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Ruettimann-144bw1I’ve been doing more media, lately, and I just thought it would be amusing to share some of those links.

  1. The Office Pet Is a Pig. No, Really – WSJ
  2. How to get that promotion you’ve been waiting for – Mashable
  3. How to Determine Your PTO Policy – Entrepreneur 
  4. 11 Habits of Expert Salary Negotiators – Real Simple
  5. How to Date (Responsibly) at Work – Glamour

I’ve also been in Men’s Health and a few other print publications that haven’t archived to the web.

I missed talking about the intersection of work and human resources. I did this quite a bit through 2011, and then I stopped to focus on building a consulting business. That was dumb. I should always do media. Always!

I am an ambassador for human resources who also happens to have some HR domain expertise. I’m a feminist, an independent thinker, and I trust you to be your own boss. You don’t need a lot of rules to do great work. And I’m not the kind of HR lady who wants to mother you. I’ve got other stuff to do.

So here’s me: I’m an HR expert who isn’t in love with human resources. But I’m not in love with your dumb-ass ideas about the future of HR. 

Hi, everybody. It’s nice to be back! 

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Sarcastic people are often passive-aggressive.

Snarky people are often right.

Remember that the next time you call someone snarky and mean it as an insult.

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I’ve been blogging about human resources, in one capacity or another, since 2004. While I’m the first to indict human resources for its stupid behaviors, I also serve as a character witness for the men and women who are in office parks and factories around the world—serving leaders and employees who don’t deserve their genius.

So when LinkedIn announced that it was asking 300 interns with very little work experience to hack their way to a better version of human resources, I was a bit confused. There’s a misplaced belief that 300 fresh and bright eyes might see things that the old people in HR don’t see.

Don’t believe the hype.

Some people think that banishing experts from brainstorming sessions is a good idea, but that’s only been shown in small studies and very contained environments. If you do further reading, science tells us that LinkedIn should just ask 300 women to attack existing HR problems. That would work, actually.

And collaborative efforts are tough. First, you have to agree on the problem. Simply muttering “HR sucks” is not a very effective problem statement. Then you have to get the right people in the room who operate with the right behaviors. Sounds unnecessarily complex because it is complex. If we could hack our way to solutions, we wouldn’t need to hack in the first place. The solutions would appear before us after a long night with a little Adderall and some Diet Mountain Dew.

Listen, I’m all for good work.

But you can’t remove scientists and solve the problem of drug-resistant TB. You can’t get a group of marketing professionals together and solve Beal’s conjecture. How can you get 300 interns to solve HR problems?

Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems sorta dumb.

Hackers know how to hack. Corporate nerds don’t.

I just hope LinkedIn asks their interns to bring more than just enthusiasm. Real hackers bring a very substantial set of tools with them to the party, if you know what I mean. They’re eager to solve problems, of course, but they don’t just show up to the party with their smartphones and a bag of weed. They start with solid computer skills and have a broad understanding of the protocols and technologies that they’re about to dismantle.

Then they might smoke some weed.

Which is why I just can’t believe that 300 interns—with limited work histories and nothing more than a stereotypical worldview of HR that’s been fed to them by consulting firms and academics who benefit from the dismantling of HR—would have more insight on the function of human resources than LinkedIn’s very own HR team.

And what do these interns have that LinkedIn’s HR team doesn’t have?

If LinkedIn doesn’t employ HR domain experts who are steeped in the future of work and implementing those philosophies within their own organization, isn’t that a wholesale indictment of LinkedIn’s business model?

Anyway, the LinkedIn HR Hackathon seems hokey and stupid to me. Just like a bunch of HR tools to watch the for-profit dismantling of their career paths from the sidelines and cheer it on. Ugh. There are days when I feel like Sisyphus, and today is one of those days.

So you can jump on the hackathon bandwagon, but I’m going to sit this one out.

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11667351_10153422527234935_3925708668750311651_nYears ago, I went to college in London. I roomed with a girl from Boston. Her name was Valerie.

Valerie was dating a boy who was, in my totally uninformed opinion, a big sack of wheat. There was another boy in her life, Tom, who seemed to love her dearly. He called long-distance—because that was a thing back in 1996—and wrote sweet letters even though he was busy with an internship out in Los Angeles.

I didn’t know anything, but I told Valerie that she should consider dating Tom because they seemed more compatible.

Well, Valerie and Tom are now married with three kids. And, while I take no credit, I take all of the credit. Come on, man! That’s a great story!

Val also introduced me to her family, who are wonderful, and to a circle of friends back in Boston. Throughout the years, some of those relationships have expanded. I met a friend, Sully, who is pretty remarkable. He’s a filmmaker and a general badass. He and another one of his friends, John, decided to drive across the country back in 2000 (or maybe it was 2001).

He asked, “Can we crash at your place in Chicago?”

I had an apartment and only one cat—if you can believe it. I invited Sully and John to sleep on my sofa bed. Two dudes in my apartment may seem sketchy, but it was totally comfortable and platonic.

I stayed in touch with everybody, of course. Years later, when I thought about ditching human resources and being a cat blogger, I opened up a Facebook account for Scrubby. Right away, the algorithm worked its magic. I became fast friends with a cat named C. Angus Floyd—a fuzzy black kitty who looked like Princess Monster Truck before PMT was cool.

C. Angus Floyd (or just Angus if you’re nast-ay) was a charming and handsome cat. He had impressive outside interests, too. He liked design, furniture, art, great music, good food, and fun movies. And it turns out that Angus belongs to a woman by the name of Jen, who is John’s wife.

Small world! Small world! Small world!

So Jen and I became friends, and I had an opportunity to see John and Jen when I went to Harvard in 2013 to speak. They have kids, and we had a pizza party. Sully was there with his wife and kids, too. (Sully’s wife and children are awesome, btw.) Angus made a guest appearance, and I was happy to meet the wooly man-cat who knitted the circle together.

But sad news to report. Angus passed away. Ugh. There’s never enough time.

Angus’s passing is horrible, but I am reminded that life can so astounding. From two college kids in London to a community of adults with careers, kids, and cats on Facebook! Amazing.

In my mind, Angus serves as a testament to the power of social media to expand and enrich lives. My relationship with Angus’s parents is very meaningful to me and represents the perfect blend of online and in-real-life communities.

So this post is for Angus, Jen, John, Sully, Tom, and Valerie. I’m raising a virtual meowtini to their families, their kids, and to their animals. I love them, and my life is better for knowing all of these amazing people (and wooly creatures)!

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FullSizeRenderDo you have an iPhone 5 or 5s? You’re probably like one of my friends who thinks your phone is slow, or your photos look blurry compared to what you see on Facebook and Instagram. And maybe you’re now waiting for the new iPhone 6s so you can upgrade to a better device—and a better life—and be happier and sexier and more fun.

(Whatever. Good luck with that.)

Some people think that our devices (including phones, cars, televisions and even microwaves) are planned to fall apart. That’s part of a theory called planned obsolescence.

Apple doesn’t make money if your phone lasts forever. Whirlpool loses market share if your washing machine never fails.

Obsolescence doesn’t have to be deliberate, though. Sometimes it no longer makes sense to produce or upgrade software and devices. Your old Jitterbug phone is a paperweight. My iPad2 is a brick. Technology evolves, and specific pieces of hardware and software just can’t keep up.

There are many examples of planned obsolescence in our human resources community. When I started in HR, there were payroll ladies who ran the payroll in notebooks and on typewriters. Someone saw an opportunity. Now our new “payroll ladies” are air traffic controllers who oversee the logistics of payroll.

But some of the obsolescence in HR feels treacherous. There are companies out there who will convince you to outsource your recruiting function and then fail to fill your positions in a timely fashion. They defend themselves by blaming the war for talent while simultaneously telling you that your former internal recruiters were lazy and couldn’t do their jobs.

That feels a little like planned obsolescence to me.

Or the consulting firm that swoops in and meets with the CEO, and undermines the CHRO, all while communicating how important it is to have a solid and strong HR function?

That feels like planned obsolescence, right there.

Or the software company that promises the seamless implementation of software modules and then tries to sell you on HR business process outsourcing because your HR business partners just don’t get strategy and tech?

Feels nefarious to me.

The old way of doing human resources—where it’s a bunch of older women ruling the roost and being bossy about the people-related processes in an organization—is dying a slow death. But those women existed for a reason. CEOs got cheap with workers. Managers discriminated against people. Supervisors sacrificed safety for short-sided efficiency improvements.

So if you want to create companies that are truly people-focused and profitable, the answer isn’t to run in the opposite direction of HR and plan for its obsolescence. The answer, more often than not, is to work with your existing human resources team and figure out why you haven’t listened to them more often. Figure out what biases (or intentional choices) prevented you, as a leader, from doing your job and helping them evolve right along side your other functions like marketing and sales.

Your human resources function serves an important purpose, like it or not. I simply believe that you plan for HR’s obsolescence at your peril.

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There’s one thing you need to know about me: I get Jim Rohn and Jim Rome confused.

(One dude is a leadership guru. The other dude is an ESPN guy or something.)

And there’s another thing you need to know: I love Jim Rohn quotes, but I don’t always get them right.

(Close enough, I say!)

So I was in a car, a few weeks ago, with a human resources consultant who also happens to be a dear friend. What do you talk about on a two-hour car ride when you’re done talking about work and life and pets and kids and employee engagement and SHRM?

You talk about more HR shit like leadership and motivational speakers.

So I said, “I believe you are the sum of the five parts of people you spend time with. That’s some Jim Rome gold, right there.”

My friend laughed and said, “Don’t wish for the stars, man. Wish you were a better.”

I loved it! He was playing along, too!

So I doubled-down on my fake Jim Rome knowledge and said, “If you want it, here it is. Go and get it. First, find a way.”

And my friend said, “Excuses build coffins with nails.”

Boom. That’s pretty much true.

Being on the road and away from home is boring. Sometimes it’s filled with awkward silence. Sometimes it’s filled with too much chatter about work itself. What I cherish about my friend is that he didn’t correct me on Jim Rohm versus Jim Rome. He didn’t bat an eyelash when I wanted to talk about anything other than work. And he made me think that, yeah man, excuses do build coffins. I see it.

Spending time and having weird conversations with colleagues and friends? That’s what motivates me (or keeps me from going crazy) when I’m on the road.

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I get calls on a regular basis to provide formal and informal references on people in my industry.

First things first: reference checks are not background checks.

Reference checks are subjective. Reference checks are unreliable and invalid ways of measuring someone’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Reference checks are what you do when you want to know if someone is a jerk.

Background checks give you facts like name, rank and serial number. You’ll learn about prior convictions and educational achievements.

The difference between a background check and a reference check is essential. Background checks will tell you if someone has been arrested or convicted; however, reference checks will give you gossip and tell you if someone is an itinerant drug addict.

When I’m asked to provide a reference for someone, I have a few rules.

  1. First, do no harm. Unless you’re Mitt Romney, you probably need a job. I don’t want to hurt you or your family. It takes a lot for me to throw someone under a bus.
  2. I only answer questions I’m asked. Sometimes people are fishing for information. Sometimes these reference checks are infuriating because the hiring decision is already made. The sooner I answer your specific questions, the faster we can get back to our lives.
  3. I’m choosy about my audience. Do you want to know what I think about someone? Ask me, but don’t ask a junior recruiter or an executive-recruiter-in-training to call me. I will never speak to someone more than one degree removed from the decision-making process. If my input is necessary, invest the time in seeking out my counsel.

Now I just gave you my three guidelines on reference checking, and I have to tell you that I violated one of them just recently. An executive recruiter asked me what I thought about a man in our industry. I had a pretty strong reaction because, frankly, I don’t like the candidate. He’s a dick.

I sat with my words and thought, Jesus, that’s not fair. This dude seems like a good husband and parent. I don’t know him beyond industry events and social media. While I have an opinion on just about everything in this world, my viewpoint is layered with my personal bullshit and baggage.

And I had to admit that he has what it takes to move this company to the next level.

So I called the recruiter and ate some crow. I walked through my thinking and took back my words. I admitted that I was reacting from the gut, my opinion was unimportant, and I think this guy could do the job.

(He was hired!)

So remember that, unless you’re protecting an organization from a serial killer or a child molester, you should either decline to offer a reference or stick to my three rules.

You never know when those three rules will help you out, too.

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Got this note from a PR guy named Eric. In general, I’ve stopped picking on PR professionals. However, this one needs some work.

Dear Laurie,

Today I have some news for you that is incredibly inspiring and empowering and worth sharing with your reader audience.

Lean Cuisine just launched an initiative to challenge women to value themselves based on their accomplishments – not their physical appearance. With ridiculous means of evaluating the “perfect” body and precious moments taken away by painstakingly editing a photo before it goes live online, more and more women are evaluating their self-worth on superficial topics. We are better than this.

Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine is starting a social conversation about weight and value perception by asking women how they really weigh themselves in a new campaign called: Lean Cuisine #WeighThis. The campaign repositions Lean Cuisine as a modern health and lifestyle brand, by starting authentic, relevant social conversations among women.

We know you might be thinking this feels out of place for a brand like Lean Cuisine. Over the past several years though, the brand has been undergoing a transformation –focusing on creating the best products to fuel people doing amazing things every day. It is no longer the diet brand of the 80s. In fact, “diet” is one of the dirtiest four-letter words in our vocabulary.

As one of our established partners, we’d really like your help sharing our video and its messages with your followers. It can be as simple as posting the video on Facebook or Twitter, sharing Lean Cuisine’s Facebook or Twitter posts, or, if you feel so inclined, writing a blog post about what you want people to “weigh” you on.

If you have any questions about the campaign, or would like more information, I’m happy to help in any way I can.

Dear Eric,

God bless you, but your use of the majestic plural at the beginning of this letter is a little weird. I don’t assume sex or gender based on names, but that’s a lie because I do. Are you a dude named Eric who feels my unique pain as a woman who photoshops her pictures before putting them on Instagram? C’mon man. Have some pride. This note sucks.

Eric, you seem like a nice guy, but let’s get a few things straight. I wouldn’t feed Lean Cuisine to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, let alone put that food in my mouth. Lean Cuisine tastes like overcooked baby food. Lean Cuisine tastes like a Sears leather sofa caught on fire. Lean Cuisine tastes like someone committed a hate crime against pasta.

After years of branding itself as nutritionally rich food but failing to make me skinny, Lean Cuisine tastes like shame. And if I’m going to feel shame and guilt from food, I’m going to shove something tastier in my pie hole.

Yours,
Laurie Ruettimann

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I’ve been doing some video chats for CareerBuilder, and they’re pretty fun. We use a combination of Google Hangouts and Twitter, and what you end up with is a crazy and interesting mix of video and interactive tweets.

We discussed talent management strategies and techniques in the last episode. Tim Sackett makes an offhanded comment that he likes forced ranking.

Now, listen, I have four cats. I rank them on a regular and ongoing basis. Emma is the best all around, Jake loves me the most, Molly is the smartest, and Roxy is the new baby. They all have strengths and weaknesses. But the order of “who is the best” changes based on my mood, and honestly, how much those cats are bringing it on a daily basis.

If you told me I had to line my cats up and rank them, and then cut the bottom x%, I would say—they’re all great and your rules are stupid. It’s not like I’m going to replace my cats with better cats. They’re cats. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

And that’s how I feel about your talented people. Even old school blue chip companies–and brutal sales teams that love blood and sport—have ditched this model for something a little more humane.

I know we want to push our teams to achieve new goals. I know you want an awesome workforce. But Tim’s words had me thinking that everything old becomes new again. Forced ranking might one day come back in vogue. I would just warn you that it’s nice to look back at something simple like forced ranking and say, well, it worked for Jack Welch.

Nothing comes from forced ranking except fear and loathing in the hearts and minds of your employees. Fire people who suck, reward people who do a good job, and stop ranking and stacking people (or cats) for the sport of it.

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I let my SHRM membership lapse in 2015 because my employer will no longer pay for it.

My employer is me, and honestly, she wants me to spend $190 on spa treatments in Turks & Caicos because she believes in employee engagement. So I won’t be going to the 2015 SHRM Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas, this weekend.

(I know, I know. You’ll miss me.)

I will miss being on the expo floor, too. Let’s be honest. That conference gives me a ton of good blogging material for twelve months. When some drunk sales guy lectures me on agility and tells me that HR ladies aren’t aligned with their business—and then proceeds to puke on a side of a building in Atlanta—I’m energized for months.

(I’ll bet on the HR lady any day of the week.)

In my absence on the expo floor and parties, here’s my advice on how to navigate #SHRM15.

  1. Know you’re missing out on something super amazing and be okay with it. There is a SHRM CHRO meeting that happens at the same time as the conference, but you can’t go because you’re not a white dude who likes technology. SHRM’s Foundation hosts a nice cocktail reception that you can’t attend because you’re not a donor. And I hear John Legend will be playing at a vendor’s party, but you’re not invited because you’ll never buy enterprise HCM software. Don’t sweat it. Bring the party to wherever you’re at, and be with the people you love—not the people who wander the convention hall like lost puppies looking to be somewhere better.
  2. Don’t knock what the speakers are wearing. We’ve been through multiple waves of feminism—and we’ve burned the Confederate flag and embraced the new civil rights movement—to arrive at a place and time where HR presenters should be able to get on stage and wear whatever the hell they want to wear. Is the skirt too short? Is the tie too loose? Please bite your tongue. Judge someone on their ideas, not their appearance.
  3. Don’t buy anything from the SHRM bookstore at the conference. I know, I know. My SHRM friends are going to kill me but there’s this thing called Amazon, and it’s amazing. The rent is too damn high at the SHRM Bookstore! Also, you have to carry home whatever you buy. That Dr. Mehmet Oz colon cleanse system is expensive and heavy. Get it delivered via Amazon Prime.

I wrote a piece on the Halogen website that helps you to consider how you can extend your learning beyond #SHRM15. It’s more serious than this post, so check it out because I think you get SHRM-SCP credits for just showing up and reading blog posts.

(That’s what I hear, anyway. I don’t know that for a fact.)

And here’s another secret: I have to be in Vegas for client meetings (two) and dinner (just one), so you might see my face around town. I am trying to be principled and stay away from the convention floor. I won’t go back to the SHRM conference until I write an amazing book and I’m paid $100K to show up on stage and talk about myself with Gayle King as moderator (because I need a moderator to talk about my life).

That’s not happening in 2015. I don’t want it badly enough, I guess. So you won’t see me and Gayle on stage, this year, but you might see me on the strip. So please say hi. I don’t bite. And remember that I still sorta love SHRM. I don’t have sour grapes. I’m just old, the scene is no longer mine, and I love hanging out at the hotel pool between meetings a little more.

Have fun at the event and make good choices!

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