If It Moves, Hit It…

There is nothing quite so humbling as uncertainty.

I was reminded of this recently while having a conversation with a friend. His current job responsibilities continue to change, to the point of putting him in a totally unfamiliar role where his experience is minimal at best ~ it’s a daily struggle. This immediately reminded me of my oldest son, Jack, and his transition to football this last year.

Brilliantly smooth on the baseball field, Jack is a Shortstop any coach would kill for. He loves baseball, has been playing it since he was 3 years old, never really paid much attention to other sports.

And then….football.

Living in Texas, playing football is a rite of passage. So, entering 7th grade, Jack decided that he was going to strap on the helmet and play football for his middle school.

Let’s call it a “learning experience.”

Like my friend, Jack was now literally in unfamiliar territory. Skills that served him well in one sport were no longer relevant. Now he had new responsibilities, a new language, different equipment, and limited time to get up to par. What was once fluid and natural became hesitant and doubtful…it’s hard to be confident when you still don’t know the rules of the game.

So, being a knucklehead myself, I gave Jack the best advice I could muster…”even if you’re not sure where you’re going, get there as fast as possible.” In other words, take control of the one thing you have – your ability to move fastSucceed or fail, just do it quickly.

I’ve been in the same cleats and ignored my own advice (shocker) at times; moving cautiously, deferring politely, conceding the issue without a fuss – all of a sudden, you’re riding the pine.

Coaches, like bosses – can see passion and energy. As a Little League coach for my boys, give me the scrappers with dirty jerseys and raspberries on their legs; they’ll drop a few balls, run int0 a few outs, but I’d rather teach them the “book” than teach them hustle

Are you in an an new role? New boss? New company? Feeling cautious, nervous, unsure? Lacking confidence? That’s normal.

Not sure where you’re going? Just get there FAST.

Keeping ’em Down On The Farm; Mobile Recruiting

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” (Young, Lewis) – 1918

Farmer Reuben knew it…the boys returning from the war had seen the sights, sounds, and seduction of the big city. Despite the naive and hopeful mindset of Mother Reuben, the cat, as it were, was out of the bag.

The corporate mindset that views virtual networking as a controllable and policeable activity, is, at best, wishful thinking. The idea that firewalls can be utilized as a retention tool is Mother Reubenistic; if employees aren’t happy on the farm, they don’t need corporate access (or permission) to take a look over the fence.

You can lock down your own devices, but check this: Mobile devices are owned by 90% of our population, while 58% of Americans own a smartphone (and we know how to use them – 70% of job seekers use said smartphones in their job search.)

So you have a dovetail challenge with mobile recruiting:

1. Even engaged employees utilize their mobile device at work; regardless of whether they happen to be job-seeking. The savvy company has a recruiting strategy that uses the mobile device as a “pull” mechanism.

2. Those same types of employees exist at other companies, too. Are you a savvy company with a recruiting strategy that includes mobile recruiting?

In the world of Human Resources, there can be no more valuable role than strengthening the performance base of the employee population. That means finding the best talent where they live and breathe, and showing them what “Paree” has to offer.

Keep Your Promises


“Trophies are rarely awarded during practice.” – John Whitaker

This is not a drill, HR. The game is on. Your company is being acquired, and you are needed (even if not asked) to make the transition a success. Time to trice up, mill about smartly, and fulfill your promises. “What promises?,” you ask?

In times of merger chaos, every leader in the company has a responsibility that can be summed up fairly succinctly into the “Four Promises.” [Smart Moves, Pritchett]

  1. The organization we hand off is at least as healthy as the one you purchased.
  2. Lead and support employees through the process w/respect, dignity, and engage them as adults
  3. No disruptions to customers (external or internal) – we are the duck’s feet
  4. More value will be found in the new combined entity than the previous separate ones

Seems logical enough, yes? Thinking through this logically, why else would a merger occur if not for increased value? But of the four promises, which do you think is most often neglected and/or minimized?[please say #2]

Number 2 you say? CORRECT!

It happens as instinctively as a bad habit (it is) ~ “Value” is immediately focused on the transactional pieces of the business. Buying power is consolidated, processes are fine-tuned, and we launch shared plans of action to comfort our customer base. To the outside world, we communicate consistently, try to keep ’em happy, and make sure the lights are on at the store.

But how about our employees?

The value of an engaged and productive integrated workforce is almost universally de-prioritized. Granted, the angst and anxiety of major change is unavoidable, so any effort to eliminate the impact of uncertainty is wasted effort. That’s not the goal.

The goal is to minimize the emotional impact encountered by your people – prepare them for the shock, support them through the transition, and maximize the personal and professional value of the employees and the new entity.

As HR professionals, we cannot assume that the employees have been considered with as much concern as the customer; re-establish the people as a priority in the acquisition process.

You promised.

Anchorman 2 – The Shark Don’t Lie

Will Ferrell is comedic genius, but he’s officially on my poop list.

You see, Will Ferrell is guilty of pulling a “Sandler,” i.e., he took a dive, called it a movie, and played us all for fools.

It hit me like a bad hangover the morning after watching this steaming pile of cinema called Anchorman 2…I realize it’s always a “buyer beware” situation when you invest time & money on a movie, but this was Anchorman, dude, how bad could it be?

Answerexceptionally bad. Not only that, but long and exceptionally bad. Almost, dare I say, intentionally bad.

How do I know I’m right?…the shark.

A freaking shark. There’s a freaking shark in the movie – get it? “Jump the Shark?” The opening and closing scenes all involve said shark – Ferrell is obviously and overtly telling us that he is intentionally taking this movie outside of the “cult comedy” status and into the “ridiculously stupid & offensive” category, just to see if we’d still pay to watch.

I did, and I’m dumber for it. The funny thing is, no one seems to want to admit it – this movie got 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s 8% higher than the original Anchorman – and that, m’friends, is nuts.

The expectations and relentless build-up for this sequel provided a groundswell of anticipation that clouded the judgment of at least 73% of those who viewed the end result.

But someone needs to call a pig a pig.

Oink, Will…….oink.

Simple & Systems are Siblings

Solving problems for my customers is what I do.  For that matter, it’s what we all do, right?  But how?

I’ve found that customers appreciate simple and effective over complex and grandiose.  However, HR gods and goddesses tend to take the perspective and behave in order to impress rather than improve.  Think of your customer solution like a great web site – the user should never be more than three clicks away from what they need.

Now, if you want a solution that really knocks the socks off your HR and executive partners, add value by building a simple solution that integrates fabulously with all the right systems.

Simple and systems are siblings, not rivals.  And it’s the great HR professional that gets this.  Your solution is best when it’s right for the customer on the front end and integrated into the necessary and right processes on the back end.

Whether it’s a functional integration (Finance, Legal, Compliance) or a process integration (performance management, communication, HRIS), the degree to which you’ve thought through and integrated your solution simply and effectively makes you a rock star.

It’s that simple.

Editors Note: Welcome Mary Fors to the HR Hardball “voice;” when she’s not running, reading, or traveling, she’s Directing Leadership Development at Asurion in Nashville, TN. Connect with her here; do it before she’s famous.

What’s the Deal?

“We have met the enemy, and they are us.” – Walt Kelly, Pogo

We talk a lot about merger integration on this site, specifically addressing the role…nay, the RESPONSIBILITY of Human Resources to take the lead role in the assimilation of “new” employees during the M&A process.

But not all deals are created equal, right? The type of deal makes a difference to the people involved, ergo, it makes a difference to you as the strategic HR professional you most certainly are.

What if you’re on the buyer side? What if you’re a merger of equals (at least that’s what they say it is)? How about a wholly-owned subsidiary? Divestiture? Trophy company? Each has its own employee dynamic, each touches a different number on the DEFCON scale, but they all offer an opportunity for Human Resources to make a play for strategic influence.

Look at the first example above (buyer). As the announced “winner” of the deal, you can be sure that the large portion of the freak-out factor rests in the hearts and minds of the acquired company. At first blush, it appears the heavy people-lifting will strictly be the concern of the acquired HR department (wait for it, you know there’s a “but” involved here…)

But (and, there it is) – is your own house in order? When was the last Formal Talent Assessment and/or Succession Planning meeting conducted? I don’t care how wonderful your company is, there are talent upgrades to be had & you find yourself with a motivated, receptive hiring pool eager to find a place in the new organization.

If you’ve been in HR long enough, you know exactly who the dead-weight is in your company. People who’s main contribution is “presenteeism” – here’s your chance to make a positive outcome using redundancy as the catalyst. You need to act quickly to identify the key players on the other team (as noted here) and show them some love. Know the mindset of your audience and react accordingly – the most talented people have options and will immediately begin to explore said options if left to wallow in uncertainty.

Here’s your chance to own the precious task of upgrading the talent in your new organization. TAKE IT.

Reach out to your new HR colleagues, help them with the daunting task ahead and position yourself as a pathway to a new career for the best and brightest.

Fish or Cut Bait

You’re doing something wrong.

A new study released by Towers Watson, titled “Only One-Quarter of Employers Are Sustaining Gains From Change Management Initiatives” clearly delivers a message we already know all too well; companies do not do a good job training and/or preparing managers to lead change.

Well, duh.

But the frustrating part is the disparity between the awareness of the problem vs. the solution to the problem.

The companies surveyed already know two facts:

  1. Training and preparing managers to effectively lead change is critical

    “Looks good to me.”
  2. They really stink at it

Almost 90% of those surveyed (North America, Europe, Asia) actually train their managers in change management ~ but only a fifth (22%)  say they do it effectively.

So, basically we’re lost, but we’re making great time!

The reason is simple – “Change” is still treated as a situational, transactional, project-oriented event instead of a fluid, ongoing part of your culture. You can’t “train” people to be effective change agents in a one or two-day session. It’s a nice way to offer development, but there’s no way you can realistically expect a new mindset like “change agent” to stick for long.

It takes commitment, reinforcement, and (here’s the sales pitch) a budget that reflects the importance of learning the skill. This what we do at Pritchett ~ offer you the opportunity to transform your organization instead of training your organization.

You can’t stick a toe in the water and call it swimming ~ time for adult swim, let’s go at this solution with the commitment and respect it deserves.