budget and looking for revenue... I-9 errors can bring in a lot of dollars from fines.  Don't let your employer be one of those footing the government's bills from errors that you can prevent or correct.)  I find it helpful to keep an Excel spreadsheet with the formulas all built into my template which calculates the discard date for me.  Let me know if you need the formulas for this.

This is just the first in a series of blogs I'll be writing on this topic... if I included it all in this post, you would be up all night reading it (even if you started at 2am).  So... come back for more helpful I-9 tips very soon!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I learned a little something about motivation at the OK HR Conference last week from Olympic Gold medalist and motivational speaker, Peter Vidmar.  At a lot of conferences, you hear great pearls of wisdom from amazing keynote speakers that are a true inspiration for the day or even the week, but then it fades...

Why does it fade? Because life is busy!  It is hectic.  Take my Monday for example... after a 3 day conference at the end of last week, I came back to a MOUNTAIN of paperwork.  In fact, I couldn't find a clear spot anywhere on my desk nor on any of the chairs in my office.  If you have one of those jobs like mine where the work waits for you and doesn't just keep going when you're gone... you know what I mean.  Vacations come with guilty pleasure knowing that you'll be making up for all that time off when you get back. 

However, Peter Vidmar said a few things that are sticking with me through the paperwork mountains I'm tackling this week.  His story about his long grueling work outs where he just kept visualizing and imagining he was in those final moments where it all came down to the wire and was what he had been working towards, that got me thinking.  In HR, we have to do that every day too.  Every hire, every disciplinary action, every promotion, training, payroll, benefit enrollment, I-9 and termination has the potential to be great for the company or disastrous, ending in litigation.  In human resource management, there is a great responsibility to always be "doing the right thing" for BOTH the employee AND the employer.  It can be like a tight rope act sometimes, but it is really important work and must be looked at with the end goals in mind.

You can't just hire or promote someone that you like at the moment... you have to think strategically about the end game.  How can that person grow that role and contribute to the mission?  If you make the wrong selection (which undoubtedly will happen from time to time) then there can be a lot of headaches for both the employer and employee.  No one wants to be in a role that they are not suited for, and interestingly enough, at the conference we heard from another great speaker, Ryan Estis, Chief Experience Officer for Ryan Estis & Associates who mentioned a statistic that stuck with me... only 20% of employees are well suited for their roles.  That explains another statistic he mentioned, that 84% of employees are planning a job move in 2011. 

Turnover costs us all.  It costs employers in terms of recruiting and training expense to fill the position, but it also costs customers as valuable job knowledge is lacking with newer staff.  When hiring or promoting HR folks have a unique challenge of finding candidates that are the right fit for the current position as well as the role that position can and should grow into.  We have to offer a position that can provide professional growth to capture and retain interest of some of the Gen X & Y crowds, and that offers stability for Boomers & the Silent Generation as well as the flexibility to meet each of the generational needs.  We are in a unique time in the history of employment where we have 4 distinct generations all in the workforce, all with very different goals & idiosyncrasies.

How do we manage all of that?  Well, many of the conference topics last week focused on the compliance aspects of employment while several attorneys discussed all of the potential legal pitfalls (and their are many) that we face in our every day decisions.  Of course, this has to be kept in mind as we make decisions, but I think on of the points Ryan Estis made last Friday helps bring all of this full circle.  Ryan stressed the importance of connecting employees with a higher purpose & an opportunity do what they love & make a difference in their job.  This engages them, and an engaged workforce is less likely to complain, less likely to fail to meet your needs and expectations, and less likely to leave.

So as you look at the paperwork piles on your desk this week, remember not to get lost in the paperwork shuffle and the compliance component.  Remember instead to engage your workforce by helping them to see the end game and motivate them by including them on the company's mission.  When you focus on the strengths of your workforce instead of the weaknesses, you will accomplish more and the paperwork mountains will become mole hills.

Have a great week!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gotta love the Swag

One great thing about a conference like the Oklahoma Human Resource conference is all the great swag from vendors! The recruiter in me just loves hearing their "pitches" and seeing what they bring to the table in terms of knowledge and service. The vendors at OKHR2011 where great!

There were definitely a few favorites for me at this event. 
TFCU (Tinker Federal Credit Union) is pretty high ranking with their awesome leather-like bound tabbed accordion folder. I am REALLY gonna love it when I continue with some audits I have to do in the office next week. <3

More than the swag they offered, the FMLA trivia with Phillips Murrah Attorney & Counselors at Law really intrigued me. I even tried to stump Director Byrona Maule... but she KNOWS HER STUFF! For you HR pros reading this right now, did YOU know that the 1,250 hours worked rule does not have to be worked within just the last 12 months, but within the last SEVEN (yes you read that right, 7) years!!! So for example, if an employee has only worked for you for the last 9 months, but you see that they have worked 1,250 hours... you better not deny them just yet! Do a little more digging to make sure the employee isn't a rehire. If the employee worked for you 5 years ago for 4 or 5 months, then BAM... they're FMLA eligible because that tenure combines to satisfy the 12 months
of employment rule, and they met the 1,250 hours worked rule. Obviously you have to make sure that FMLA applies to your company based on size and the leave itself is for a qualifying FMLA related reason... but you get the picture... that 7 year history piece throws a kink in things. Not only did I not stump Byrona with this tidbit of info, but she was able to give me a little history on the issue and why it came to be... like I said before, she knows her stuff, and I was impressed. Not to mention the nice shiny stainless steel coffee cup she lured me in with... overall... great vendor!

Now, saving the best for last, my FAVORITE swag of the whole convention by far had to be the "Appreciateologist Starter Kit" by O.C. Tanner! It is AWESOME! I just love love loved The Thinkinator button! Hands down, this kit topped my favorite swag list because it is soooo important! I am a huge advocate for employee appreciation. A little goes a long ways too. A little thank you for a job well done, or a little note to say you appreciate someone can really impact their week and increase their productivity. So, if you need a little help in that department... check out

Many thanks to all the great vendors from the OK HR 2011 event!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Top 100

What does it mean to be a Top 100 employer? Yesterday at the Oklahoma State Human Resource conference, attendees had the opportunity to find out straight from the horse's mouth. We heard from American Fidelity Senior VP of Human Resources, Jeanette Rice, and from Quick Trips' VP of HR, Kimberly Owen.

There were a couple of themes I recognized throughout the session that both companies on this Fortune 100 list had in common. First of all, both companies take having fun seriously... meaning it is a part of their strategy. They expressed importance in a camaraderie between employees and went a step further to include the families of employees in many of the fun team building activities. Quick Trips went so far as to take every employee with 25 years in the company AND their significant other on a trip to Hawaii for the company's 50th anniversary celebration!

Although that is not a sustainable day-to-day team building strategy, it certainly had a very positive impact and made lasting memories for their long term employees. With more realistic budget constraints in mind, American Fidelity talked about ways to have fun and boost moral while keeping the cost at under $30 per employee per year! (Talk about being frugal!) We all know in this day and age, you have to do
more with less. American Fidelity proves that it can be done and that their is no reason to skip employee recognition or engagement because of cost... you just have to be creative! Judging by the stories, photos, and videos shown... they certainly know how to be creative and original at AF. I loved the photo of the execs dressed like Elvis and the Blue Man Group! The photo to the left is courtesy of Jeanette Rice and is just another example of employees having fun at work.

Another strategy shared by both of these Top 100 employers is the foundation in the knowledge that their companies' success is based on the employees that help drive it. I agree with the quote shared by AF from Bill Cameron, the grandson of the original founder of American Fidelity, “It is critical to recognize that the success you are credited with is the result of the combined members of your team.”

These were just a few gems of wisdom shared at the OK HR Conference. If you couldn't make it to the conference this year, follow me on Twitter @HR_Lisa for live tweets throughout the conference on other great topics.

Need a Job...

After my last post about job seekers, I laughed out loud when I saw this YouTube video. So, I thought I would share. It was quite amusing...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Your Image Is Important

Today I spent hours shaking hands and talking to strangers, it’s just another thing that I love about my job. It is called recruiting. Today I went to one of the better advertised job fairs in the OKC metro area, the Workforce Oklahoma Spring Career Fair, held at the Coca-Cola Event Center in downtown OKC.

If you are someone who is just fascinated by people and enjoy "people watching", then a job fair to you what a candy store is to a 5 year old. It is fascinating!

I never cease to be amazed at the wide array of candidates that rush through the door in search of a job at 10am when the flood gates are opened.

Let me describe for you from a recruiter’s perspective what we see. There are a few categories of people that frequent job fairs. First, there are the very high class professional (suit and tie) candidates that come in well polished and ready for the job hunt. Then, there are those that appear to have stumbled upon the event while meandering through the streets with nothing better to do, so they came inside. Then there are many who are somewhere in between.

Remember, this is not a shopping center either. I realize recruiters bring lots of free goodies, which of course being free means you can have one. Notice, I said, ONE! Any person who walks up to my table with a bag or purse who litterally scoops a handful of pens or other give-aways into the bag WHILE asking me about a job, is immediately going into my NO pile. That is NOT the impression you want to make! In the back of my mind I'm thinking, so if I hire you will you do that in the supply room too?

Who do you want to be in the eyes of someone who holds the job you covet during that first impression? Well, a lot of that depends on the position you are seeking. If you are in the medical profession, it might benefit you to show up in scrubs (nice clean, pressed and properly fitted). This is something that immediately catches the eye of the healthcare recruiters. However, if you are applying for an accounting position and show up in scrubs, you won’t give the impression of the most qualified candidate for that position. You should dress the part.

More importantly, think about the impressions you DON’T want to make! Do NOT even walk in the door if you are in PJs (yes, I said pajamas, and YES there have been people who have done this at a job fair, crazy right?) You do NOT want to come in where something that you would wear out to a night club. Again, yes, people do this (and unless the night club is there and hiring… they leave the way they came in… still looking for a job).

Also, don’t bring your kids. They are adorable, yes, and I love kids. However, I leave mine with a sitter to come to work, and if you can’t find a sitter long enough to find a job, recruiters will assume you won’t be able to find one long enough to work when they need you. NEVER, and I repeat, NEVER bring your children to job interviews! This will NOT help your chances of getting the job. If you don’t have a sitter, daycare, family or friend to help, then find a church that offers a Mommy’s Day Out program and plan your interviews during that time.

Finally, bring more resumes with you than there are companies there to accept it. If you say to a recruiter, “Oh, I am very interested but I just handed out my last resume…” The conversation is over. Immediately, the recruiter thinks, well either this candidate handed a resume out to everyone that would take it or they came unprepared, either is not a good first impression. Remember, we will see several hundred people during the event and are not likely to remember you from the crowd without an impressive and up-to-date resume.

The only thing worse than not having a resume at a career fair is having one that is out-dated or irrelevant. You should have several resumes that focus on different career aspirations. If you want a job as an accountant, but would also accept an office manager position, then focus the accounting resume on your accounting experience and education. Have another resume prepared that focuses on the office management experience for when you apply for those positions. If you tell me that you want the job I have as an office manager, but your experience on the resume only speaks of your time waitressing for the past 6 months while searching for the right job… you’ll still be searching. However, if you showcase the last 7 years of administrative and office management experience and then explain in a brief statement that the employment gap has been filled with temporary work, that keeps you on my YES pile (which is where you want to be!)

Also, for students out there that come to career fairs expecting to go from recent college graduate to Corporate VP, be realistic. That won’t happen overnight. You need to make strategic moves to get there, and that will require building your resume with work experience to compliment your degree.

Happy Job Hunting!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

HR Champions

It is great to be able to champion a cause that you believe in whether that be saving a rainforest (a noble and global cause) or mentoring and developing others to assist them in transitioning to the right career path (a worthy cause on a smaller and more local scale).

I know that HR is not the most glamorous career choice, and if it gets you famous it may be for the wrong reasons (like a class action lawsuit from poor HR management practices... Wal-Mart comes to mind right now as they are in current headlines.)

However, it is a career that can be rewarding not just financially but with a great intrinsic value. For someone in a leadership role in HR, there is a serious power to influence people management philosophies in the organization. If done right, then HR can truly add value to an organization through realizing the value in its most fundamental resource, PEOPLE! Retaining workers can have a huge impact on the bottom line which speaks to the CEOs of the world. What is even more valuable than that, is the ability to develop people within the organization to BECOME the CEOs of the world! This CAN happen, but often is not the focus of employers.

I love the story recently highlighted on ABC’s ‘World News with Diane Sawyer’ where Diane interviewed McDonald’s President Jan Fields who worked her way up from an entry level crew leader position to where she is today at the executive table. This is a beautiful example of utilizing people’s talent within the organization. Unlike many executives, this “MickyDs” President has a true understanding of what it takes to run the business from the front line perspective all the way up through the management hierarchy. This allows her to understand the needs of the customers as well as the employees so that she can make better strategic improvements in the organization and its processes. I think Jan hit the nail on the head when she said, “Our restaurant employees are the foundation of our business. They are the men and women who interact with our customers every day, enhance the McDonald’s experience, and continue to help make our business strong… a McJob is one with career growth and endless possibilities.” – Jan Fields, President, McDonald’s USA.

For anyone who is as passionate about people development as I am, I hope to see you at the 2011 Oklahoma State HR Conference coming up in May where keynote speakers will talk in depth about people management skills and best practices. If you haven’t yet registered, there is still time to do so. Read more about the event at If you can’t make it, check back here after the event has started for my favorite highlights. As a member of this year’s blog squad, I will be providing real-time updates from keynotes and sessions using social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Growing Pains

Yesterday an amazing opportunity presented itself to me. I was asked by a college student, who is studying human resources, if I would be this student's mentor. For someone to ask this of me is quite an honor, and it made me think about who my mentors have been. Although I never asked for a mentor, I was truly blessed to be put in a situation to have one (actually several).

When I began my journey into HR, it was by chance. I was working at America Online (AOL/ Time Warner), and I had started out in an entry level position which really left me feeling that I was not challenged enough and that I was not meeting my potential. However, I was still very happy in that position because AOL took good care of their employees with awesome benefits and employee appreciation. However, an internal job posting went out and my supervisor brought it to my attention. Although in reading through the job description I didn't meet all of their preferred requirements, I did feel that it was a good fit for me based on my past employment experiences and skills; so I applied.

In the interview I experienced my first behavioral interview, which seemed completely foreign to me at the time. I remember when they were asking me for an example of a time that I walked into a situation, saw a problem and resolved it, and I tried with all my might to think of a shining bright example with which to dazzle and impress them from my prior work experience... but I drew a blank. No doubt seeing my glazed over expression, one of the interviewers said, "It doesn't have to be a work related example. You can just tell us about a personal example that would answer the question." So, I did. I told them about a PARTY that I had gone to at a friend's house! (After the interview I really thought I had blown it here.) I explained that I had walked in and there was an area cleared for a dance floor, but that I noticed the positioning of the snack table looked like an accident waiting to happen. I moved the table to a better position because I didn't want anyone to trip and fall.

Thinking back on it, I had just shown a "natural talent" for looking at safety, which is an important function that typically falls under the HR umbrella. However, at the time I thought to myself, "Well I just blew it. Who brings up a PARTY at an interview? They will never take me seriously after that." Of course, they asked many other questions which I had better answers for, and as it turned out I was selected for the position.

When I moved into the HR Specialist role I quickly learned that the person who had the job before me was basically a glorified receptionist (nothing wrong with that, it just wasn't what I wanted). As I began to better understand the needs of the HR department I quickly found areas where I could make improvements and where I could do more. I did so without really sitting down and having a conversation about what I thought my role should be, but then one opportunity came up that I didn't even think to tackle... this is where I gained my mentor...

Another person in our department unexpectedly left and her work obviously still needed to get done in the interim as a replacement was found. I honestly didn't know much about what she did, and I never thought to jump in, raise my hand, and volunteer to learn it and do it. This is when the HR department head said to me, "That train drove right past you and you never jumped on board." I had one of those "ah ha" moments after that and realized, that if you want to grow, you have to jump in and do it at every opportunity because your boss may never think to ask you if you're interested if you don't speak up.

From that day forward, I went out of my way to communicate more with my department heads and to volunteer at every opportunity. Yes, it was a lot of work and was challenging, but it helped me to grow and learn more about HR which had turned out to be my career passion. Thinking back to past positions, I have really had a few great mentors whose advise I still use today. There are times when there was tough criticism about personal attributes (like my tendency to be stubborn and hard-headed) where I felt knocked down and had to brush myself off and keep moving. However, as I progressed I learned to take those criticisms constructively understanding the motives behind them were as they should be, just to help me improve. I only hope that I can be as good a mentor to others in the future as what I have been fortunate enough to receive.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

More Resume Insights

I recently talked about resumes and the fact that they are still very necessary in today's professional job market. (Although for more entry level jobs, they may not be required since applicants will probably be using an online application system, it never hurts for even an entry level candidate to be prepared with a well written resume. It can give the needed competitive advantage to put you ahead of peers in the recruiting process.) After a week of sorting through a few hundred resumes, I feel there is a bit more that I need to say on this topic.

Recently I have been spending a lot of time recruiting for executive level positions, and I have been amazed at how poorly marketed many of these polished professionals are in their resume. In many cases, had I not personally known these candidates from professional associations, I would not have even considered them based on the resume alone.

A resume speaks volumes about a person's computer, communications, and presentation skills without even really reading the content. If a quick glance at a resume shows a lack of organization, no punctuation or use of bold, italics, or *bullets* to make pertinent information stand out... or worse yet, EVERTHING is bolded or bulleted or CAPITALIZED, then the first assumption is that this person is not going to be able to present ideas, proposals, or research data to me in a user friendly format when I need it nor are they likely to be someone who can put together a good training presentation, etc. If you are applying for a position that will require these skills, which includes most management positions, then you are selling yourself short with a poorly written resume.

Another resume pet peeve (that most hiring managers have) which you should be aware of... overly lengthy resumes with little content to justify the length. If you are a recent graduate with no experience, then you certainly should have only a one page resume, but you will need to make it stand out with academic accomplishments and volunteer experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for. If you have 30 years of professional experience, it is expected that you probably won't fit all of that on one page. However, if you can't fit it on two pages, don't expect anyone to read what you've put on the 3rd page. When 100 or more resumes stream in for a highly sought after executive level position, hiring managers do not have time to read every word of every resume. Hiring managers will scan for highlights, achievements, tenure, job titles, and company names to make a quick determination of fit for the position to narrow down the pile from 100 to approximately 10 for initial interviews. If none of those 10 are a good fit, they may go back to the stack, but the trick is to be in that first group they select.

Some of the resumes I’ve seen lately are like the equivalent of dressing up in your finest suit and then throwing a trash bag full of garbage on top of yourself right before you try to make a good first impression. It makes no sense to be a polished professional with a resume that makes you look like a slob!

If you can’t afford to have a professional bring a facelift to your resume, that’s ok. Here are some very simply steps to follow that can make a big impact. First, DO NOT BULLET EVERYTHING!!! Don’t use all capitals either. Make company names and job titles stand out by bolding them which helps separate one job from the next (but don’t start changing fonts). If the job you had is very self-explanatory, like accountant or secretary, don’t waste a lot of space regurgitating a job description on your resume. Instead, focus on the times in your job that you went above and beyond the call of duty, such as spearheading a project, or changing a process to improve efficiency that saved the company time and money. Use bullets only to highlight major accomplishments. Say what you need to say succinctly with short concise wording that gets your point across without wasting space. Condense your resume to one or two pages (no more than two.) If this means you have to drop off 10 years of experience off your resume, use a carefully worded letter of interest to discuss other RELEVANT experience that they may wish to know about that didn’t make the final cut on your resume.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are Resumes Obsolete?

Not yet. I hear all the time that resumes are becoming obsolete, and while they are certainly becoming overshadowed from the perspective of recruiters who are actively sourcing candidates through LinkedIn profiles and other social media tools... resumes are still a crucial part of the job search. For those of you not in the human resource profession, you may ask, "What is sourcing?" It is what a recruiter does when they actively seek qualified candidates for a job. If you are not at the point yet of being an established professional in your field, you are going to have to get your foot in the door somehow because no one is knocking down your door to get to you. A resume is an important tool to help do this. If you are someone who is well known in your field and who has a vast network of other professionals in your field, than a resume is a bit less important because your LinkedIn profile will tell the recruiter who is searching for you what they need to know. So for an outsider looking in, wishing to be the person that is sought after by recruiters, how do you get there? That is a good question and not an easy task. You have to put into relevant terms your education and other experiences and bridge the gap between what you've done and what you would like to be doing. A well-written resume can do this, especially if paired with a thoughtful letter of interest for a position. Students and recent graduates often ask me how to do this. The first step is learning all you can about the job that you want. If you understand what is required in that job and what is expected in the day to day functions of that position, then you will be better prepared to make the connections for the recruiter from your past experience and how you could be a valuable asset in the job you are seeking. When I was just out of school, I focused my resume on my skills and education and highlighted the longevity on the job which is important to employers. Turnover costs have HR pros seeing red, and they want to see more green. If you stay on a job less than a year, you automatically lose a few points with the hiring manager. If you stay 2 or 3 years, you are more likely to look favorable to the person hiring for the position. Need an example? First, let's say (taking from my personal experience here) that your first job was as a carhop at Sonic (or some other fast food job). How on earth is that relevant to any management position? If your resume only says that you were a carhop at Sonic and does not have much else listed, good luck scoring any job outside of the fast food industry! However, it can be done, and here's is how you can make it happen. First, think about what your deliverables were in your job. For me, I needed to get orders out in 4 minutes or less and make the customers happy above all else. As you can imagine, getting much of anything done in 4 minutes is a lot of pressure, and it cannot be done alone. In my resume and letter of interest I spoke about the skills I attained from that job and made correlations for the recruiter from my experience to the job responsibilities that I was seeking. In any entry level management position everyone knows that getting employees to work together is a vitally important part of the job. As a carhop I partnered with my coworkers to make our processes more efficient, and I worked as a team player. I learned every position within the organization so that I could help out wherever and whenever needed. Based on one minor change that I made in the food packaging process, we reduced the average time to get an order out to the customer by 1 minute, and this was shared as a best practice with other franchises which still use this system today. This slight efficiency improvement meant more customers could be handled in a shorter amount of time which translates to more profits for the company. I also outlined my ability to work under pressure with tight deadlines which is important for management professionals. Making the customers happy is also important in any position. Here I talked about how my average tips were about 3 times higher than my coworkers because I ran from car to car during rush hours and made a point to proactively prepare to meet customer’s needs such as bringing extra ketchup packets when I knew they ordered fries or bringing a straw and spoon when they ordered a shake and bringing extra napkins when a kids meal was purchased. These small things translate into insightful customer service skills that speak volumes to recruiters in any industry. These are just a few examples from my past to show you that it can be done. Remember that Google is your friend when seeking to learn more about the position you hope to attain. If you are having a difficult time correlating your experience, volunteer work or education into work ready skills for your industry, seek the help of a professional resume writing service. There are many to choose from, and I happen to offer that service as well if you are interested (shameless plug). May you find all you want and need in your next job! Good luck!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Refreshed and Ready to Tackle Another Monday

I'm here to tell you today that there is no better way to start your Monday morning than a good night's sleep. All too often on Mondays I see my coworkers dragging themselves in while yawning all throughout their day because they didn't get enough sleep. The problem is that their lack of energy is also a drain on their productivity. This is evident even to the untrained person, but as I thought about this topic I did what most curious minds do... I googled it. Here is an interest tidbit of information for you from a recent Harvard study discussed at Quoting directly from this link, I found this information quite interesting…

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:

 Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
 Metabolism and weight:
Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
 Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
 Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
 Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
 Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

Back to my own original thoughts on this issue. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a sleep scientist for that matter) to figure out that you perform better when you are well rested and refreshed from a good night's sleep. I recently invested in a new mattress, and now it feels like I'm sleeping on a cloud every night! I can honestly say that I feel better every morning since having the new mattress. Who would have thought a new bed could lead to a new and improved me? I wake up easier in the morning and feel more alive and awake and ready to tackle the day when I get in the office. So the moral of this story is... INVEST IN YOURSELF! Whether it be allowing yourself more time for that needed cat nap or a new bed to make your slumber more tranquil, take the time to ensure your body and mind have the much needed reward of a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Does PTO stand for Please Take Off?

I just read an interesting article at which made me think back to a recent conversation I had with a healthcare manager about paid time off requests. From many managers you will hear statements like, "It's your time, take it if you need it" when asking about company vacation or PTO (Paid Time Off) days. However, all too often despite what a manager says, the reality is that their actions do not mirror their words.

Over the years I have talked with employees who said PTO meant “Please Take Off [Permanently]” because they felt like their jobs would be in jeopardy and they would be fired if they took time away from work. Although excessive time off over and above the time your employer (or applicable leave policies) allows for you can lead to disciplinary action or termination, the employer does actually want you to utilize your PTO (Paid Time Off) or vacation to reinvest in yourself so that you can be more productive when you are at work. They just want you to pre-plan that time so they can plan on keeping the business running smoothly while you are away.

Some of you may say that is true in theory but not in application. Have you ever been sold on a job because of the generous vacation package that went with it only to find that they never actually allowed you to use that time? I'll be honest here and tell you that I have been there. I have been in a position where I had as many as 30 days of vacation available to me each year, but I always ended up losing at least 2 weeks of that time by not using it before it expired. It was not because I did not want or need a break.
It was because the workload never allowed for a break. I think some of you know what I'm talking about here. If you take a vacation and know that NOTHING will be done while you are gone and all of the work you miss will just be piled up on top of what you have to do the week you're back... it is hard to take a vacation and really forget about work and relax!

Worse yet, some managers will go a step farther in hindering your ability to utilize vacation with guilt tactics! This is when although your vacation request may have been approved, you spend the days leading up to your vacation hearing about how much harder the rest of the team will be working to pick up your slack. Some managers do this unintentionally or even do it to make you feel needed and appreciated, but the reality is that it makes it hard for any employee with a conscience to leave work with the feeling that they are putting their coworkers in a bind.

Juggling family and/ or personal responsibilities with daily work responsibilities can be difficult without needed time for relaxation and recuperation. Everyone’s needs are unique of course, and there is no one size fits all solution to solve this problem. However, I have some helpful suggestions that may help you achieve a better work/life balance. First, realize that although it may not always be possible to take a week or two away from work to head to the beach if you have a job with a lot of responsibility, there are destinations closer to home that can give you the same benefits. If you are in need of some fun in the sun, find a local lake or even pond where you can have a picnic lunch or camp out for a weekend (a place away from busy multi-line phones and internet connections!) If you really need an umbrella drink to make the day complete, pack a little toothpick umbrella (which you can buy from the grocery or liquor store) and put in your wine glass (use your imagination for something other than strategic planning at work.)

If relaxation is what you crave, try a spa day at your local spa. If a whole day is too much time away from your schedule this week, a half day off in the afternoon to unwind can still provide a much needed break. Worried about the expense? Check these links to find discounts available near you for spa services or other great ideas for fun or relaxation away from work, or

Lastly, I might also suggest a day at home all to yourself. Sometimes, the best way to unwind is to just sleep in until noon and have no where that you have to be, with no one expecting anything from you. If you have a family that counts on you, this may take a bit more planning, but it can be done.

When time and workload is an issue, 3 or 4 day weekends are a great compromise to allow for family fun or personal relaxation. Time away from work can actually help make you MORE PRODUCTIVE when you are at work! Remind your manager of this the next time your approved day off is met with a guilt trip.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Relational Intelligence

Relational intelligence is not some new concept, but it is one that I've been hearing more and more about in recent months. What is it you ask? It's common sense really. If you are nice to someone, they are more likely to be nice to you. This is just another example of the Golden Rule here, wisdom as old as time itself basically. So, why the resurgence of interest in studying relational intelligence? I'll tell you my thoughts on the matter. For many years we've all heard the phrase, "It's not personal, it's just business." Well, as a friend of mine recently pointed out, that catch phrase actually came from the 1972 movie Godfather. Honestly, do we believe that taking advice from movie mafia gangsters is going to make us successful? I think not. The whole point of business is people.

By that I mean, business is there to do one of two things... to provide a product to a person or to provide a service to a person. Either way, business is all about people helping people for monetary gain. The motives behind creating the business don't have to be like those of Mother Teresa, but whether a business is for profit or not, it is there to provide something for someone. Knowing that people are involved in every business, doesn't it make sense to put some effort into caring for people? THEY ARE your business! So yes, business is personal. It is personal to the employee who needs the job to pay the bills to care for his or herself and to provide for family. The product or service purchased is personal for the customer too. They want good service and good products. Have you ever noticed though... even when the product is not great... people will still buy it if it offers either convenience or that "feel-good" something to go with it sometimes known as great customer service! Just imagine if you have a great product or service coupled with great customer service! The possibilities are endless!

So whether you are a CEO, an entry level employee, or an HR professional... remember... BUSINESS IS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE! Be mindful of your relationships with people and make every effort to build mutually beneficial positive relationships if you want to be successful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again

If you are like me, 2010 just flew by, and with it many exciting adventures and opportunities came and went. Did you seize the moments? Did you carpe diem? Did you stop and smell the roses?

Well here’s what I’ve been working on… as the President of the University of Central Oklahoma’s Human Resource Society I’ve been utilizing my network connections to bring exciting and knowledgeable HR pros to the society as guest speakers with the objective of enlightening the students to the realities that HR professionals face in today’s ever litigious society. We have discussed topics ranging from ERISA to Social Media and much more!

Now I’m setting my sights on a new project, founding a chapter of The National Society of Leadership & Success on the UCO campus. I’m not just telling you all of this to show why I’ve been too busy to blog lately (although maybe subconsciously I am), but really I have a point to make here. When you have a dozen irons in the fire, you can drop the ball and end up doing none of those things well. (Or such as in the case of my blog, not doing some things at all. They just get pushed further and further back on the priority list.) There is a very careful balance to be had.

Have you ever been so busy at work that you felt like you were always moving another project to the back burner to start something else without every really completing anything? If so, you are not alone. I have a little success tip for you though. This is not some new-found stroke of genius that I exclusively conjured up and trademarked here, but just some age old wisdoms from numerous sources that have time and time again proven true. These are key strategies that I utilize to accomplish so much when I have many hats to wear in both my professional and collegiate realms.

First, if someone else in your circle of influence (a Stephen Covey phrase) can do something that frees up your time, LET THEM! It is okay to delegate! However, it is important to utilize your peers, partners, and networks in a mutually beneficial way. This means, swapping favors. Don’t expect any of your professional relationships to last if they are one sided. Build up your peers for a job well done; sometimes praise is the only reward needed to motivate someone to help you again in the future. Sure you can handle multiple tasks, but don’t over extend yourself. If someone gives you a project, be honest about where you are with availability taking into account your current workload. Finally, I recommend always under promising and over delivering! What does this mean? It means you need to plan appropriately for even the unexpected. If you know that you can get a report done by Tuesday, given everything else in your schedule goes as expected, then tell your boss that you can have the report done by Thursday. This way, if some more pressing issue pops up you still have some flexibility with your time. If however, all goes as planned and you get it done by Tuesday, then your boss will be impressed that you beat your deadline!

Stay tuned for more words of HR wisdom in the coming weeks and months as I shift my focus to stay more connected with my social media outlets.