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Years ago, I just put my head down and wrote like a motherfucker.

Then I blogged.

Then I started cross-posting my blogging content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Then I used a WordPress plug-in to automate that laborious task.

Then I used Twitterfeed to cross-promote other people’s work.

I now use ManageFlitter to organize my Twitter account. I can categorize accounts that I’ll always follow even if they don’t follow me. I can block accounts that suck, too.

I purchased a license for Sprout Social to auto-post promotional information about my long-form content on other websites, live events, webinars, and my book.

I also jumped on the Buffer bandwagon to share great articles that I read online. I let Buffer figure out when to share those posts for greater visibility.

I use Instagram and just started using the Crowdfire app to help me to manage accounts and unfollow accounts that don’t follow me. It’s also good for blocking creepers.

I downloaded Freedom to limit my time online on my computer when I need to write. I use RescueTime to monitor my productive and unproductive time on my laptop, and I use Moment to now track my time on my phone.

You know what? I spend approximately four hours a day online. Not bad for a woman who seems wholly immersed in the social web. About 80% of my time is considered “unproductive,” but imagine how much more time I would spend if my social media presence weren’t automated.

Not bad.

Anyway, this is how the sausage is made. It used to be more difficult to be social, but social media automation has made me more human and less confined to my desk all day long.

But I don’t owe anyone an explanation of how I use my time or how and when I connect with people. Neither do you. Every judgy moment spent rationalizing these behaviors — or criticizing someone else for being too social or anti-social — is a moment that could have spent having fun.

I think most of us miss having fun online, honestly. Well, I do. So that’s been my goal, as of late. Less introspection about the impact and meaning of social media. Fuck that, you know? More cat photos and articles about feminism and politics. And more writing like a motherfucker, of course.

That’s what matters most in my life.

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Do you remember your first meeting? I do. I was at Monsanto. We were talking about staffing. I didn’t know what to do. I just sat there with a pen in my hand looking ridiculous.

Remember the days when meetings were over fast? Or when you could make up a lie, walk out of a meeting, and nobody noticed because nobody cared about you? Remember when meetings were called by someone else, and you were like — Sheesh, glad I’m not the nerd who needs to call a meeting every time my self-esteem needs a boost. Sucks to be that guy.

I hate people who cancel meetings at the last minute. My favorite is when I get a cancelation notice via email, but I don’t read it until I’m seated and ready for the meeting. Wait, remember when it wasn’t okay to start meetings eight minutes late, either? When meetings weren’t on Skype and didn’t resemble Taliban hostage videos?

I miss the days when someone would ask me a question, I would answer it, and no meeting was required because I was fully empowered to be an authority on something, and I didn’t need a committee to make a god damn decision.

I’m also nostalgic for a time in my life when meetings happened over coffee. Or ice cream. Or during lunch and someone else was paying. Or over secret mimosas and it wasn’t a meeting — it was the beginning of a friendship at work.

And speaking of mimosas — remember when nobody made a big deal about drinking beer at work because nobody really drank at work? Like, who wants to drink beer at work? At your desk? With email? Jesus, are you an alcoholic? You need beer at work?

Uh, yeah, let’s just drink beer at a bar after-hours like normal fucking people. Then go home to your life. That’s how this works. We’re adults.

Oh man, those were great days. Back in the day. You know, that day back in the [whatever decade] when we used to have fun at work. Or something like that. I don’t know — it’s always been work. It just seemed to take less effort, back then.

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I was in NYC, last week, for a workshop with young, adorable and very fun HR professionals. All of them were high-performing, high-potential leaders with big hearts and big ideas.

And it was weird to be on the other side of the room acting like an adult.

I used to be one of them. Frustrated at work, but still sorta hopeful. Wondering how to make an impact with limited budget and resources. Hoping that I get a decent raise, but more importantly, craving public appreciation and admiration for a job well done.

I hit the same HR-related obstacles and roadblocks that many human resources advisors face around the world: skepticism, hypersensitivity to the bottom line, and institutional sexism. I couldn’t fight the big fight from the inside. I left to start my own thing.

Walking around my old Pfizer stomping grounds, last week, I asked myself — is it better to work on human resources issues from the inside or be an HR pundit?

That’s not a simple question.

I have to say that I miss being part of something big. I miss having a regular paycheck and benefits that show up with very little effort on my part. I miss infrastructure. I miss someone organizing my travel and giving me paid time off based on my tenure.

On the other hand, being an HR advisor (VP, Director, Manager, Business Partner) isn’t very aspirational. Your salary is always capped. You can only earn so much. When you reach the top, that’s it. And there’s also the issue of being a true business leader. As much as I protested and insisted otherwise, I didn’t know how to turn $1 into $2 when I worked in HR. Sure, I had the promise and potential of someone who was sharp and confident; but just because someone has peanut butter and jelly doesn’t mean they know how to make a sandwich.

I have to say that being outside of HR is better than working in human resources. I run a successful consultancy. I train the next generation of leaders. I can intervene when this current generation of HR leaders screws up. Then I can go read at Bryant Park on a sunny afternoon because I’m the owner of my schedule and I have a few hours to kill.

Outdoor lunch. Finished the new Jon Ronson book. • #nyc #skylines #parksandrec

A photo posted by Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann) on

Being an owner and a creator isn’t easy, but for me, there is no other way. I’d rather be an external human resources consultant than an internal human resources advisor.

And let’s face it. HR is never considered an insider, anyway.

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The new trend in human resources and recruiting is to harken back to simpler times. People say that HR has become cluttered and over-engineered, and it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

I don’t disagree at all. When it takes two systems and five people to process one form — and you still need to send a paper copy to Iron Mountain — it’s tough to fight against the rising tide of simplification and automation.

Let’s not pretend that complexity is a recent condition of your human resources department, however. Long before HR, the act of hiring and employing people was difficult. It’s never been easy or straightforward to identify talent, onboard people, manage them, pay them, insure them, develop them, provide them with opportunities, and offboard them at the appropriate time.

I’m not sure why it’s hard. You can blame governments or unions. You can blame attorneys or the human psyche. You can blame executives and bosses who don’t pay people fairly and create unsafe working conditions, which drives a greater need for oversight and compliance.

(Just don’t blame your local HR lady who’s there to help.)

And if you do blame your local HR lady, maybe you can empower her to change. The first step is to trust that she has the capability to think creatively and innovatively about the current state of the organization. If she doesn’t, why does she work for you? I would start by asking her to be open and honest about what’s working and what’s failing on her watch.

(There are low-risk ways to do this. I know a few consultants (cough cough) who can facilitate this conversation.)

Although she oversees a process that may feel like a big mess, I believe your local HR lady has the intellectual curiosity and desire to focus on process improvement and simplicity.

I would give your local HR lady some headcount, too. Ask her to hire a data analyst or even a paid intern to examine systems and processes. Grant your HR team the authority to identify risks and threats that emanate from bad organizational behaviors. Ask for a plan to address those issues, too.

(That’s a pretty good first step. You will be surprised and impressed with what she does!)

I also think it’s important to acknowledge that managing a labor force is never easy. Nothing good is ever easy, by the way. You work at continually improving your marriage. When you have a family, you quickly learn that perfect is the enemy of good. Focus on “Good HR” instead of a fake version of great HR that doesn’t exist anywhere. You will see that your version of “good” probably supersedes most HR departments and personnel practices out there.

So if you keep your misty water-colored memories in check — and you tune out the noise from consultants who profit from the collapse of the modern HR department — you might just find that your local HR lady can change the landscape of your company, your culture and your employment practices.

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download, “I Am HR.” http://ow.ly/xIRbQ Click to tweet.

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I was born in 1975. My brother was born in 1978. Our parents were youngish baby boomers, and my dad was very nostalgic and sentimental. He loved to take pictures of everything.

laurie ruettimann

Unfortunately, there was no good way to preserve photos from that period. My father doubled-down on 35mm slides. He “scanned” our childhood images to photographic slides that can only be seen through a slide projector.

(Do you kids even know I’m talking about? Damn youngsters. See links above.)

I recently discovered about 700 slides in my basement. Not the ideal conditions for archival footage. For my brother’s birthday, I took advantage of a Facebook coupon and converted those slides to digital images through Legacybox.

(Facebook advertising works! My brother said, “These photos are amazing. Thank you.”)

I’m glad he is happy. I am the opposite of nostalgic, but it is fun to see photos of the 1970s and early 1980s. Wrigley Field looks different. Clothes are funny, too.

laurie ruettimann wrigley field

For the first time, my brother was able to see his childhood. That’s pretty cool, right? I remember him looking like this.

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Nostalgia is a slippery slope, however. It’s great to see my parents and family members look so happy and normal in the digital images. Everybody looks like they have potential, which is nice to remember. But then life happened. Just like many of you, my family has experienced its fair share of trouble. If I let nostalgia fester, I fear that it will lead to maudlinism.

(Who has time for that?!)

tacobiggles

The nostalgia loop is powerful and seductive, but every moment spent looking back for the sake of looking back feels a little pointless to me. It is intellectually lazy to think that what our childhood offered was better or sweeter or simpler than what we have today.

(That’s rarely true.)

And in order to make progress in life, you have to believe that tomorrow holds the possibility of something greater than yesterday or today.

(Otherwise why bother?)

So I’m torn between celebrating these images and storing them in another box — in the cloud — and never looking back. It’s amazing to see photos of my childhood cats, Taco and Biggles. It is fun to see my grandparents and family members looking so young and carefree. But sometimes enough is enough.

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ruettimann tar heel 10 milerAnother year, another Tar Heel 10 Miler. This year’s race, my third, was the same and different.

The best part of the race is running through the UNC football stadium, but it’s under construction, so we ran around the arena. The start and finish lines were chaotic, but I managed to survive without being trampled. (When you’re five feet tall, beginning and ending a road race with anything other than an organized system is daunting.)

The rest of the course was typical. We ran through the famous Gimghoul neighborhood and I didn’t see Gene Pease. I never see him even though I know he’s there, so that was the same. Then we had to tackle Laurel Hill, which is always a setup for drama. There’s a guy who plays the Ricola horn, and for some reason, it’s the most exciting part of the race. Unfortunately for me, he was taking a break when I came chugging up the hill. I almost burst into tears. But I almost always weep on that hill, so that was the same.

There were great things about the race. This year, I also ran alongside extended members of my Fleet Feet family. I ran with some new members of that tribe, along with my mentor who has been training me for years. We’ve never raced together, though, and that was a joy.

And after the race, before I could bemoan the fact that I was about 90 seconds slower than last year, my dear friend said, “You barely trained. You woke up. You ran ten miles. That’s amazing.”

I said, “Yeah, that’s true. And now I’m eating pretzels like a boss. I’m an athlete! Whoa!”

I love runners. Such optimists. That’s always true. And my new “normal” really is last year’s stressed-out version of myself. I can roll out of bed and run ten miles like it’s NBD. I’m no Meb Keflezighi, but I’m no slouch. That’s different.

So as long as we get to run through Kenan Memorial Stadium, next year, I’ll be back. It’s a fun race, and it always sets the stage for a great summer season of training for my fall marathon.

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I have a dear friend named Teresa. She’s an accountant who operates as my defacto life coach, especially during tax season.

I don’t think she knows it, by the way. She saves my life on a regular basis. I get the answers I need by watching her make her way through the world. Good times. Challenging times. Teresa is grateful. She’s gracious. She always gets it right.

Obviously her book recommendations are top notch, too. Teresa posted a positive review of The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People HelpHave you read it? Check it out. It’s good!

People ask me for stuff regularly, but they either ask in the wrong way or they ask for the wrong things. My mom says that I have an open face — that’s why everybody asks to tell me a story. This is true, unfortunately. I know a lot of secrets. And while I want to be a loving and kind friend to everybody, I can only listen for so long.

So what can I offer instead of attention?

I can write a check. I can offer pithy advice. I make great introductions because my network is fairly big. That’s about it.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t feel like enough. But I can offer other stuff, too. For example, if you can get yourself down to Orlando, I have a few free passes for the WorkHuman Conference.

Need a break from the kids? Family getting you down? Work is stressing you out? I don’t have time to hop on the phone and offer life advice, but I can offer you three days with smart people who want to make work and life better. People like Lindsey Pollak and Robert Emmons will have you distracted from your own pain and thinking about how the lessons from your journey can be used to help others.

(See? See how stuff can help?!)

If you’re interested in taking me up on this offer, all you have to do is ask. Tell me that you can cover your hotel and airfare, and the pass is yours. I don’t always have time for a conversation, but I do care. And I have resources to help you figure out what you need in life. Just ask!

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Not too long ago, I found myself in the restroom at one of the best companies to work for in America. When I went to wipe myself, the toilet paper disintegrated on my skin.

It’s one of the greatest places to work in America, and they give their employees one-ply toilet paper. I still can’t get my mind around that. But what am I going to do? Complain to HR? Not every problem is mine to solve.

It’s not like those jokers in HR seemed concerned about the bathrooms during a morning session on employer branding, either. In fact, they were moaning about “the lack of spend” on external branding initiatives.

Only a hero would have said, “Hold up. You know what would help your recruiting efforts? Higher quality TP.”

(I’m no hero.)

Employer branding feels a little like Scientology to me, right now. It was trendy a few years ago when the economy started to improve. Companies had the cash to spend. But now my friends, who should be doing better things with their time, have found themselves helping HR departments “go clear” by conducting “employer brand audits.”

I mean, really, it’s all very harmless except I can’t use the bathroom at a world-class company without digging into my handbag to find a better substitute for chintzy toilet paper.

I don’t dispute that companies need to invest in smart recruitment strategies. That makes sense. But at some point, your best and most fabulous employee will ask you, “Where were you when it seemed okay to spend $25,000 a month to license HR technology while shortchanging our facilities group? What drunk monkey authorized social media management software instead of TP?”

Hyperbole? Maybe. I dunno. I feel like that conversation is on the horizon.

An improving economy—combined with an aging workforce and a general war for talent—means that a reckoning is coming. As a human resources leader, you will be held accountable for your budget recommendations and choices. You should prepare yourself for the moment when someone of substance asks you, “Where were your critical thinking skills? Do you jump on every goddamn HR trend you see just because it’s social?”

(Go ahead and defend Meerkat at that moment. I dare you.)

So if you work in recruiting or HR—and you want to use expensive social systems to share a message about your company that’s probably not even true—you better have an answer as to why employer branding is more important than an employer’s responsibility to take care of its existing employees.

You say it’s not an either/or scenario. I say that Glassdoor, LinkedIn and social media management systems that bolt on to your existing talent acquisition tools are great, but you might want to invest in better toilet paper, first.

 

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I’ve been writing and speaking and tweeting and screwing around for many years. The first few years were great because I was doing it under the cover of anonymity. I had a full-time job, and blogging was fun.

The next few years were different but also fun. I left human resources behind and went waist-deep into the world of marketing, social media and technology. I took a job at an agency to learn new stuff. I built a speaking business. I wrote and retired several successful blogs, which were recognized as “must reads” by major media outlets.

But the past few years have been a little weird. I’m still a writer, but my audience has shifted under my feet. I often write about things other than HR. Long-time readers object, and it’s an awkward experience. I’ve had to say, “Quit coming here. There is nothing for you.”

But I want to keep some of my writing grounded in human resources because, quite honestly, it’s mine. I claimed it. I defined it. I’m awesome at it. And why the hell not? Everybody who has a successful career operates from a base of extensive expertise. I’ve watched people grow and evolve, but they’ve done it from their core.

(Gary Vaynerchuk will always do wine, even when he’s not doing wine. Rachael Ray is a DIY cook while interviewing Bill Clinton. And Mark Cuban will always be that entrepreneurial guy who screeches at referees.)

So I have a few goals in 2015: improve my skills as a writer and extend my topics so that my audience feels like I’m having the right conversations with them. I also want to stop wasting time on the internet.

(I’m talking about my time as a writer and your time as a reader.)

Personal growth takes time. It takes commitment. And it takes some courage. I need to meet new people and learn from the best. Back in 2007, I attended BlogHer and it changed my life. I sat in a room and listened to awesome women tell me how to live a better life. And I learned that choosing a different life had nothing to do with my job or my blog. It has to do with choices, duh.

Anyway, BlogHer was a phenomenal experience. I had the right conversations with the right people at the right time who helped grow—in human resources and beyond.

It’s been eight years, and I’m ready for round two. That’s why I am attending a creative non-fiction conference in a few weeks. I need to do two things: sharpen my saw and make sure that I’m having the conversations with the best people in the industry.

Wish me luck!

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When I was twenty-four years old, my boyfriend (now husband) and I faced an important moment in our relationship.

We worked together, and he was being relocated from St. Louis to Chicago. We weren’t married, but the company offered domestic partner relocation benefits.

(Pretty nice, right?)

Before we made any decisions, we had a whole bunch of awkward questions to answer.

  1. Did we want to continue living together?
  2. Did I want to move for his job?
  3. If we were willing to be domestic partners, why not get married?

My boyfriend was older and had an established career. I did not. He was successful and doing very well at work. I was just starting out and still harbored dreams of attending graduate school. I knew this decision would affect the rest of my life. It was tough to say yes without the promise of marriage.

So we had an awkward but crucial conversation about our future together. Neither one of us is very good with confrontation, so my boyfriend used his “engineering brain” and approached this problem in the most straightforward and logical way possible: he gave me a list of ten things I needed to change about myself in order for our relationship to succeed.

Just so you know, my husband says the list had five things on it. Memories are so unreliable. What’s the difference between five things or ten things? Not much. And I won’t lie. I was pretty sad. I just kept saying to myself—Ten things! Ten things! There are ten things wrong with me!

Eventually, I stopped crying. I knew Ken adored me and wanted our relationship to succeed. His list wasn’t mean, either. He wrote things like, “I want you to manage your money better.”

(He’s still saying that!)

And, beyond crying, I didn’t want to freak out and react to his list. Quite honestly, he put “be less reactive” on the list of things he wanted from me.

(Dammit!)

So I took a different approach. I put aside my ego and made a list of ten things that I loved about him. I wanted to show him that, when the stakes are high and the conversations are tough, I would always offer kindness and love.

Now, I am not saying you need to love somebody at work or in your everyday life to have a productive and positive crucial conversation. You don’t need to love your neighbor to tell him to get off your lawn. But, as I think about it, why not? Feedback, even in the most professional setting, should always be delivered with respect, compassion and empathy.

That’s sorta love.

And feedback—for the sake of sharing your feelings and for the opportunity to be heard by your colleagues and team members—is entirely pointless and selfish. Whether it’s at work or in your personal life, the only way to have a crucial conversation is to begin with love.

Otherwise, why the hell bother?

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