Posts by: Laurie Ruettimann

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You need to stick it out at your job.

There’s a myth out there that, in the future of work, you don’t need to work somewhere for an extended period. You can bounce around companies—and that’s okay—because it’s all about being agile, nimble and disruptive.

I’m here to tell you that it’s a goddamn lie.

It will take you two years to do anything great at work. The first year is all about building relationships. The second year is all about doing the actual work you were hired to do.

It’s true if you work in sales, marketing, or even at a hot dog stand. You don’t know anything when you start your job. It takes time to ramp up and earn trust. When you’re finally granted the freedom to do your thing, it takes a minute to be successful.

You may think that’s nonsense. In today’s economy, it’s crucial to make an immediate impact with an employer. If you’re there for 18 months, that’s a win if you leave with some accomplishments under your belt.

But, the thing is, eighteen months is not enough time to rack up achievements. It’s barely enough time to get to know your boss and colleagues. If you’re bouncing from company to company every 20 months, you’re not making mature and meaningful connections with the people around you. Positive outcomes are attained only through trust and a mutual understanding of goals.

So stick it out.

And, by the way, it takes you 24 months to do anything great in life beyond work. Recently married? It takes at least two years before you get a real sense of your marriage and its cadence. You have the first year of being newlyweds, and the second year of being like, “Holy shit, I’m married. Pass the potatoes.”

I think divorce is like that, too. You have your first year of grief, then a second year of trying things out by yourself for the first time. If you can get through those twenty-four months, I hear that you rediscover your inner greatness.

And I also think that retirement, whatever it means in 2017, takes twenty-four months to understand. There’s the decision to retire, which takes at least a year of mental preparation, and then the first year where you redefine the way in which you operate in the world. Fishing? Hiking? Golfing? Going to the grocery store at 11 AM? It’s all new.

The change curve in life is steep, my friends, and I stand firmly on the side of patience and vigilance. If it takes two years to do anything great, the clock is ticking. Whether it’s getting stuff done at work or moving on with your marriage, the time to start is now.

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Today is Labor Day, the unofficial start of the job search season in America.

Are you looking for work? Are you tired of your current role? Before you jump into the fray, some good news: there are six million job openings in America. The bad news: six million people are looking for work and the jobs remain open due to mismatched expectations on wages.

Companies call it a skills gap, and they’re right: it takes skills to live on $8/hr, and most people don’t have ’em.

So it’s important for you to know that your compensation expectations might not be met in a new job. It’s true for hourly workers, and it also applies to the professional workforce.

I think the other thing to remember is that most jobs, if not all jobs, totally suck. Leadership teams are beholden to nameless, faceless boards made up of white men over the age of 40. People don’t know how to talk to one another. Co-workers assume higher levels of intelligence and competency than they display on a regular basis.

It’s true where you work right now. It’s true where you’re going to work. The only difference is you. Can you be quiet and patient? Can you continue to forgo autonomy and independence for a paycheck? Can you seek to understand instead of accuse? Are you able to forgive the small stuff and remember that you work for something greater than petty political battles?

For those of you thinking about bouncing to the self-employed market, the time has never been better — if the time was 2013 and Obama were still in office. Right now, there’s uncertainty about healthcare and tax reform. Politicians routinely squeeze earnings and incent capital gains. So, if you make above $100,000 but under $1,000,000, prepare yourself for bullshit taxes and increased regulation in the name of “reform.”

What I’m telling you is that work is work. Labor Day might be the unofficial kickoff to the job search season, but it’s also the unofficial kickoff to the season of dashed dreams and busted expectations. Maybe you can do things differently, this year, and vow to make peace with your current situation.

Does your boss suck? Are you working too many hours? Are you spending more than you earn? There are ways to fix your life and improve your happiness quotient without jumping ship to another company.

The answer to a bad job isn’t another bad job. The answer is to examine your priorities and remind yourself of what matters in your life. Define your values. Set up some boundaries. Do less emotional work at the office and more emotional work with the people you love.

And stay off the job boards. If you’re going to find a new role, it will be from someone you know — or someone they know — and not through a website that ends with dot com.

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Hey, everybody. How’s your summer? Things are fine over here. I killed my company, got food poisoning with my husband, and had to cancel a trip to see Green Day at Wrigley Field because my brother is going to Rwanda.

You know, just an ordinary summer around here.

I’ve spent most of the summer at home, which is new for me. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor sent me a text in the middle of the afternoon. Was I around? Could I come over and take a look at an injured cat under his porch? He’s not a cat person, and he doesn’t like to see animals suffer.

Not sure anybody likes to see animals suffer, but I didn’t have time for a discussion on human psychology. I rushed over and saw a pretty horrific sight: Mister Snuggles, my other neighbor’s cat, was suffering in a bad way.

Mister Snuggles belongs to a guy who lives behind me in the woods, as much as any outdoor cat belongs to anybody. Snuggles is part of a colony of rescued black cats. They live in the woods because they have nowhere else to go. I love having them around because they eat moles and chase snakes out of my yard. Snuggles, in particular, is a glorious beast. He has long black fur with chocolate undertones, and he likes to sun himself on my driveway and pee on my neighbor’s porch.

So, anyway, Snuggles got into a fight with a car and it wasn’t good. His body was all twisted and mangled. He was crying gobs of mucus from his eyes. To make matters worse, his dad was out of town.

I won’t give you any additional details, mostly because I don’t want you to puke, but I wasn’t sure we could move Snuggles safely. Would he bite? Would I hurt him more if I scooped him up? My neighbor called animal control to intervene, and I worked the phone and email for 24 hours to find the owner. I was also able to zoom over to animal control and check on Snuggles, who was suffering and on a ton of pain meds, and let them know that I was trying to track down the owner.

Eventually, I reached my neighbor. He was able to see his cat before they had to euthanize him. I have some peace about that.

Since that afternoon, I haven’t been able to return to animal control for my volunteer shifts. While I’m sure somebody accidentally clipped Mister Snuggles with their car on the county road and didn’t realize it, I’m just shaken by the experience of seeing an animal suffer. It’s gonna take some time before I can go back to that building.

But there is some good news. Green Day is coming to Raleigh, tonight, and, in the ultimate #treatyoself move, I bought myself a VIP ticket. Snuggles would’ve wanted it this way. Gotta end this summer on a high note with one of my favorite bands. I have a ton of pent-up anxiety that I can unleash in the mosh pit. I want to punch Nazis in the face and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of bubblegum.

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Back in 2008, I felt like a rock star. I had a blog, and I was going to take on the world. The first destination for world domination? The annual SHRM conference.

I sent an email to Sue Meisinger, the CEO of SHRM at the time, and was pretty direct. I wrote something like — Hey, I’m Laurie Ruettimann. I write a blog called Punk Rock HR, and it’s awesome. You should read it. Can I come to SHRM for free? Will you give me a press pass?

That’s not an exact quote, but it’s close. Lots of “I”s and “me”s and not much else.

Sue wrote back almost immediately, and she was equally direct. It was like — I’m busy with some personal stuff, and, also, I’m retiring. I know what a blog is, duh. Have fun at the conference. Find William Maroni if you need anything.

Again, I’m paraphrasing the exchange, but I was in awe of her leadership skills. She was like Jean-Luc Picard, and people truly listened to her.

“Make it so.”

Her team was awesome, and they “made it so” for three white guys who thought they invented blogging and me. I had a great time at that event, and I formed relationships with people who work for big HR technology companies that still exist today. And Sue continued to stay in touch, and she always donates to my Hustle Up the Hancock race in honor of her sister. I think about them both as I climb nearly 100 flights of stairs to beat lung disease.

Sue Meisinger has long since retired from SHRM, and she just wrote her final column over at HREOnline about what it takes to be a successful practitioner and leader in human resources. You could do worse than to follow the advice of a woman who kicks ass and takes names like Sue, and I hope you read it.

I also hope Sue finally follows through on her threat to retire from the HR world. Good grief, this woman deserves a break from the world of performance management and talent acquisition software. And, while she has big shoes to fill, I’m sure she has trained and inspired enough people who will follow her common-sense-style and make life a little better for the next generation of HR professionals.

I know she has inspired me.

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My sister lives in Houston, and many of you have asked if she’s fine. Short answer: Yes. She’s safe. It’s been a stressful few days for our family, but nothing compared to what she’s experiencing. And, since she has the capacity and a bigger heart than her older sister, some extra people and dogs are staying with her.

Tragedy brings out the best in some people, which is why I’m hoping my colleagues in human resources all over America start thinking about how they can assist the residents of Texas once the immediate tragedy subsides.

HR can save the day. Here are some ideas.

Pay people for as long as you can.

    Most Americans don’t earn enough to cover a $500 home repair, let alone a flood that wipes out their entire existence. And, yet, the individuals who have the least give are giving the most. If you work for a major corporation, give everything you can and pay people for as long as you can. Especially those retail and restaurant workers. Continue your direct deposits as if nothing has happened. When the water recedes, write checks and hand out cash to employees without bank accounts. Can’t afford to pay people who aren’t working? Ask executives to forgo bonuses and pay people to stay home and clean up their lives. Don’t demand anything in return. It’s the kind of investment that pays dividends down the road.

Double down on remote work and transfers.

    The best antidote for personal pain is the distraction of a good and meaningful job. After a tragedy like Harvey, some families will have no choice but to move in with relatives and friends all over America. If you can accommodate remote work, do it. If you can transfer somebody from one retail or restaurant unit to another, make it happen. Give people something to do other than obsessing about what they’ve just lost.

Think creatively about PTO.

    We all know that unlimited PTO is a lie. But people are going to need some time off. Daycare and eldercare are disrupted. School schedules are jacked up. Somewhere between a total free-for-all and a coal mine, you should give your workers space and freedom to take care of personal issues. If you don’t let your people address the logistics challenges in their lives, small problems can turn into ongoing nightmares and stressful mental health challenges.

I’m not saying that the entire function of HR should stop what it’s doing and rush to the aid of flood victims in Texas, mostly because we have no idea what some of these individuals will need in the days and weeks to come. But when it’s possible to implement humane policies proactively, you should do it.

Tomorrow is too late. Start today. Harvey is an opportunity to show the growth of your industry and doubling down on the “human” part of human resources.

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At some point, I’ll get back to work and start writing. But not now.

Instead, I wanted to pause for a moment and reflect on Huge Inc’s summer reading recommendations. It’s heady and interesting and full of books I’ll never read because I’m not feeling very clever.

So, because I’m definitely not going to read books about AI at the beach, I wanted to share my summer book review. Actually, strike that, reviews. Plural. There are a few.

Mrs. Fletcher • NPR called this book raunchy. It’s about a middle-aged woman and her son, and it’s not for everybody. Do you like stories about college-age boys, sexuality, and MILFs? Who doesn’t! There are some laugh-out-loud moments and, also, some poignant moments. I liked this book a lot. It has a huge heart.

 

The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder • Want to read a childhood memoir and a crime story all rolled up together? Sure you do because there are strippers. Well, one stripper. And she’s more than just a stripper. She’s a daughter and a friend. Parts of this book made me cry, and there’s a link back to a suburb of Chicago that’s interesting.

 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel • I’ve never read a crime book in my life, and suddenly my summer reading list intersects with dark stories. This book is more than just crime. It’s about family and a strong woman who doesn’t fall into stereotypes. Weird to say that I enjoyed this book, but I did. Takes place in Denver and made me think of Mary Faulkner.

 

The Impossible Vastness of Us • I have no idea where I picked up this book recommendation. It’s YA romance. I’m not gonna lie, I sort of loved it. There’s a character named India Maxwell, and I gave it a 50-50 chance that she would be a damaged teenager on drugs. Turns out, that’s not part of the plot. Also, shockingly, there is a plot and character development. It’s good!

 

The Glass Castle: A Memoir • I had resisted reading this book for years because it looked like a downer. Guess what? I was right. I didn’t finish it because I don’t want to be depressed.

 

The Reason You’re Alive: A Novel • Is this my favorite book of the summer? Yes, I think so. It’s about a Vietnam Vet who’s telling the story of his life, which sounds horrible. Hang with it. The narrator is the kind of guy you’d associate as a “Trump voter,” if you know what I mean. Racist. Sexist. But also surprisingly human and compassionate. This book will challenge you to think about people differently. Also, the lines about the Dutch are priceless.

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel • If you want good life advice, read everything Brianna and Tara tell you to read. When they told me to read this book, I wasn’t sure it was for me. I finished the book in less than two days. It was excellent, and the narrator is a mixed-race millennial feminist. Booyah.

 

Borne: A Novel • If there’s one book that surprised me, this summer, it’s Borne. You’ve got a kickass black woman named Rachel in a dystopian world who’s immersed in a bunch of sci-fi shit that makes no sense to me. What happened here? Where did these monsters come from? Yet, this book was awesome. Super happy that I decided to suspend my cynical and judgy attitude and gave this story a shot. Totally worth my time and yours.

I also read a bunch of business books that, as the literary critics say, were boring as fuck and not very helpful. Who wants to think fast and slow? Who wants to improve their EQ and IQ? The answer is nobody. Nobody reads that junk and walks away thinking, “Damn, my life is better.”

Nope.

If anything, this summer has made me grateful for fiction. Lots of turmoil and anxiety in the world. Thank goodness for novels!

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Wake County Gov Pets | Mary Sanderson (154874)Years ago, my husband and I moved from Chicago to a tiny city in Michigan for his job. We said yes because we couldn’t say no. The Chicago site was shutting down, and the relocation offer was also a promotion. In fact, my husband’s HR guy was the one who convinced us that it was a good idea.

(That HR guy is now a nurse. Thanks for nothing, Steve!)

So, we packed our two cats and moved in November. We later learned that it’s the beginning of six months of frigid temperatures and gray skies. Kalamazoo only gets about 65 days of sunshine, and, to make matters worse, we moved inside of a snow belt. Our first winter was wondrous, but the next three years were pretty rough.

You know what got me through those endless winters? Volunteering with cats and dogs. Spending time with animals was a lifeline. I was a foster parent and event planner. For a short and unsuccessful time, I was a board member. We also picked up three cats of our own.

I was burned out on animal rescue work by the time we moved to North Carolina. No offense, but the general public is filled with idiots who vote against the government and yet also expect the government to take unwanted pets when they’re done with the animals. It’s super frustrating, and I have a whole diatribe on this, but the short version is that I needed a break.

Although lately I’ve got some time on my hands, and I have an iPhone that brings me reader complaints and offensive tweets from guys who think today is the day I woke up stupid. Why not turn my digital addiction into something positive?

So, I’m going back to my roots and volunteering at Wake County Animal Center. My official volunteer title is Feline Paparazzi, and I’m using my iPhone to take cat photos. Why not? What the hell else am I doing?

My real goal is to learn how to walk and bathe dogs, but I want to make sure that I commit to something that I can handle. That’s why I’m setting a short-term goal: 10 hours of volunteering with cats, and then I’ll assess whether or not I can also contribute to the dog team. I’m already close to meeting that goal.

I can’t fix the animal overpopulation problem — just like I can’t fix your stupid cousin who bought a designer dog — but I can do my small part to get these cats adopted. And, in going back to my roots, I remember what it was like to be a stranger in a new town who could’ve been codependent on her husband but, instead, chose to do something valuable on her own.

I used to be brave. I forgot about that.

There’s something to be said for looking to the past for answers to today’s challenges. For me, the answer always starts with volunteering.

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“What’s next, Laurie?”

People want to know what’s next for me, and the answer is that I’m not sure. I’ve killed my startup, but I haven’t killed the idea that companies can avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. What keeps me up at night? How often I spoke to project managers and leaders who said, “I hate work.”

The truth is, I also hate work. The ambiguity. The politics. The meaningless tasks that are important to someone up the command hierarchy but don’t move the business forward. So, I started digging deeper. What’s missing from work? What are the essential components of a meaningful workplace?

It turns out, there are seven. If your company gets four of them right, you’re serving your team well.

    Community. Sometimes a job is just a job, but without a human-to-human connection, it’s a prison sentence. Many workers don’t interact with colleagues or customers on a daily basis. When they do, it’s on Slack or in meetings where nothing is ever accomplished. I think there’s an opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves by doubling-down on volunteerism, community engagement, employee-run customer advisory boards, and all the initiatives that fall under corporate social responsibility. Community can be a crucial component of a smart and successful employer branding strategy.
    Fulfillment. Not every company is Google, but even small-time companies with cubicles and Windows NT laptops can offer fulfilling work experiences. As a leader, it’s your job to create an environment where words like “creativity” and “autonomy” aren’t forbidden. And, when you commit to creating a fulfilling environment, I think you’ll do what it takes to attract and retain the best talent. That includes signing on to the principles of fair pay, competitive PTO practices, and inventive total rewards packages.
    Diversity. Maybe your company has never hired a bi-racial individual who chooses to identify with a set of pronouns that makes people uncomfortable. Maybe your organization employs fewer old white men, and you don’t have any veterans on your payroll. I’m not sure what you’re waiting for when it comes to diversity, but nearly 45% of Millennials identify themselves as something other than “white.” Examine your organization’s biases, look at your workforce versus the American population, and close the gap.
    Advancement. It’s all fun and games for your employees until it’s time for an annual performance review and they’ve maxed out at the top of the pay grade. If managers aren’t leaving and there’s nowhere to go, your organization needs a continuous learning strategy. Job shadowing and career-pathing are two key strategies for Millennials and Gen Z that can apply to any demographic in the workforce. A workforce that isn’t learning is dying, and nobody wants to work for a declining company.
    Fluidity. Sometimes labels matter, and sometimes labels get in the way of work. When companies start having fluid conversations with employees, outcomes matter more than identity. Is your best employee suddenly pregnant? Did your best supervisor’s wife leave him? Does your CFO’s dog have kennel cough? Fluid work environments allow for life to happen without significant career hiccups, but they also require an employer-led commitment to work-life balance initiatives and diversity.
    Transparency. I’m struck by just how many educated people feel blindsided on a regular basis at work. The scope of a job changed. Project parameters shifted. The boss never clued you in. Your GM changed her mind and the meeting-after-the-meeting altered everything. It’s really frustrating, right? A friend of mine told me that chimpanzees are happiest when they have clear social hierarchies and know where they stand. Sometimes I’m not sure if humans are more evolved than chimps, but I do think there’s something to be said for explicit and honest communication in the modern work environment. The case for transparency is made when you look at the amount of time and money wasted when people don’t say what needs to be said.
    Legacy. You’re more than just an employee ID number or a figure on a spreadsheet. You’re an individual who matters. You matter to me, anyway. What you do for a living has some purpose in this world, even if it’s not immediately clear. The best organizations know that people can’t just show up to work and blindly tow the company line. Employees need a purpose that extends beyond themselves, and the best work environments offer people the opportunity to create a legacy that goes beyond a time clock.

So, just to recap, here are my seven components of a great work environment: community, fulfillment, diversity, advancement, fluidity, transparency, and legacy. If you can identify your core four and make a radical commitment to a meaningful workplace, your organization’s investment will pay dividends for years to come.

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I took a call on a late Wednesday afternoon because I was feeling lonely and disconnected from the world. I haven’t been on the road much in 2017 because I’ve been working on GlitchPath. When I’m not working, I’m doing quiet things like visiting sunflower patches or going to the beach by myself.

When a colleague wanted to catch-up on life, I decided to overcome my aversion to the phone and make an effort to be social.

The call started out straightforward enough. Small talk about the weather, families, work and volunteer activities. You know the drill. Then it came time for me to contribute something interesting to the conversation, and I geared up to talk about the nuanced position of my startup.

Namely, we’re fighting record job dissatisfaction and a flood of business tools in the marketplace. About 70% of people hate their jobs, and roughly 17% are actively disengaged and okay with sabotaging their work environments. It means that about one in every five employees steals food from the refrigerator.

(Is that you?)

Of the remaining 30% who might demonstrate some effort at the office, only a fraction feel that — even if the stars were all aligned and the odds were ever in their favor — they could beat failure. The biggest force of failure in the office? Misaligned expectations. If you’re still using Microsoft Excel and email to communicate and complete projects, which is what our research also showed us, are you honestly going to use a cloud-based platform to collaborate and beat failure?

(Not right now, you’re not.)

I was going to tell my colleague how I’m pausing GlitchPath and ending my investment. But that’s when he said, “I just want you to be successful at something.”

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I want to be successful at something, too. It sucks to fail. And, for a moment, I forgot that far too many of us see success and failure as opposite sides of the same coin. There’s money in the bank, or there isn’t. The software works, or it doesn’t. You either have the votes, or you don’t.

(Except, you know, that’s not always correct.)

So, I clammed up and said that everything was fine. It’s not a lie. Nobody died. However, I am ending this run because I’ve learned that no amount of code or fancy design will overcome the challenges of an immature idea that’s not ready for the market.

GlitchPath isn’t ready. I’m not the woman to bring this version of the product to market. I’m can’t make fetch happen. 

Does that make me a failure? Well, yes. Totally. I haven’t succeeded. That’s the very definition of failure. When you don’t reach your intended goals and objectives, you have failed. Therefore, I’ve failed. But I’m not despondent or jumping off a bridge. I’m pivoting and trying to figure out what’s next.

Does it sting? Heck yeah. But you know what else hurts? Being attached to something that isn’t going to work. To beat failure, you have to see failure. And I see it. It’s time to move forward and work on something new.

One of my advisors challenged me to write a list of the things I’ve learned from my experience over the past 18 months, and I’ll publish that list soon. Regardless, I have a viable future ahead of me. I’m excited to keep thinking about why work sucks and why projects fail. Who knows, one day I might strike gold and be good at something.

But GlitchPath isn’t it.

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