going on a retreat

Hi, everybody.

I am going on a retreat. I will write, do yoga, and take long walks. I will talk to real people who don’t have anything to do with human resources, recruiting or consulting. I will focus on my personal mission statement. I’ll read some books. I will probably eat potato chips before going to bed. And I will define success and failure for this blog, for my writing, and for my current business model.

I’m very excited.

When the retreat is over, I hope to have a better vision of where I’m headed in life. But if the only outcome is that I feel refreshed and re-energized, I’ll be okay with that.

Talk soon.


starbucksHi. My name is Laurie Ruettimann. I was once addicted to Starbucks, but that’s all over now.

Before I left for Cuba, last November, a friend joked that I might die without Starbucks. I thought, hey, that’s a little extreme. Cubans have good coffee. I’ll be just fine.

Turns out, I did nearly die.

My morning drink at Starbucks is the equivalent of six cups of coffee. I quickly figured out that there was no way I could ingest that much caffeine and get on a bus in Havana. I was shit out of luck. Literally.

My overall coffee detox began on my second day in Cuba.

The headaches came, but the good news is that they went away pretty quickly. I came home to America after nine days and decided to extend my coffee hiatus. That went fine, but then I had to travel for work in America and quickly realized that most morning meetings revolve around coffee. I allowed myself two cups with cream and that’s it. Doesn’t matter the brand.

But my Starbucks days are over (minus drip coffee when I travel). No espressos, no mochas, no javas, no flat whites, no macchiatos, and certainly no frappucinos. It’s real coffee or nothing at all, and some days it’s nothing at all.

Can I keep this up?

Well, it’s now February. I thought Starbucks would send out a search party to look for me, but lazy parents are creating new brand loyalists on a daily basis. They don’t need me, and I don’t need them. Life without Starbucks is fantastic. I can fall asleep faster at night. The first four hours of my day are no longer an accelerated, non-stop race to lunch. And I’m not randomly yelling at people unless they deserve it.

Well, that last one is debatable.

It’s possible to quit Starbucks, diet soda, social media or cigarettes and not die. In fact, I want to recognize the difference between needing something and wanting something in life. If I need you, my dear Starbucks, I shouldn’t have you. Nothing should have that much power over my life and my pocketbook.


Do you know someone with horrible breath? Do you work with someone who starts talking and causes you to reach for the gas mask? You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s the smell of decomposing food coming from the belly of a large, fat water mammal.

Turns out that halitosis is a principal indicator that the body is about to fail.

One of my best friends in the world is a dental hygienist. She’s not on the cutting edge of science, but she’s close. Researchers have discovered nine medical conditions that your breath can reveal. My friend has been trained to clean your teeth and know if you’re falling apart from conditions such as acid reflux, diabetes, or even heart disease.

(That’s me. I have acid reflux. Sorry, everybody.)

The force of failure on your body is gross, and it’s manifested in something as simple as your breath. But how often do we just ignore our colleagues and friends who are rotting away on the inside because the truth makes us uncomfortable?

The connection to bad breath and the body has me thinking about visible signs of failure that are probably just as obvious to spot but regularly ignored.

Let’s take my life, for example.

Why do I always have a nemesis at work? Why do I waste so much time on projects? Why are my communication skills so poor? Why do I have a conversation about politics when I know the exchange is doomed? Why can’t I manage conflict better? Why is it so hard to keep our commitments? Will I ever be able to stick to a budget? Do I lack the skills to demonstrate basic life skills and competencies? Why am I such a busybody? Why must I increase my “scope” into your life instead of managing my own? And why are my expectations in life always too high or too low?

Failure smells, and there are two kinds of people in this world: people who sniff out the signs and people who don’t.

Successful, happy and emotionally stable people are aware and mindful of failure. They see it (and smell it) as something to consume, not avoid. They know it’s coming. They recognize its odor. And they can maneuver around land mines and obstacles because they retain the insights and memories of the last goddamn time they failed.

Unsuccessful people would rather wear a gas mask, put on blinders, and plow forward through life in an emotional bubble.

Me? I want to consume failure earlier and faster. I’m not looking to avoid heartache (because despair and disappointment are inevitable in life), but I want to have more experiences that are useful, better and more fun. Failure is a natural part of growth, development, and innovation.

So if you are disappointed by relationships or routines in your life, it’s time to explore your daily routine and search for the obvious signs of failure. Alternatively, you could ask for expert help and gain critical insights into your personal and professional behaviors that keep leading you to the same, dead-end destinations in life.

But if people keep offering you Altoids, don’t reach for a toothbrush and some floss. Reach for your phone and call 911! Your body is failing you, and you might not have much time.


performance management

I know the current trend is to decouple performance management from compensation, but I hate that trend so much. I want to stab it in the face.

Ongoing communication is important.

I’m not here to advocate for an annual performance review and compensation discussion with no contact in the middle. I’m just on the side of science that says you probably don’t understand your team’s performance. You bring your bias to every discussion. So let’s not pretend that more manager-to-worker communication is the solution to creating a robust and satisfying employee experience. Yes, okay, talk to your employees regularly. But then speak to them in a formal, documented, considered way when the time comes for a raise (or not). Stop acting like there’s a false choice between being Tony Robbins and doing nothing but having an informal discussion about cash.

Performance and compensation are linked, and your workers should understand how and why.

Most professional employees get an annual lift in pay. You get one shot at it, and all of your hard work comes down to one decision. If you’re the average worker and don’t fight to earn the best raise possible, your future earnings suffer. Employees know that performance is the bedrock of compensation, and to decouple the performance discussion from the compensation process is disingenuous and alarming. Do you award raises and RSUs based on something other than performance? If so, be ready to tell everybody what the hell your compensation program is all about. And maybe call in some lawyers.

Performance informs pay.

I know you hate to link performance and pay because that seems heartless. Of course, employees work to receive benefits and professional development opportunities. They get to hang out with fun people. They might even reprioritize money if you give them a mission and vision. But if you take away money, it’s not a job. It’s volunteerism, and they won’t show up. Mature people agree that it’s not sacrilegious to talk about compensation and performance in the same breath. If a corporation is here to make money and do good work, let’s improve our communication skills and find a mature way to talk about performance and wages with our employees.

So, in short, stop lying to your employees and saying that performance management is a sacrosanct process that is reliable, valid, and done for the sake of personal and professional development. Performance management might lead us down the path of greater personal awareness, but for most of us, it should lead down a path to a raise and maybe a bonus. Let’s make the process of giving feedback and awarding equal pay for equal work a little more transparent, logical and mature.



There’s an enormous push in the HR market to use technology to help employees save more for rainy days and retirement. The drive towards financial wellness is awesome. You need finances first, though.

In 2016, cash matters.

Workers aren’t stupid. At the first sign of trouble in the economy, companies will buckle down and focus on revenue and margins instead of retaining key employees. If they don’t cash in on the war for talent right now, they never will. If you want your workforce to contribute more towards retirement and savings accounts, you have to pay them more. Those stagnant old wages won’t do.

Create a financial wellness program because it matters, not because you’re chintzy.

Nothing worse than being encouraged to save more for retirement and then receiving a bogus match from your employer. It also sucks when companies talk about wellness but don’t contribute more towards healthcare costs. Yes, okay, we hear you. Obama ruined everything. But here’s the deal: employees have been overcharged for years, and nobody gave a shit. And Millennials are not going back to the old days of being screwed by a gap in coverage or not having access to birth control. So you want your workforce to save more for retirement and contribute more towards healthcare? Organizations better contribute more, too.

We’re in this together.

I would love to meet a CFO who stops viewing labor as a cost that will one day be mitigated by monkey-robots. (Believe me, those CFOs are chomping at the bit to replace you with a machine or an algorithm.) Until that happens, my message to executive leaders is simple: stop being so adversarial. Until those monkey-robots do your bidding, you’re stuck with a workforce that is your partner towards profitability. You cannot hoard wealth at the top and then tell your workforce to “pack a lunch” and budget to save for retirement.

Financial wellness programs are coming, and it’s a huge business. But let’s try to do something different, for once. Instead of implementing another ineffective program that fails, let’s think about the cause of our problems and work out the glitches before we foist this on our workforce.

In fact, working out the glitches of any program is HR’s number one job.


Failure is so shitty and tough. I fail a lot. I can speak from a very personal place on this topic.

  1. Did you try?
  2. Did you take a risk?
  3. Was it stupid?
  4. Did you make a huge mistake?
  5. Are you embarrassed?
  6. Did you waste time?
  7. Did your feelings get hurt?
  8. Was it a waste of money?

As long as you didn’t hurt anybody and no one died, you can overcome your failure.

(Those are two big variables, by the way. Try not to hurt anybody.)

Next time, do two things differently: try to predict your failure by conducting a pre-mortem, and try to fail faster. What I’m telling you is both simple and hard. I’m telling you to have courage in the face of failure. Don’t be afraid to call bullshit on bad ideas, and don’t be afraid to stop wasting time on a good idea gone bad.



I’m missing a tweet-up in Raleigh, tonight. I’m bummed. I have to work. By working, I mean that I have to go to another town and talk about some stuff. Then I get to have dinner with friends that I initially met through the internet.

Man, the internet is something else!

Back in the day, I thought the internet was going to change my life. I had a cat. He was cute. I had my own blog with a ton of traffic, too. I remember counting my social media followers and thinking THIS THING IS GOING TO CHANGE MY LIFE.

I was right. It did.

The internet has been good to me. I started a blog and ended up working on my writing skills. I earned a few readers and escaped my life as a boring HR lady while still working as an HR lady. That’s a two-for-one right there. The ultimate hustle, baby.

When I felt brave enough to leave my job, I did.

Thanks to George Bush and the economic crash in 2008, the internet gave me an opportunity to be helpful. I offered career advice during the Great Recession. Since that terrible time, I have been a coach, a cheerleader, and a big sister to a lot of people.

Dang it, I was almost a reality TV star! The internet is okay!

Whenever I blame Facebook or SwarmApp for the things that are wrong in my life, I remind myself that I’m in charge. My problems are my fault. I can’t blame Twitter when I’m cranky around my husband. I can’t blame Instagram when I don’t feel creative. I am an adult. I can make choices with my time and attention.

In fact, I should be more thankful.

The internet has given me an awesome life. Everything I hated about my old career is gone because of the goodness of social media. I’ve traveled around the world and lived a bigger life than I ever expected thanks to my stupid blog. And tweet-ups, especially those in Raleigh, have introduced me to some of the most important and beloved people in my life.

(My husband and I drive 25 minutes to watch Homeland at our friends’ home just because we love them so much. I met those people at a tweet-up!)

Of course, the internet has a downside. Yes, I’m addicted to social media. My time management skills are poor, and sometimes I have to put my phone in the garage and get away from it all. But life is infinitely better because of the connections and opportunities that have materialized through the internet.

In fact, I’m nearly breathless when I think about how my life has changed over the past 12 years. I feel like there’s more space for creativity, love and entrepreneurialism thanks to the changes I made in my life when I started blogging. And I’m also overwhelmed when I consider how many good friends I’ve made through local and industry tweet-ups and networking events.

So I hope you don’t beat yourself up for having an addiction to your iDevice.

I hope you don’t beat yourself up when you take a risk on the internet and it doesn’t initially pan out, either. They say that formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune. I say that my self-education has happened through my experiences on the internet, and I’m forever grateful for the lessons it has taught me.

(And have fun at the Raleigh tweet-up, everybody!)


public speaker

I’ve never met a public speaker who wasn’t trying to make good on a failed dream. Speakers are humble and use failure as a tool to teach others.

Some of us are writers. Some of us are musicians. Most of us are artists, performers or athletes who are also trying to be parents, spouses and responsible members of society. We could not capitalize on our primary dream without sacrificing too much. However, we’ve learned some lessons, hacked the system, and we are trying to pass on our knowledge to the next generation of visionaries.

So that’s the first step in being a public speaker. Admitting that you are not perfect, but out of your personal and career-related mistakes, something better emerged.

Next up, you need to reconcile failure with the fact that you are, indeed, an expert. Before you get on that stage, you need to know your stuff. I don’t mean that you worked in an industry and have a few tricks up your sleeve. You must be a specialist in something because everyone will want to call you an imposter, including your fragile inner voice. The only way to fight the skeptics and cynics is with deep, undisputed domain expertise.

However, it is not enough to be smart and clever. You must have something uniquely valuable to say. You need to have a grand thesis that gets you out of bed in the morning. Expertise without the big idea is, quite simply, boring. It is the human form of Google. Teach junior college or mentor a bunch of kids. Be a minister, a counselor, or a volunteer at a local museum. Get off the stage because there is no space for data without emotion.

Okay, let’s say you do have domain expertise and a grand thesis. There’s another step in the process. It is called marketing, and it sucks, but it is a required step that shows an audience that you possess information that will change their lives. You have to market yourself like it’s your full-time job because it is a full-time job.

At least 50% of your time should be dedicated to creating content that adds value to the world. You can click here to learn how to create a blogging strategy — complete with newsletters, email blasts, tweets, podcasts, etc. — that truly works. But now you are in a double-bind that twists up most public speakers. Who buys the cow if they can get the milk for free on a blog? Why would someone pay you to speak if he or she can read your free blog and watch you on YouTube?

Well, they might not pay you.

Most public speakers do not earn anything during the first three years of business. You will spend 50% of your time creating content, and the other 50% will be a mix of frenetic activities. You’ll be networking with people who might hire you to speak. You should attend conferences to watch other successful speakers on stage. Hone your craft and work with a speaker coach. Research your industry and send out speaking proposals. You should also network with other domain experts who might mentor you and introduce you to influential event planners.

Every year of those first three years gets a little easier. You might be offered free opportunities to speak. Say yes. Then someone might offer to pay for your travel expenses. Say yes. Then you might be asked if you consult, which is just another opportunity to stand up in front of people and tell stories. Say yes if you can swing it without spending too much time doing actual work or creating a curriculum guide.

During those first three years, don’t waste any time. Write an e-book. If you’re brave, write a regular book if you can. Find friends in the mainstream press and get quoted by real reporters. Attend Toastmasters. Volunteer outside of your industry because it makes you a better person and helps you stop obsessing about your speaking business.

Also, don’t forget that, throughout all of this, you have to love your audience. It is something that Ita Olsen taught me, and she’s right. You cannot be sarcastic. You cannot talk down to people. Although you’re there to teach them, you cannot act as if they need to be taught. While only 12% of your audience might be ready to hear your message, you need to believe that 100% of the audience will have their lives changed if they meet you.

As a public speaker, you are a musician. Your voice is an instrument. If you do not love your audience, they know. They hear it in your voice and tone. So while you are working on building your business and wondering why nobody will pay you, don’t get cynical or sound angry. Remember that you are enduring the same “public speaker boot camp” as some of the great speakers and leaders of the late 20th and early 21st-century speaking circuit.

Humility. Domain expertise. Grand thesis. Marketing plan. Hard work. Love. These are the essential elements that will get you through boot camp and bring you to a happy place in your career. Good luck, and I hope to see you on stage sometime in the next three years.


It never gets better than your first day of work. Even if your onboarding program is dull, or the HR lady leaves you in a room for four hours to complete your new hire paperwork, it is better than day two. Day two will be better than day three.

(It all goes downhill from there.)

Day one is the best day of work because nobody knows you. Your idiosyncratic behaviors are still a mystery. You haven’t developed your nemesis. Also, you can dream that the line at the closest Starbucks to your office moves quickly.

(It doesn’t.)

So if day one is the best for employees, and it’s not all that great, how do you make it better?

Start later.

For some reason, employees have always been asked to show up at 8:30 AM on Monday for their first day of work. I don’t know about you, but that is the absolute worst time on my calendar. I am barely awake. The coffee I drank on my way to work hasn’t hit my system. I still haven’t gone to the bathroom.

Day one does not have to start early, and it doesn’t have to be a Monday. Worried about getting them paid for the entire pay period? Pay them regardless and have them show up on Tuesday. Alternatively, start later but pay the new employee for the whole day.

Begin with a training plan.

Instead of going straight to the do’s and dont’s in the workforce, kick off the morning with a discussion about learning and developmental opportunities. You can tell your new hire, “Hey, we are gonna pay you. Trust me. Also, duh, you can’t sexually harass people. We’ll talk about ‘rules’ later in the day. Let’s start off with an outline of what you’ll need to know about this job. Let me show you how our company invests in its workforce.”

Get the paperwork out of the way.

There are so many HR technology companies who do electronic onboarding, and yet there are so many companies who won’t pay for it. “We have a business partner. If we outsource onboarding, why do we need her?”

There’s some truth in that question. However, your HR business partner is more than just a typist and a line editor for payroll change forms. She is a guide to your company’s values and behaviors on day one. So get the paperwork out of the way (before day one) so she can help your employees get to work as quickly as possible.

Finally, slow your roll.

Who said every aspect of onboarding has to happen on day one? Your powerpoint presentation on the company structure is excellent. I love your witty jokes, your slide animation, and your cat GIFs.


However, your powerpoint presentations about company structure or mission/vision/values make no sense until about 30 days into the employee’s tenure. So slow it down and think about creating an onboarding and new hire orientation program that offers information in bite-sized nuggets.

So, in short, quit making day one so boring, stressful and weird for your new employees.

Separate the steps for onboarding and new hire orientation, automate the dull stuff, and work hard to make day one as fun and easy-going as possible.

After all, it never gets better than your first day.



Several years ago, my friends and I started a meme called #timsackettday to honor unsung heroes in the field of human resources who hustle but don’t receive any press. We’ve honored good folks like Tim Sackett, Paul Hebert, Kelly Dingee and Victorio Milian.

Today’s winner is Recruiting Animal. That’s not his real name, of course. It’s his nom de guerre, or as some people like to call it, a pseudonym. But I think a nom de guerre is perfect because Animal goes to war against stupid, cliche and trendy recruiting practices.

He’s been doing it forever.

Before you heard of the internet, Recruiting Animal was blogging about recruiting and hiring. Before you learned about LinkedIn, he was teaching recruiters that “social recruiting” isn’t just posting jobs on a social job board. And before you listened to Serial, Animal was podcasting.

Recruiting Animal has a huge persona. On his radio show, he’s known for yelling and being passionate. He’s not vulgar, but he is in your face with opinions and ideas. Honestly, Recruiting Animal paved the way for my career as a blogger. I broke out on the scene and had permission to be kooky because Animal did it first.

I’ve also learned how to be a better person from Recruiting Animal. He’s a generous soul who gives back to his readers and listeners. If you have something smart to say online, he wants to know you. If you’re a nice person, he will champion your clever ideas to other intelligent people. Animal is precisely the reason I end every presentation by introducing my audience to 3-5 bright thinkers who will change their lives.

  1. Please follow Animal on Twitter.
  2. Check out his Facebook group.
  3. Find him on BlogTalk radio.

So please celebrate Recruiting Animal’s influence on the social HR and recruitment community by congratulating him on being the recipient of the 5th Annual Tim Sackett Day award.

He’s really awesome.

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