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Author Archive for Bonni Titgemeyer

Are you still here?

Photo Credit: Andrew Morffew, Flickr

It has been a very long time since I’ve paid attention to this blogsite.  In the past couple of years I’ve used it to blog during conferences but that’s about it.

The site shows its age; weathered, stale.  It was developed over ten years ago. I had all sorts of ideas and I was passionate. In the beginning it had a lot of traffic.

But times have changed. I left for a while.

So I want to know, “Are you still here”?  I’m very curious about this. I’m not sure who is still milling about.

I’m not exactly sure why I stopped blogging regularly.  I used to enjoy writing and keeping up with the site.  Most important I valued the connections I made from it.

When I started, while I was hopeful about the blogsite’s prospects, I never expected that success would be tied to a community of bloggers, and readers, interested in engagement and talking all things HR.  I had no idea whether the site would have an audience, which it did, for a time.

I have often said that HR is a lonely business.  In many organizations, an HR team is just one or two people.  Whether they are agents of engagement or paper pushers, well that’s dependent upon a number of factors, not all talent or capability related. Having like minded people out there, even if just on the wires, was comforting to me.

Things changed a few years ago.  In my opinion, HR blogging became less about connecting and more about getting attention, like we were another version of the Kardashians.  I couldn’t keep up, didn’t want to keep up. Also, it seemed that the social media engines tried to own everything.  Monetizing impacted content for the worse.  And I feel that Trump ruined Twitter for normal people.

For me personally, I had the chance to do some other things and I turned away.  You know, hiking and stuff.  And work has been insanely busy.

I stopped reading blogs.  Sorry, if you were or still are a regular blogger, in the most Canadian way, I apologize for stopping.  It started gradually but then one day I realized I wasn’t reading them anymore. It wasn’t your content, it was me.  I didn’t evolve into the world of podcasts, I just sort of checked out.

So why am I writing this?

I’m thinking of coming back to blogging, maybe not this site specifically, maybe not in the first person.  But I am definitely thinking about blogging again.

Are you still here?  If yes, let me know.

If you are here, what are you up to?  Are you still interested in blogs?

Where can I find you?

Is there a chance we can reconnect?

I look forward to hearing from you, in whatever way you feel like reaching me.



Too Busy? Make Time for Workhuman!

Busy as a Canadian Beaver.
Photo Credit: Dan, Flickr

Here I go again.

I’m about to get on a plane to go to Workhuman, and I feel like I just got back from the last one, which was a year ago.  Time FLEW this year for me.

Time is a very relative term.  How you experience time is dependent upon a number of factors.  I can remember points in my life when time seemed to be moving very slowly, like during school, and then sped up quickly, like during the summertime.  I still experience that difference in perceived time between work and vacation time, however, I also feel that time speeds up over the years.

Clearly I’m not alone. Think of all the expressions we’ve developed to express the passage of time:

Time flies when you are having fun.

Time flies the older you get. 

Time flies when you’re not paying attention.

Time flies when you are busy.

As I write this, I’ve been reflecting on the relationship between time flying and being busy, because I’ve been a very busy person this year.

I’ve always strived to be busy.  I don’t do well when I have nothing to do.

Being busy is a mistake however, one that I didn’t realize until I was reflecting on everything I learned at the last Workhuman.

From a positive perspective, I feel some accomplishment when my day is full of activity, regardless of what the activity is.  From a negative perspective, busyness isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially if it is a certain kind of busy, the kind that involves working to complete a checkmark for the sake of the checkmark so that you can move onto other things.

Admittedly, this had been a year that include a lot of that negative kind of busy for me.   Too many projects, not enough time to do them, too much road travel, too many details to focus on.  I own this.  I made the choices that got me here.

Out of curiosity, I decided to do some research on the subject of busyness.  There are many studies.  Even Harvard Business Review has published a study on being busy.  Apparently in a modern world to be busy is considered a status symbol.  The theory is that busy people are more in demand, making their prospects better.  The most significant asset is to those who are busy, as their self-worth is higher. But the notion of being busy has led to a whole economy designed of time-saving tools for the busy—it’s now an on-line world of luxury brand in-store shopping avoidance.  I think I realized how pervasive this is when I was at a client site recently and everyone around me used a food delivery app to select their lunch, even though there was a huge food court across the street.

But what about quality of life in a busy world?

This leads me back to Workhuman conference. I’ve been going to Workhuman for four years now.  For me, Workhuman has always been a bit of a nudge to right set myself and focus on things that are important.  Despite how busy I am I find time for Workhuman.

I have always tried to work from the key messages of Workhuman. When we are mindful, we are better at what we do.  When we are happy, we infect others with that happiness and it spreads.  When we recognize others, all sorts of rainbows and puppies appear, and all is good in the world. When we do all of these things we counteract the potential damage of being busy. That’s because I don’t have time to think, to experience, to recognize, the key ingredients of a fulfilling life.

So believe me, while I am at Workhuman I’ve made a personal commitment to myself to unplug so that I can absorb all the goodness that will be surrounding me.  It will help me get my head into a better place, and help me to remember the value of happiness and recognition.

And more important, it will help me focus on sustaining these messages, long after the conference is over.



Workhuman and the Third Option

I am back from Workhuman and I am full of ideas of things to write about.  This annual four-day conference is amazing (earning the moniker the “Woodstock of HR”) and every year I’ve attended I’ve come back with new inspiration and passion.

It has been an interesting year for human resources. Many people made bad choices. In moving forward it is clear now that to operate effectively the business of people has to account for equity.  And not just the milk-toasted lip service variety of equity that we’ve all become accustomed to delivering. I’m talking about equity in every facet of work life.  Equity in who and how we hire. Equity in opportunity. Equity in dialogue. Equity in participation. Equity in channel access. Equity in compensation. To not is to operate in peril.  Workhuman took four days to explore nearly every nook and cranny of equity and I believe most left saying, “we have to change our ways”.  That’s powerful!

I was struck by a facet of equity right off the bat, in the opening presentation from Cy Wakeman.

At first, you might not have thought Cy Wakeman’s presentation was about equity at all, but ultimately it was, equity in participation and communication and the need for such things to be in real time, balanced and positive.

In her presentation, Cy presented a picture where the best companies set parameters of the employment relationship based upon two options: be active, supportive and positive or move on. She talked about the problem many if not most companies have, they offer a third option. That is, they allow an employee to disagree with strategy, opportunities and plans, halt the train, suck life out of the culture, and keep their jobs while doing it.

From an equity perspective, allowing the third option has all sorts of implications.  Naysayers rarely listen (a tenant of communication), and naysayers aren’t really participating either. They may even be preventing someone else from participating, creating inequity.

What causes us (and when I say us, I am referring to all of us humans in good companies and bad) to revert to the third option?  Following Workhuman, I took time to ponder this question and came up with a list of reasons why this is the case.

First, employment relationships, at least in Canada, have difficulty avoiding the third option.  There are legal reasons for this, namely that you can’t just ask someone to leave without providing notice, and for long-serving employees that can be expensive.  And, even for short-term employees, paying anyone to leave typically isn’t budgeted or planned. Few companies ever want to pay people to leave, and so they wait it out and pay the price for this in spades.

Second, talent acquisition is hard.  We spend a lot of money and effort toward building a brand for talent acquisition. Increasing turnover without a guarantee of a better replacement is a choice many organizations simply won’t make.

Third, is a replacement employee better?  There’s some truth in the adage that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

Fourth, great people understand the business.  To have great people you have to invest in all sorts of training and development.  This investment goes out the window when people leave.

This isn’t to say that we’re stuck, that a two-option world is implausible, but it requires a sense of strategy only organizations with a long-term view can use.

One way a two-option world can work is to be fearless on a number of fronts:

  • Fearless in dialogue with employees in a way that establishes employment in a single company as a step in the journey, not the destination. Good people don’t leave a business unless they are unhappy, and the longer you can connect the work to a state of happiness, the longer they will be your employee.  There are employers who pay employees to leave.  The smart ones do this earlier rather than later.
  • Fearless about conveying the value of passion and positivity. We need to recognize the good things people do, whether they’re small or monumental.  Positivity is a habit that can be established with a routine.  Having mechanisms to recognize others is an important step.
  • Fearless about being there for your team, in good times and in bad.  Much ado has been raised about the First Break All the Rules employee engagement question regarding having a best friend at work.  But ask yourself this, did you love working where your co-workers were co-workers and not your dear friends?  People who feel a part of a tribe will go to much further lengths to protect the well-being of the tribe.  Those are the types of employees who will deliver in tough times.
  • Fearless about being honest about the challenges and gaps, and to look to them not as weaknesses but rather opportunities.  Finding opportunities for real discussion in every day work life is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
  • Fearless about pursuing the long-term.  At another presentation at Workhuman, I listened to the business strategist Simon Sinek talk about finite and infinite strategies.  The easiest way to describe the difference between the two is whether your desired outcome is in the current time horizon or far in the distant future.  Simon used war strategy to illustrate the difference.  Countries with infinite strategies, essentially designed to wear down the all-in finite, get in and get done approach, tend to win over the longer term.  Companies who work at all costs to get the superior product on the market faster will not exist in the long-term.  The same could be said about equity.
  • Fearless about communicating.  Seeking feedback.  Listening.  Being clear about intentions.

One of the essentially prohibited questions to ask in the workplace today is, “When do you plan to retire?”  This is in part because it could be perceived to be leading to forcing an employee out of the business.  Successful organizations have put this sort of discussion front and centre though, by framing the discussion differently.  Having an open discussion about the destination at the beginning of employment at age 25 and continuing it throughout the employee’s longevity is likely to yield a much better result than starting to broach the subject at age 55.  It demonstrates to the employee that you have a plan for them and want them to be your employee for the long run. At the core of this is trust. Do I trust your intentions?  And it is worth saying that if you’re going to be having such discussions they need to be honorable.

The same could be said about launching the belief of the existence of only two options.  If we communicate about mutual long-term interest, the value of passion and positivity, the importance of relationships at work, and the requirement for honesty, then we can communicate about anything.

And that, my friends is a lesson of truly working human.