Q&A with #SHRM16 Speaker Steve Browne (@sbrownehr)

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Steve Browne is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc. — a regional Pizzeria restaurant chain in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southwest Indiana with 18 locations and over 1,200 Team Members. Steve has been a human resources professional for 25+ years and has worked in the Manufacturing, Consumer Products, and Professional Services industries. Additionally, Steve is a former State Director for Ohio SHRM and serves as a member of the SHRM Board of Directors. Steve facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an internet message board for HR professionals that reaches 6,000 + people globally on a weekly basis.  Steve is also a contributor to CareerBuilder's Talent Advisor Portal and posts regularly on his own blog, "Everyday People."  Steve is also a HUGE U2 fan.

On Tuesday, June 21, Steve will be presenting a MEGA SESSION at the SHRM Annual Conference in Washington D.C. titled, "HR on Purpose! Five Ways to Own, Lead and Integrate HR Throughout Your Organization."


What was your first Breakthrough HR moment in your career? 

My first breakthrough moment in HR was in my 2nd HR job. It was an HR generalist role and the owner of the company I joined sat me down on my first day and told me I needed to memorize the names and jobs of everyone in the organization in 30 days. He said that he and I would sit down on the 30th day exactly and he would quiz me. If I missed one person, I would be fired.

On the 30th day we sat down and he began to quiz me. We had over 200 employees at 3 plants (one out of state) and a corporate office. He quizzed me for almost an hour !! I didn’t miss one. At the end he asked me what I thought of his exercise. I told him it was helpful because I learned who our people were and what they did. Here’s the breakthrough moment . . .

He said, “I did this so you’d know that the only reason you’re here is my people. If you ever forget that, I don’t need you.”

This has been my approach to HR ever since !!

                       Song: "One" - U2 and Mary J. Blige

Is it possible for someone with a long career to still have breakthrough HR moments?  If so, how?

Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Unfortunately in most cases, no. People in all professions tend to “settle in” after a long career. It’s easier, it’s had some marked success in the past and people accept it. I think this is a stumbling block for our profession. HR begs people to remain dynamic, engaged and curious. Businesses, and people, change every day. We have to remain alert and in touch with our people. The more we’re in touch with them, the larger the possibility that breakthrough moments will reveal themselves. The “how” for me is to remain vigilant and expect that breakthroughs can happen and I can be a part of them on an on-going basis regardless of how long I’ve been in HR.

You were recently elected to the SHRM Board of Directors.  What has been the most surprising thing you've discovered in taking on that role?

The most surprising facet I’ve found so far is the depth of SHRM as an organization. My experience to this point had some knowledge of the “whole” of SHRM, but now I get to see all sides of it, not just from the Membership viewpoint. I’m fascinated by everything that SHRM has to offer and need to continue to learn how people access things and find a way to make people more connected.

                    "Even Better Than The Real Thing"

What are 2-3 things you would like to see accomplished during your time on the SHRM Board of Directors?

First of all, I want people to know how humbled (and Geeked) I am to be able to serve on the SHRM Board. I don’t take this lightly at all. What would I like to see accomplished? Here are a few things . . .

  1. I’d like to see people who are SHRM members understand the value of their membership so that they are making a conscious personal and professional decision to belong. It needs to “matter” past the paying of membership dues.
  2. I’d like to see the Body of Competency and Knowledge (BoCK) be utilized as a professional development tool for HR professionals as well as be a vehicle for people to obtain their SHRM Certification. It really is an amazing set of competencies that can be applied throughout a person’s career.
  3. I’d like to see SHRM embrace HR pros at all points of their career and throughout their career – from student to retiree, from generalist to specialist, from consultant to vendor. At the same time, move the profession forward while maintaining the solid professional development they offer at various stages of one’s career.

You have a MEGA SESSION on Tuesday, June 21 at 2:15 p.m. titled, "HR on Purpose! Five Ways to Own, Lead and Integrate HR Throughout Your Organization." (which conflicts with my own SMART Stage session...go see Steve) Are many HR professionals not purposeful?  If so, why not?

I think many HR people are “functional”, but I’m not convinced they’re purposeful. I’ve found that doing HR (and life) with passion and purpose is challenging because it calls for an intentionality that is above being able to “do your job.” HR is vital to organizations because they have people. It boils down to people, and it always has. We keep trying to lead with processes, and that is limiting. I think there’s a stripped down way to make tangible, long-lasting impact in companies through HR. The session will hit on these things.

You've attended the SHRM Annual Conference numerous times.  What keeps you coming back each year?

First and foremost the reason I attend Annual is the people. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s real for me !! I love seeing friends and “regulars” who make the Annual trek across the country. I yearn to see the SHRM volunteers and chapter leaders because that has been how I grew up in SHRM. I know the time and effort that people willingly give and I want to make sure that they know that they’re making a difference for the profession. Thirdly, I dig meeting new people from all over the world who also practice HR !! It gets me out of a narrow frame of reference and reminds me that HR happens globally. I connect with new folks because I want them to know someone else “gets them” and what they do on a daily basis.
                                     "Beautiful Day"

What advice would you give to someone attending the SHRM Annual Conference for the first time?  What is the biggest rookie mistake you see?

My advice would be three-fold.

  1. Go to sessions that stretch you professionally so you can grow personally and also help your organization to grow. The technical sessions are good if you don’t feel strong in a certain area, but take a chance and really stretch !!
  2. Be Social !! – Make sure to connect with at least 5 to 10 people you didn’t know before attending SHRM16. Be intentional about it and get to know them and make the connections with them socially as well. (Twitter, Linked In, Snapchat, etc.) Go out to the social events and hang with people throughout the week. Don’t do the mad dash back to your room to catch some TV show. Be in the sea of people !!
  3. Check out the presentations on the Smart Stage. Great content in small bites !! A hidden gem of the Conference.

Rookie mistake ?? – Being overwhelmed by the sheer number of attendees, sights, sounds, vendors, swag, etc. Know your capacity and stick with it. Don’t try to do everything. Take the conference in portions, but dive deep into the ones you choose.

How many people do you hope to meet at the SHRM Annual Conference?

All of them !! Not a joke or an exaggeration. I would relish the chance to meet every person who wants to connect. I don’t want to be overwhelming or intrusive, but I do want to break people out of their Conference mindset that you’re there to just attend sessions. I’ll be at sessions and in the Blogger’s Lounge and in the Volunteer Leader Lounge and at the keynote sessions. I truly enjoy connecting people to others. It completely energizes me !! The more I can help attendees “humanize” the Conference, the better Conference I think they’ll have.

                    "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"

"Ex Machina" and the #WorkHuman Conference

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, May 16, 2016


Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the WorkHuman Conference in Orlando, FL.  Traveling also gave me the opportunity to catch up on a few movies (with 3 year old twins, my movie viewing has shrunk to one a month, if I am lucky).  One of the films I saw was "Ex Machina."

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQe8L-1PTMlUf-si2Oy6BTd9ZtbWH7BSRSF5k5JGNATxOHzyIdg
Are we human or are we dancer?
In "Ex Machina," Caleb Smith, a programmer with Blue Book (think Google with a 94% market share) "wins" a one-week visit to the home of the company CEO, Nathan Bateman.  Bateman lives in an isolated, luxurious outpost covering millions of acres with only a servant.  He has also developed the latest in artificial intelligence, Ava; a robot who Bateman wants to see whether she passes the illustrious "Turing Test" by Smith.  For those not in the know, the Turing Test essentially serves to distinguish whether or not artificial intelligence can pass for human.


The movie made an excellent companion to the conference and a similar test could be applied in the HR world.  What characteristics truly make a human workplace?  Words such as recognition, appreciation, happiness, presence, and mindfulness easily flowed from speakers and attendees alike.  Sadly, I didn't hear much about paying a living wage for employees as part of the conversation.

With that in mind, what makes a workplace human for you?  What would make it pass your test?


Quick Takeaways from Tuesday's #WorkHuman Conference

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, May 10, 2016





I'm here in Orlando for the 2nd WorkHuman Conference (subtitled Even More Work and Even More Human).  Here are some quick takeaways from this morning's festivities:

The production has been top-notch

As somehow who has been involved in the planning of the WI SHRM State Conference for the past 10 years, I know the trials and tribulations of putting on a show.  They have done a magnificent job of being on brand, with quality facilities, good food, and stellar graphics for the presentation.  Even small touches have stood out, from a cookie/donut wall and coloring charts and tables, to fruit infused water and a holistic approach to the schedule.

Shawn Achor highlighted the importance of happiness

I had seen Shawn Achor speak before, and he continued to enrapture the audience in the ease with which he translated research into easy to understand practice.  According to Achor, it’s “the joy you feel striving toward your potential.” This potential extends beyond yourself to unlocking the potential in others.  As a result, the breadth and depth of social relationships are crucial to one's happiness.

We are still striving for answers when it comes to performance, recognition, and compensation

As Eric Mosley noted, clearly annual performance reviews are not working.  Similarly, lump sum bonuses given once have a short impact; less than six weeks.  And, compensation budgets for recognition continue to be tiny.  However, I'm not convinced more frequent, smaller bonuses are necessarily better.  Do $50 bonuses given 100 times over the year create more sustained motivation than a single $5000 bonus given once?  Does the 25th time one is awarded that $50 bonus have the same impact as the first, or are there diminishing marginal returns?  

 




Three Things Vendors Should NOT Be Doing at #SHRM16

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In about two months, individuals will be heading to Washington D.C. to attend the 2016 SHRM Annual Conference.  This will be my 16th SHRM Annual Conference, and, based on my years of experience, here are the things vendors should NOT be doing as they prepare for the big event and the thousands attending:


1.  Do NOT treat students with disrespect

Ideally, every person who walks through the exhibit hall should be addressed with respect.  However, it is inevitable every year that my students will come back with horror stories about being treated rudely by someone manning an exhibit hall booth.  I know you are there to make potential sales connections, and a student is unlikely to be a customer anytime soon.  However, if these students are dedicated enough to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the conference, they are dedicated to the profession, and will likely be a potential customer in the future.  They are also there to learn about the product/service you offer and what you can bring any HR professional who chooses to buy from you. Don't burn a bridge before it has a chance to be constructed, as those students will remember who did them wrong!

2.  Do NOT offer a booth drawing if it is not authenticI expect to go 0 for 16 in having my name drawn from a vendor for one of the booth prizes, despite having my badge scanned or business card submitted over a thousand times over the years.  Why?  Some (I said, some, not all) vendors offer the pretense of a drawing for a booth prize when, in actuality, they will only choose a winner from a current customer.  That being said, if a vendor is not offering a legitimate random drawing, and are just fishing for leads, what kind of customer relationship are they really offering?

3.  Do NOT offer unremarkable swag

You are going to have a big chance to get your company brand and name out there.  How do you want it to be remembered? Do you want it to be forgotten a week after the conference when the attendee is cleaning out his or her travel bags and asks, "why did I grab that?!??!"  So, how can you avoid this scenario? Pens, shirts, squeeze balls (for the kids), and candy are always winners.  But, something that will stick will be flash drives and phone chargers with your name on it.  Just a suggestion.

See you in two months in DC.




The MBTI of Easter - The ECTI

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, March 27, 2016

While some believe there are 16 distinct personality types based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I've long held there are 16 distinct personality types based on Easter candy preference...the ECTI.  The breakdown is as follows:

Chocolate Rabbit - Hollow (H) or Solid (S)

While some prefer their chocolate rabbits hollow, I've always felt it was ripoff when you bite into it, and it crumbles.  Solid rabbit all the way.

Reese's Peanut Butter Egg - Pro (E) or Con (N)

Though I prefer the miniatures or the regular cups, a Peanut Butter Egg is always a solid Easter option.

Marshmallow Peeps - Pro (P) or Con (Z)

Some prefer these marshmallow confections, while I think they are awful

Cadbury Creme Egg - Pro (B) or Con (C)

While the shell is fantastic, the stuff inside is disgusting.

That makes me a SEZC.  What does the ECTI say about you?

Happy Easter everyone!

What does #WorkHuman Mean to Millennials and Gen Z?

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, March 21, 2016


In "The Managed Heart," Hochschild coined the term "emotional labor," referring to the effort to hide one's real feelings and display the "right" emotions when meeting with others.  Airline attendants, for example, must make passengers feel comfortable and welcome, even if the attendants are having a bad day.  Sadly, thirty-three years after the publication of the book, many employees are still expected to behave this way at work.  Acting in this fashion, however, is the antithesis of working human, particularly for Millennials and Gen Z.


Embracing a #WorkHuman perspective is crucial to attracting and retaining this cohort.  How does this work in practice?

1.  Provide meaning and value to employees.  

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey indicates that "Millennials seek employers with similar values; seven in 10 believe their personal values are shared by organizations for which they work."  Yes, all employees want meaningful work, but with Millennial loyalty at an all time low, younger workers will not hesitate to depart an organization where their values are not aligned.

2.   Invest in an employee's personal development

Organizations already have dedicated a significant amount of resources into employees, from recruitment costs to salaries to office overhead.  For younger workers, this investment is only the tip of the iceberg.  Younger employees don’t want their education to stop once they leave school, and they are loyal to organizations that demonstrate a commitment to their learning.  Combining personal development with a mentor can magnify this dedication even further.  Individuals who plan to stick with an organization for more than five years are twice as likely to when a mentor is involved than not.  

3.  Recognition is personal

Not only do these cohorts can about meaningful work and personal development, but they want to be recognized for the work they perform.  To resonate, recognition should be given in a certain way.  Not only must it be done privately, but it can come from several sources.  Luckily, recognition doesn't have to be expensive; an authentic message recognizing their human contribution can go a long way.

Want to know more?  Attend the ‪#‎WorkHuman‬ conference May 9-11 in Orlando. If you use promo code WH16MS300, you can get $300 off your registration.  And, as a bonus, the first person who e-mails me their registration confirmation (matthew.stollak@snc.edu) using the above code will get a free copy of keynote speaker Amy Cuddy's book, Presence.  That's a win-win that even the youngest of workers can get behind.


Is Your Company Hungry for Preferred Grocer Organizations?

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

With wellness continuing to be a hot topic, organizations are looking for innovative ways to help their employees lead happier and healthier lives.

For example, how do we get our staff to be wiser or better food consumers? One such approach is the rise of Preferred Grocer Organizations (PGOs). Programs like Healthy Savings encourage employees to eat healthier by discounting the cost of quality food at participating groceries.

If you're familiar with Cartwheel by Target (a personal favorite), Healthy Savings works in the same way. "Each Sunday, your card is pre-loaded with $40-50 of new savings on the healthiest one-third of foods in a typical grocery store."  All you do is shop for the items on the list, scan your card at checkout, and the savings are applied.

Such a program appears to be a win-win for all involved. Since the program only applies to certain stores, groceries get increased, committed customers.  Employees will have an incentive to try and choose healthier food.  Employers will see long-term savings as employees opt for more nutritious items.

Is your organization ready to become part of a Preferred Grocer Organization?