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Hell froze over, last week, and my husband asked me to run an errand at Lowe’s.

(I’ll try to keep this explanation quick, but my husband had a virus and couldn’t leave the house. He still wanted to install our new induction cooktop. I can’t explain my marriage. Don’t make me try. All I can say is that if you’ve got time to lean in the Ruettimann house, you’ve got time to clean. A stomach virus is no excuse to take the day off.)

Faced with the inevitable trip to Lowe’s, I downloaded the mobile app and considered navigating the store on my own. But have you seen the font on that app? Jesus, it was useless. And who am I kidding? I can’t read a map.

So I started to get a little wound up for no reason. “That store kills me. Why are latex gloves near the window blinds? Why are lightbulbs by the lawn mowers? Are you sure that this key kiosk is legit because God help the poor soul who sells me a made-in-China-cut-by-a-robot key and it doesn’t work!”

Thankfully, I’m married to a man who isn’t new at this.

  1. He snapped a picture and told me 100 times — “Remember, it’s the gel. Did you hear me? It’s the gel. Look at this photo. See where it says gel? Get that one, Laur. Do you hear me? Don’t buy the wrong kind.”
  2. Then he drew me a map to show me exactly where I need to enter the store, how to find the gel-that-is-caulk, and where it would fall in my line of sight.
  3. Then he insisted I text him if I had a breakdown. He told me, “It’s no big deal. What the eff, Laur? You got this. But buy the gel, okay?”

Here is what it looked like.

Pretty good, right? No panic attack!

While I could do a better job of managing my anxiety, Lowe’s could do better than the Ruettimann paper/mobile app. They could create an interactive system that takes the concept of Google Maps and overlays it with a real-time inventory database. Users could type in a product, know if it’s in stock, and then see a relatively recent photo of where it might be located in the aisle.

(Or users could just call my husband. That store is mapped out like his brain.)

I don’t mean to pick on Lowe’s because almost all stores could do a better job of enhancing the user experience, which would guarantee higher rates of user adoption, but that shit is hard. Although they employ the most amazing psychologists and data scientists — and they design and test cutting edge software — it’s clear to me that designing software for the lowest common denominator is cheap. Optimal user experience doesn’t scale very easily.

Anyway, “designing software with the user in mind” is not a new concept. But I recently learned that user experience and user adoption are top priorities for HR executives. That’s pretty interesting, and you can talk to my friend William Tincup about it if you’re interested.

If your software gives HR generalists a panic attack, what chance do you have for future contracts and recurring revenue stream?

Not much, man.

Just like there’s not much chance that I’m going back to Lowe’s anytime soon!

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I saw a tweet from a #sxswi attendee.

If you can’t read the tweet, I will paraphrase it. Gary Vaynerchuk is quoted as saying that HR used to be at the bottom, and now it’s on top. Depending on who’s running that HR department, that tweet can mean a lot of different things!

I like how people are bullish on HR — especially HR consulting firms like Deloitte and Mercer. (I like how some companies pay for sponsored content that makes them look fair and balanced, too.) We’re in such a hype-cycle, aren’t we? It’s all about HR data and more data. Gary Vee believes HR is awesome. Jack Welch believes it, too. Heck, I want to believe it!

Except when I tell people under 30 that I work in HR, they ask me, “Who that?”

When I explain HR — it’s the people who hire you and make you get paid — they go, “Oh, yeah, okay.”

Then they either a) black out or b) have horror stories about trying to get a job during the recession.

So while some people who profit from HR believe that the industry is at the top of its game, the rest of us are fighting for relevancy and respect. If anything, we just don’t want to be a punchline in an episode of The Mindy Project.

If you want further proof of how little people think of human resources, go to Urban Dictionary and look at the definition of HR and human resources.

The top definition is nearly a decade old, but it feels like it could have been written today.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 7.15.51 PM

Pretty good. Feels right.

And I like this one because it shows that HR can be political!

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HR can overcome its PR crisis, but I’m not sure it happens from outsiders on stage at #sxswi. I think human resources is local. You go block by block, person by person, and make the case that you’re doing important work on behalf of your constituents.

Am I nuts?

What do you think?

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

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It’s been said that everybody in America is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

Is your name Rajeev Motwani and were you born in Philly? Are you Shelley Tyszkiewicz from Cleveland? Doesn’t matter. St. Patrick’s Day is the one day we’re all encouraged to drink Guinness and eat corned beef and cabbage like it’s an important part of the American narrative.

Everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s day, including my maternal grandfather, Lou Weiss. There isn’t a drop of Irish blood in him, but he had my grandmother convinced that he had Irish forefathers.

Irish!

My grandfather told my Gramma stories of a rich uncle named “Seamus” in County Cork — a decent man who was a patron saint of the arts. Seamus lavished people with attention and gifts. And he spoke with a thick Irish brogue, of course.

Lou Weiss was about as Irish as a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. For some reason, my grandmother never questioned his integrity or challenged him on his ancestry.

I asked her, “Are you on drugs? His name was Lou Weiss. That’s the opposite of Irish. Why did you believe him?”

She told me, “He believed it.”

I said, “Please. He did not believe he was Irish.”

She said, “Laur, he fancied himself a poet.”

She meant that in a literal way, and in that light, maybe his fake Irish ancestry makes a little sense.

People use genealogy as a tool to create a narrative about themselves. If you’re Dominican, you cook plantains a certain way and may see that as part of your cultural heritage. If you are Polish, you celebrate Christmas Eve with a specific set of traditions and are very proud of that ritual.

So part of me understands why my grandfather would embrace a Gatsby-like notion of life and reinvent his story. In his mind, he was a great Irish poet trapped in the body of a working-class American on the northwest side of Chicago.

Except Lou Weiss was no poet. He was a husband, a father to four kids and a truck driver. He was also a man with a string of girlfriends. He left my grandmother after more than two decades of marriage and married a teenager. Then he stopped speaking to his children for about a decade.

(Wait, that sounds Irish.)

I think about the story of Lou Weiss, and I’m struck by how his behaviors — and not his DNA — left an emotional crater in my family that exists to this day. I feel his presence (or maybe it’s his monumental absence) every time I go home to Chicago, spend time with my mom and her sisters, or even visit my grandmother’s grave.

In that way, my grandfather’s fake Irish heritage is less Gatsby and more William Faulker, who once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

While I have sympathy for people like my grandfather who fall short of their dreams, which is quintessentially Irish, I struggle with the real-world manifestation of poetic dreams run amok. So while some people are eating green donuts and nomming on chocolate leprechaun coins, I’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in solidarity with my dead grandmother by not being even a little bit Irish.

(Wait, now I sound Irish. Well, as Irish as Rajeev Motwani and Shelley Tyszkiewicz.)

Well, if I’m going to be fake-Irish like my grandfather, I might as well leave my cynicism at the door and have a green donut. My Gramma would want that for me.

Sláinte!

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I don’t land HR consulting gigs. The gigs land on me.

Lately, I’ve been asked to help “polite HR departments” think about how to operate more effectively.

What’s a polite HR organization?

First of all, I lump it into one word: PoliteHR. Sometimes I call it #politeHR.

PoliteHR it’s a departmental archetype of sorts, but it also has a face that looks like anyone who adds the credentials SHRM-SCP or SPHR to his professional credentials.

PoliteHR is a modern-day response to executives who don’t like the function of human resources. PoliteHR is led by a very capable man or woman who believes in the enduring power of relationships. She thinks that she can win the skeptic’s heart and mind by being his friend.

“Once we get close and have a few wins under out belt, we can show the cranky VP that we’re not as bad as he thinks we are.”

PoliteHR is wrong. She will never win with this strategy.

(Pro-tip: When you try to avoid conflict and ask questions to clarify and seek a broader understanding, your executive leader hates you more. But PoliteHR is an optimist and won’t listen to Laurie Ruettimann, that’s for sure! )

There are systems, software and reports in place that show the value of the PoliteHR model. Everything is mobile, social and local! There are talent communities, a Twitter account, and a branded page on LinkedIn!

But the problem is that nobody else gives a rip about PoliteHR except for PoliteHR.

And when PoliteHR overlaps with “over-engineered HR,” it’s only a matter of time before my phone rings, and I start planning some organizational changes with an executive leadership team.

Do you wonder if you work in a PoliteHR department? Do you think I might be nuts and want to ask — why would being polite work against me, Laurie?

Well, nobody wants you to be the LBJ of human resources — with foul language and a crude description of how your pants don’t fit — but you should remember that most of the men who sit on your leadership team are modern descendants of LBJ.

They may not have a booming voice and a deep southern accent — and their pants fit just fine — but they are direct. They are specific. They don’t always use inclusive language. And they don’t have time to pander to PoliteHR and make it feel good about itself.

So if you can’t remember the last time your HR leadership team did anything bold — but you can give me an example of a time where you asked a business leader for permission to schedule a meeting before you actually scheduled the meeting — it’s time to shake things up in your career.

The model of #politeHR is dying. It’s dying one business at a time. Don’t be the last person to know.

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

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Hey, everybody. I finally fulfilled my goal of volunteering at a marathon.

I woke up at 5AM to volunteer at the Tobacco Road Marathon. I set up a water station at mile marker 2/24 with a team of employees from Allscripts.

On the way to the marathon, I got lost. (No coffee!) I had to park at the starting line, which meant a two-mile walk to the aid station in the dark. I used my phone as a flashlight, which is an inelegant solution. I stepped in a puddle. Then I stepped into the mud. Then I stepped in dog poop.

But the event was awesome, and I was happy to have an opportunity to “people watch” and figure things out. Things I learned.

1. Nobody runs a marathon with good form. You run a marathon by using everything you’ve got to get across the finish line. I knew this, and this is the story of my life, but it’s interesting to watch how people get stuff done. You use everything you’ve learned while training, and then you add grit and determination.

2. Volunteers bust their butts. I had no idea what went into setting up an aid station. Water, Gatorade, and Gu were the least of our concerns. We had to find Vaseline. We had to set out snacks. I put on latex gloves picked up water cups by hand. I did not rest for nearly three hours. I ran 11 miles on Saturday, and I was a little apprehensive about standing on my feet for four hours on Sunday. No problems, though. The time flew by!

3. Great runners know how to work the course. The best thing runners can do is lock eyes with a volunteer, point to what they want, and simultaneously yell it. (WATER!) That’s so much better than the passive “can-I-have-this-water-touch-grab?” that most runners do at aid stations. Imma change my whole style.

Anyway, the whole morning was tremendously rewarding. I was thanked 1000 times for volunteering. I know exactly how those runners feel, which makes it very special.

I’ll volunteer, again.

And the team from Allscripts was great! What a fun company with generous and thoughtful employees. They made me feel right at home.

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Facts on the ground.

  1. You need to show ROI for all the time you spend on the internet.
  2. I am participating in two webinars, this month, that will not suck.

Let’s do this!

First up — want to learn more about data and HR to sound credible to your boss?

The first webinar is hosted by CareerBuilder and is called Knocking Down the Barriers to Data Mastery. That’s a helluva title. Matt Stollak will share the importance of recruitment and sourcing data when it comes to building and maintaining a competitive workforce planning strategy.

Sound boring? All of HR is boring. Adulthood is boring. But understanding data is important, and Matt is awesome. This webinar will be punchy and interactive. I’m moderating and it’s on St. Patrick’s Day. How can this go wrong?

Next up — I know you’re obsessed with employee engagement and culture.

Fine. Be obsessed. I can’t stop you. But I believe that the ROI of “happiness” is an improved team dynamic and a more productive team-level culture. (You can measure that.) I’ll be hosting a discussion with The Power of Thanks authors Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine from Globoforce. They will share powerful research and stories on crafting a meaningful, productive work culture.

Did I just give you some buzzwords? Sure. But I’ve written the questions for the webinar, and we will give you actionable items that you can use in your job. Plus I’ll be doing this from Las Vegas. It’s March 31st. Sign up!

The most exciting news?

I’m providing you with examples of how you can work in human resources in different and compelling ways. Duh. I keep telling everybody that it’s possible to do what you’re good at (HR) but do it in a way that doesn’t drive you crazy. So watch and learn, suckers.

Sign up for these two human resources webinars. Then do what I’m doing. It’s fun!

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Roxy turns six months old, this weekend. She just survived her first experience with our awesome babysitter.

(She’s growing up so fast!)

I prefer to celebrate “gotcha days” more than birthdays, but six months is a big deal. First up, she is still alive. That’s a milestone for a kitty who comes from the city streets of Durham. Also, Roxy has been battling intestinal bacteria (ugh!) but continues to gain weight. Hooray for mom. I have to practically beg her to eat, which is something that I’ve never experienced with a cat.

(Have you seen my poonchy Emma? Enough said.)

But this weekend is a big deal because we have a goal for Roxy: she has to be six months or seven pounds to go in the basement and hang out in the rafters with Scrubby.

Six months is here! (And she’s about 6.5 lbs!) We will be capturing video and photos of our big girl as she kills me with her courage and silliness. Before we let her rule the roost, we have to add a few safety platforms to Scrubby’s rafter kingdom so she won’t die. Otherwise, I think she’s ready for new adventures.

(Although I’m not sure I am ready for it.)

Can’t wait to see how this goes.

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As you read this, I’m in Omaha talking to a bunch of great people from Stryker about working in human resources.

(Wait. It’s not as bad as it sounds. And I’m debuting my new Brooks Brothers dress, which I’ll wear to death on the 2015 corporate speaker circuit.)

You may wonder — what the hell do you say to talented HR professionals that they haven’t heard before?

I say — I’ll be talking about Twitter! Just kidding. I have a slide deck, of course, but mostly I’ll ditch the deck and use random stories to make the case that HR professionals need to attack our public relations problems.

I believe we should do what we want in HR, when we want, on demand and without apology.

* Have a vision for HR? Show, don’t tell.
* Have a theory about how you can improve something in your business? Be sneaky. Beta test it, make it rock, and then tell people about what you just accomplished.
* Want to change your life or a bad habit? Start small. Tackle one piece. Then tackle another. Nobody notices the small stuff, but they do notice a change in the long-run.

Should you work collaboratively and try to be a good partner? Well, of course. But sometimes collaboration isn’t possible. That’s when you should channel your inner LFR and get to work.

They can hate you for making progress, but they can’t blame you if things go right.

And chances are you’re a good person. You have friends. You often make good decisions. Nobody is going to hate you or fault you when things go right or wrong.

So get to work and start doing what you want, when you want, and continue to change the face of HR.

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Years ago, I worked for a Worldwide VP of Human Resources who made the fatal mistake of standing before a group of HR women and misidentifying one of the eligibility rules for a program called FMLA.

“Who doesn’t know basic HR stuff like that?”
“With a big title like that, you’d think he’d know FMLA.”
“If he gets that wrong, what else does he get wrong?”

I didn’t like the guy, but I felt for him. He was a big guy managing a bunch of small women. He liked sports, and I think he liked being our boss for a little while. But no inspirational Lou Holtz video was going to save his ass on that one.

I was thinking about my old boss, a few weeks ago, when I saw a Facebook fight go down between HR people. That’s right. That happens. There were the people who work in the trenches of HR and deal with humanity on a real level. Then there are people who work in HR but don’t do HR — they consult and advise. Then there were the bloggers.

Who does real HR?

Who gives a fuck, you ask?

Well, lots of people do. You have consulting firms defining one version of HR. You have leaders and seasoned consultants defining another version. There are people who work in the bowels of HR and do work you would never do. They speak out, and I think their experiences are relevant. Then you have some people who lost their jobs in a recession and never found work. They blog about HR — and do it well, too.

Don’t all those points matter?

Not to some people.

I saw this fight go down, and I thought — sucks to be anyone who has a dog in that fight. Then I remembered that I have a dog in that fight. I earn money from the HR industry. And just recently, I drew a mental blank and couldn’t remember what WARN stood for! I also couldn’t clearly articulate the difference between an FSA and an HSA. I also couldn’t remember what MBO stood for, either.

I like to think I’m replacing all that hackneyed HR shit with some good ol’ fashioned strategery. Look at me — wearing shoulder pads and earning a living in the HR industry while being a super-secret punk rocker on the inside!

Instead, I’m just replacing my tactical HR knowledge with pop culture, Facebook posts, and cursory knowledge of articles I read in The Economist.

Oh, who am I kidding. I don’t read The Economist except when someone sends me an article. And maybe not even then, anymore.

If you work in and around HR, you have a right to an opinion. And, if you’re a halfway decent human being, you have the burden of respecting someone else’s point of view as it relates to the past, present, and future vision of HR.

Don’t like it? Go do something else. Nobody is making you stay in human resources.

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My grandmother once predicted that I would become a Republican once I started making money.

I laughed so hard and told her, “Gramma, I can’t be a Republican. I love abortion too much.”

She said, “Just watch.”

Well, it’s a decade later. I am far from a Republican, but I am big on personal accountability. That’s why the story of a Creighton University basketball fan drew my attention. Do you know what happened?

A restaurant printed a bunch of shirts that read, “We are not responsible for lost or stolen virginity.”

Some kid wore one of those shirts to a basketball game.

The internet exploded.

Apparently, the restaurant owner has regrets. (No shit!) The school is embarrassed. And, if it hasn’t happened by the time this post hits the wire, the kid will probably be outed.

I don’t like using the internet to shame people (or companies) because, let’s be honest, shame doesn’t work. And when you use the internet to shame someone in a passive-aggressive way, it makes the whole online experience a lot less fun.

But I do wonder why a restaurant owner thinks “stealing virginity” is a legitimate marketing campaign. I work with marketing and HR professionals in the restaurant industry. There’s a reason you’ve heard of those restaurants, and you’re only hearing of Blue Jay Bar & Grill right now.

I don’t know why this young man thought wearing t-shirt was a good idea, either. Unless he doesn’t speak English and is under the age of 18, he is fully responsible for being a moron.

And I’m not sure why one of the tens of thousands of adults in this basketball arena didn’t pull that kid aside and say, “Get the hell out of here. Don’t come back until you learn how to dress yourself.”

In fact, I’m mad at everyone sitting next to this kid. We’ve become the kind of country where we feign righteous indignation on the internet, but we don’t hold anyone accountable for poor choices and bad decisions. Banks fail. Politicians lie. People get raped. We run to the internet and talk about awareness and advocacy as if it means something.

Blue Jay Bar & Grill has an opportunity to fix its mistake, I suppose. The dumbass kid who wore this shirt has an opportunity to apologize and grow from this experience. But if you ever see a kid wearing a t-shirt that advocates violence against women, I hope you say something before it escalates on the internet.

I’m no Republican, but attitudes and behaviors are changed through action and not through lectures and posts on Facebook.

[/end lecture on my blog]

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