58 - The Eight-Page Coffee Making Policy

Yup. That happened. Eight whole pages for how to make coffee at the office… as policy. We sit down with Steve Browne, Chief People Officer of LaRosa’s Pizzeria and author of HR on Purpose!! (!! intended). They tackle the black eye that is HR’s reputation, the good, the bad, and the ugly that has transpired for ‘HR as brand’ throughout his career and how he waves his magic wand to plan, do, check and fix things! Magic not guaranteed.


Release Date: August 10, 2022

[00:00:00] Presenter: Warning. This podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Alexa Baggio: Just another day in the office.

[00:00:18] Tyson Mackenzie: There's nothing better than a bunch of people who work in HR getting around the table and sharing these stories. We have this out-of-body experience in HR where you're like, second here. It's not that bad.

[00:00:27] Guest: HR's not so bad. It's not.

[00:00:29] Alexa: Come hang out with Tyson and I on this podcast, we make you laugh.

[00:00:31] Presenter: This is the People Problems Podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie

[00:00:39] Alexa: What's up Tyson? No, not ready.

[00:00:42] Tyson: Hold on, hold on. What's up? Alexa? You tell us what's up today.

[00:00:46] Alexa: Oh, there we go on.

[00:00:47] Tyson: Hold on.

[00:00:48] Alexa: OK. All right.

[00:00:49] Tyson: Hold on. You're in a different place tell us about that.

[00:00:51] Alexa: I'm in a different place, I am. I am in Copenhagen, Denmark, Copenhagen, so I'm officially north of where I was last time. The weather's a little shit.

[00:01:00] Tyson: You might be more north than me, I was going to say, is it cold there?

[00:01:03] Alexa: I think I'm probably more north than you. It's just blustery. It's like windy and today has been a perfect day for what I have experienced most of Copenhagen weather in July, which is that for 10 minutes, you feel like it's about to rain, and then for 10 minutes it's sunny, and then for 10 minutes, you feel like it's about to rain. It just does that like every 10 to 20 minutes, every hour on the hour for the whole day, I've been here for a little over a week. I've had maybe two full days of sunshine and both of which I worked 14-hour days so sucks for me.

[00:01:34] Tyson: Love it.

[00:01:35] Alexa: It's a cool city, I really like Copenhagen. You learn a lot about being in high-functioning, well-laid-out cities. I think there's a lot of stuff about urban planning and city planning like we Americans think we do really well and we don't, but it's been cool. I've been riding my bike around and it's cool. How are you? How's the new cat treating you?

[00:01:57] Tyson: Oh, she's great. She's extremely tolerant of my baby, so it's like, I don't know. She loves the pain or something because she comes over and she sits on my baby's books and my baby's pulling her tail and like grabbing her feet and pulling her ears and she's like chill for a bit and then she moves a little bit and then Rosie just follows her around. It's like, she keeps coming back for the pain, I don't know. She's much more tolerant than Wolf was-

[00:02:23] Alexa: Nice

[00:02:24] Tyson: -with Rosalyn.

[00:02:26] Alexa: That's great, good news for you because that could go the other way, obviously when you rescue an animal.

[00:02:30] Tyson: Well, the best news is that Patricia and Wolf get along, so that was the real fear was that Wolf would not accept, but she has made herself quite at home in all of his things and it's like my husband was joking. He was like, "Well, that's what happens when a woman comes in, bro,." That's what happens? They come in, they take over, they get what they want. Right?

[00:02:51] Alexa: Amazing, I love it. Wolf has just succumbed to the female influence. I love it.

[00:02:56] Tyson: Exactly. Exactly.

[00:02:58] Alexa: I love it. Well, speaking of succumbing, let me do, our homework for the day, which is that today's episode is brought to you by Ink'd Stores. Are you looking to build your company swag store? No minimums, no cost to build, no monthly hosting fees, all the merch, and none of the fine print visit Ink'd Stores? I-N-K-D stores.com and mention the code people problems to receive your discount and free company Web Store.

In addition, today's episode is brought to you by the People Ops Society, and more importantly, and most importantly, Tyson and her new on-demand course for the art of compensation. Tyson's doing an educational series that will dig deeper than the spreadsheets and teach you exactly how to have meaningful conversations with leadership about compensation and build trust along the way, learn about compa-ratios and how they can use views to tell a story along with other important tools and techniques to have in your arsenal for confident comp conversations, so proud of you Tyson.

Competency certificates ordered upon completion available on demand as of August 15th, you can use the code tysonhrshook@peopleopssociety.com to join and learn today. Our last but not least shameless plug, please make sure to follow us at People Problems Pod on LinkedIn, Instagram, all the things TikTok, and then follow me alexabagadonuts and the famous HR Shook for our individual handles. Mine is mostly just me posting wherever I am in the world and silly things that happen. Tyson's is actually probably more interesting, but that's it, that's all the homework for today, so let's move on to pops in the news.


[00:04:31] Alexa: All right, Tyson, I feel like none of our in the news sections are like that's shocking. There's no like, "Ah, big reveal," but this one's kind of fun. The article is called "SHRM faces discrimination lawsuit from former employee and criticism from some HR professionals", which is an oddly vague title, but there's not a whole lot of meat here, but it's interesting to talk about because there's obviously the irony is not lost on anyone that SHRM is being sued for alleged discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Apparently, a Brown-skinned Egyptian Arab woman is alleging that her supervisors systematically favored White colleagues and she was retaliated against after she complained. I don't have any thoughts here Tyson. I don't know if you do on the actual complaint itself. It's also one person so it's a little hard to make much of that. SHRM is a very large organization and companies struggle with this stuff all the time. The irony of SHRM getting sued for employee discrimination is not lost on me. I wanted to bring that up. It's rare that they get unfavorable press even though most people at this point have said something to the effect of SHRM's a little tone deaf, so what do you think Tyson?

[00:05:51] Tyson: I just think this exposes the fact that SHRM is, like you said, a big company, just like other large companies, and they're not immune to this sort of thing. Just because they're an HR company doesn't make them immune to this sort of behavior. I imagined SHRM is a very old traditional type company that just operates very policy-based, policy-driven and this shit happens.

[00:06:15] Alexa: It says in 2020, Insider spoke with a dozen former SHRM employees who describe working in an environment of 'fear'. Another report from Insider noted that SHRM had received some criticism from HR leaders for not publicly taking a 'firm stance against racism and inequality'. Some former members, they spoke to you cited its response to COVID as an unhealthy work environment. I don't know if you go ask a half dozen employees from a place, what they think of the place after they've left, you're probably going to get some fucking criticism. I feel like this is a little bit, let me go find a stat I want to prove and then go find the data to support it. I wouldn't put a lot of stock in this.

I do think it's interesting that, I don't know, I just think it's interesting that this gets press, especially by HR Brew. Although SHRM has done quite a few things recently to put their foot in their mouth. They're not great at learning from their marketing faux pas. Yes, one person with $70 can have a lawsuit. I don't think it says much, but no one is safe, or impervious to these kinds of things, I think is my takeaway. Any other thoughts, Tyson? Anything else you want to add on the SHRM article?

[00:07:25] Tyson: No, I don't think so. I think we covered it.

[00:07:27] Alexa: Okay, cool. I'm going to move us more excitingly to our guest today, which is Steve Browne, the Chief People Officer at LaRosa's. He was introduced to me actually by one of our contemporaries, the wonderful Eric [unintelligible 00:07:37] when I popped off on LinkedIn, I was having a spicy day and I put up a poll that was basically asking something along the lines of like, what do you think is holding the HR reputation back? Or what do you think makes people think that they're still ineffective? I was trying to stir up shit because I do that sometimes. I got some really interesting responses.

One of those was actually Eric pointing out a wonderful article by Steve, that we are going to discuss but let me first and foremost make sure everyone knows that Steve is the Chief People Officer at LaRosa's Pizzeria where he has been in the people function for over 15 years. He is also the author of two books, HR on Purpose and HR Rising, and he is a self-proclaimed HR radical who lives against the grain of traditions. An avid music freak, a hippie, and a lover of llamas and lava lamps. I don't think you needed the lover of llamas and lava lamps after hippie that feels a little redundant. Welcome, Steve. Wonderful to have you here. Thanks for being a guest on People Problems.

[00:08:30] Steve Brown: Thanks, Alexa and Tyson. It's nice to be here. I like that you quantify what hippie is. I'm good.

[00:08:36] Alexa: It was a little redundant there but yes, the lava lamps at least, lava lamps, hippies, lava lamps, bell bottoms, it's all kind of a given.

[00:08:44] Steve: It's all there.

[00:08:45] Alexa: It's all there. Yes. Do us a favor, Steve, tell us a little bit about your history in this space, and just how you came to the people profession. Then we can talk a little bit about emojis and some of the other things you're passionate about.

[00:08:57] Steve: I'm one of those rare people that chose HR on purpose. That was a shameless plug. I didn't mean it that way. I've been in HR since 1986. I was in HR before it was HR.

[00:09:09] Alexa: You were in HR before I was born.

[00:09:12] Steve: [laughs]That's fair. That's fair. I always was a little wary of people who say I'm a people person because most people really aren't. I wanted to be in a profession where I can impact others and help the organization grow. Back when I started, man, you talk about the emojis in the article, that's where it started. We earned it big time.

[00:09:34] Alexa: In what way? Tell us a little bit about the initial impressions and if you were to compare the industry then to the industry now, what would have-- paint us a 1986 picture of HR?

[00:09:45] Steve: It was formal, structured, rigid, compliance. That was all of HR, and everything was, here's what's wrong. Here's what rule you broke therefore, here's the punishments that's coming.

[00:09:57] Alexa: Why do you think it got that way? Where did that come from?

[00:10:02] Steve: We've never been good in the past. We still aren't now with having conversations with people. Instead of talking to the majority that does a great job, focus on the exception, then we make policies and procedures about those people for that behavior, instead of going back and, "Hey, Alexa, I need to talk to you about this. Can we talk about this and work through it?" We are notorious.

[00:10:24] Alexa: Oh, my gosh. We see this all the time.

[00:10:25] Steve: Yes, we're notorious to say-- I worked for a company, worked [unintelligible 00:10:28] they had an eight-page coffee-making policy.

[00:10:32] Alexa: Stop it. Eight pages for making coffee?

[00:10:35] Steve: Engineering firm. It was process used to make coffee, 1.1, 1.2, 1.2.a.

[00:10:41] Alexa: Oh, my gosh. It's probably longer than the user manual for the fucking machine.

[00:10:45] Steve: Absolutely. I ripped it out of the handbook, went and stood in front of the coffee machine, and said, "Hi, I'm going to teach you how to make coffee." They went, "What?" Here's all these mainly men, I go, "Hi, this is how you put the water in. Here's the coffee grounds and when it's empty do it again." They're like, "You're a jerk." I'm like, "This is stupid." We've built all these things into our systems, into our company, that are redundant. Like you said, we're notorious in this and there's no reason for it."

It's changed in some industries, when some of that of same stuff that happened back when I first started HR is still very, very prevalent, and HR people don't know how to break out of it. They just follow along and keep doing the same thing. It's earned us a black eye when it doesn't need to [unintelligible 00:11:35].

[00:11:38] Alexa: I don't think anyone can hear the snaps on my directional microphone, but I am snapping for all of that. I think it's really important for people to understand how-- The irony of this is that all people talk about in HR is culture, right? The culture of the HR profession is fucked. Like, it needs to not be like, "Oh, we're the compliance police. We're the people that rip up the handbook and make the handbook longer." How do people break out of that, Steve? Well, I guess one way to talk about this is, what have you seen changed positively and why do you think that's happened?

[00:12:12] Steve: Where I see them change positively where senior leadership finally said, "They don't get this. This shouldn't be what I want." People talk about culture and senior leadership drives culture, but if the culture is awful and HR supports that, they're not doing anything to push back. I've always been the person that pushes back against that. Simple thing, leaving my desk, talking to people, spending time with people intentionally during the day, just advise. That's how I want to use my time.

Learning how people want to do great things in your company and then say, "Okay, now that I know everybody, we're going to make systems and procedures so that they can perform instead of comply. I'll give you a quick example. We don't have an attendance policy. We have a no-call, no-show. Pretty simple. You don't call, you don't show, you're gone. Even then, we say, "Well, let's see what happens. Maybe something came up. We're a little [unintelligible 00:13:11]."

We having [unintelligible 00:13:13] retention, because instead of tracking you about what you're not doing, I'm expecting you to be there, you're doing a great job. It's just turning it around, reframing things, so that things are more constructive and positive. In the end, you have permission, do your job. I got [inaudible 00:13:30] every day. I've worked my way against-- I'm a non-policy person. Laws, sure. You have to follow? Yes.

Construction layer, we talk about with Tyson's new [unintelligible 00:13:46] thing? Yes. It all makes sense. Normal behavior, you need to be a profession that focus on behaviour and will perform. Not rules and reg.

[00:13:58] Tyson: Yes, you said something there that was important, I think. Something about learning what the business does as well. I think that that's where HR doesn't do themselves any favors, is become hotter to the gate. Like, "This is my HR thing and I want to put my HR thing on you without first understanding what the business truly needs." We see this and I feel like we've talked about this before. We see this a lot with stuff like talent reviews and new comps, new this, new that. We start pushing all the cool HR stuff, because like, "Talent reviews, it's supposed to be great," but the business just isn't ready for it, or they're not, like, doing something else that's more critical, or it's not actually helpful for what they're trying to achieve from a business objective. I think that a lot of the time, even in this new age of HR, where we're all trying cool shit and be strategic, we're trying so hard to gain trust of the business and gain credibility, that we almost push the HR stuff too much. It turns the business off, from my experience, because I was that new HR person. Like fresh out of school. I was like [crosstalk].

[00:15:03] Alexa: You were a little over-eager over-achiever. You don't say.

[00:15:07] Tyson: I was so over-eager, and I'm pushing, pushing, pushing, and the business, they push back. That's not what they want. I did just want to double down on-- You just passed over quickly. Just the idea of getting to know the business, and what they do, and what they're trying to achieve, and then put the HR into that.

[00:15:26] Steve: When I joined LaRosa's 15 years ago, my boss said this, "For the first three months, you're going to do nothing but listen. I don't want to see one idea. I don't want to hear one idea. I don't want to know one program." Within one conversation, I'm like, "Oh, we could do this. Oh, we can do that." For three months, he said, "Okay, third month," we said, now he goes, "What'd you hear? What'd you see?" I learned so much more because I was in the business. One of the big shifts I've seen that I think we really need to press a lot farther, the message that keeps coming everywhere, podcasts, conferences, SHRM is, know the business. That's crap.

We have to be the business. We are the business. Wherever there's people, it's HR. It's not understanding of P&L, understanding how to do a [unintelligible 00:16:18] understanding how to do an LMS or whatever acronym you want to [unintelligible 00:16:22]. There's people. I'm there. That's when HR happens.

[00:16:27] Alexa: I will say, understanding the P&L really helps. I'm a big proponent of that because most HR people are like, "What's a P&L?" I'm like, "Oh, man."

[00:16:34] Steve: [laughs] You [unintelligible 00:16:36]. [crosstalk]

[00:16:36] Alexa: You need to know how those work. Considering you are in charge of the most expensive line item on them. It's really interesting to think about, because again, my role in all this is the other side. I'm the business person that's fighting for this function to be more functional because of all the things you guys are talking about. It's interesting to think of HR needs to be the business because you're right, it's people. Wherever there's people, that's the business, but the business also needs to reciprocate that sentiment, which needs to not be like, "Hey, HR, you're the guy that needs to make sure that people have an eight-page document to make coffee." They need to look at you and go, "Not Steve's fucking job." Right?

[00:17:14] Steve: Right.

[00:17:15] Tyson: I wonder what had to happen. I feel like something maybe happened. Did something happen first, Steve, to make [unintelligible 00:17:21]?

[00:17:22] Steve: Oh, absolutely. It's funny, same company, giant dress code policy because we had one young IT woman, now, predominantly male environment, young IT woman who wore a crop top, and people lost their minds. She wore a crop top, and she had a tattoo, and a toe ring. We're like, "It's evil. What the hell is going on?"

[00:17:41] Tyson: Whoa. Toe ring.

[00:17:43] Steve: We were like, "What are we going to do?" She goes, "You said it's casual." No, no, it's business casual, so I'm cool. Thanks. Here, [unintelligible 00:17:54]. Can you fix that?" She says, "That's it." Lost her mind. She says, "I'm leaving this company." I went, "Wow." Ironically, she went to work for a bank.

[00:18:07] Alexa It's like, yes, we're casual. I just I'm not sure you want everyone talking about your tattoo and your toe ring.

[00:18:12] Steve: Correct. Yes.

[00:18:12] Alexa: You might want to get a little more business with your casual.

[00:18:15] Steve: Most of my peers would be like, "Oh, my gosh, we need to write a toe rings/halter tops/tattoo policy because ahahaha." Instead of talking--

[00:18:26] Alexa: A toe ring policy. I love this.

[00:18:27] Steve: Instead of talking [crosstalk],

[00:18:29] Alexa: I love this.

[00:18:31] Steve: -we write stuff about it. It's cowardice.

[00:18:35] Alexa: It's cowardice, and it's-- For me, I think it's frustrating, Steve, because, and Tyson I've talked about this like quite a few times, that's not new. Sorry if everybody's heard me say this before, but it's not cowardice so much as it is like a blatant ignorance of basic human behavior, which is like if someone does it once does not mean you have set precedent and that it will now forever become a problem.

That's the problem with like the whack-a-mole policy strategy of like, "Oh, someone did this. Put a policy on it. Oh, someone did this. Put a policy on it." It's like, "No, wait a minute. We're trying to create an environment that's actually optimizing people and giving them more freedom to do the things we want them to do, which is not about boxing them in policy upon policy into this like little corral of behaviors we want right." That's how you limit productivity and you limit success, is by limiting people. They're like, "Oh, shit, I can't do that because that's in violation of this policy, and I can't do that because it's n violation of this policy."

It's like, yes, that's not how-- Humans don't respond well to that. Humans respond well with exactly what you said, which is like basic parameters for how things are done and basic expectations that can try to meet versus like not rules they have to avoid. The minute you tell someone not to do something, they're like, "oh, now I just want to fucking do that."

[00:19:51] Tyson: This is what's funny, is like, you go to the effort to make this like toe ring policy, or how to make coffee policy, but I wonder, is there policy in how to provide a merit increase, or is there a policy about the pay for performance compensation system that we have, or is there a policy about how an employee would understand how they're performing, if they're rating-- You know what I mean? Those are policies that are actually really good, because it's not so much a policy as it is creating transparency around how decisions are made, which is essential.

If people don't have that, then they feel that there's unfairness and some people are getting treated differently, and they don't understand how their career works and how pay works. It's interesting that we get so-- because I'm not totally anti-policy because I'm down with stuff like that, that creates transparency but to waste time telling adults how to make coffee, how not to wear toe rings or whatever it is.

[00:20:46] Alexa: Just fantilize it.

[00:20:48] Tyson: It's like why do we have to be here? I guess if people acted like adults, maybe HR would be better.

[00:20:54] Alexa: Just to be clear people suck and they're gross, and they do weird things but you're not going to write a policy to solve that, right?

[00:21:04] Steve: No. The way I've changed that, I write procedures and parameters. Policies are law. Procedures and parameters tell me how to do my job and how to succeed. Policies, say, "Hey, if you cross these lines, there's a consequence." We've not framed it right for people as HR Pro, and no coward [inaudible 00:21:24]. A lot of HR people are afraid. I'm telling you.

[00:21:28] Alexa: They're totally wallflowers. It's crazy. Just like, risk-averse. I'm scared of my shadow. There's a lot of people in this function that are not people of strong fortitude, and just [crosstalk]

[00:21:40] Tyson: There are people pleasers yes men like sort of thing.

[00:21:45] Alexa: Yes, just like sheepish administrators that are like, I just want to submit these claims and go home. It's like okay, well.

[00:21:51] Steve: Because of that, instead of pushing back and helping leadership be better, they go, "Well, this is what HR is," and we settle and we don't have to settle. People don't want to be afraid.

[00:22:01] Alexa: I don't think it's a good way to put it.

[00:22:02] Steve: HR people don't want to be afraid. They don't know how to push back. How to do it in a effective way or how to teach a leader to lead the senior level if they're not at the senior level. There's ways to do it.

[00:22:13] Alexa: Yes, I think it's an interesting-.

[00:22:14] Tyson: In which ways?

[00:22:15] Alexa: Yes, which ways. It's an interesting point, too, because the alternative is that everybody now has this stigma associated with the thing they do for a living, that nobody likes, right? Nobody likes- this, why I'm going to get into my argument. Where Tyson and I slightly disagree that a rebrand is needed, because nobody feels like, nobody goes like, "Oh, yes, I'm in HR, that's so cool." Everyone's like, "Oh, you're in HR, let me tell you this fucked up stuff they do."

[00:22:37] Tyson: I do. No, I do. [crosstalk]

[00:22:39] Alexa: Look, this is why we love you. It's why you're here. It's interesting, because the alternative is well, then you're just going to get stuck being in crappy HR, right? If you're going to act like this is HR, then this is HR.

[00:22:50] Steve: If it turns out to be like the emojis then that's how you live. We've earned that, by the way. When Eric wrote the article, he says, "Hey, I want somebody to write a blog [unintelligible 00:22:59] I wrote up, I said a few things here. Is that how people view HR, or is that HR view people? He went, "What? Are you on [unintelligible 00:23:09]?" Have you ever been to an HR conference? You don't hear the good story?

You don't hear that? "Hey, Tyson is awesome. She did this. This is great." We're like, "Tyson, every time I see her she sucks out my soul." That's how we tell ghost stories.

[00:23:23] Tyson: Lamentors.

[00:23:25] Steve: It's two negatives end to make a positive.

[00:23:28] Alexa: We got to get Steve to a Perks Con but I agree with that. All the existing HR conferences should just be called bitch fest or policy fests because that's mostly what they are. They're all a lot of like, here's the latest update on California labor laws, and you're like, fucking shoot me. I don't want to listen to this for three hours.

[00:23:46] Steve: Anything [unintelligible 00:23:46] and they are. They are least heard voice and when people get it, they just attack. They're like, "Oh, it can't be this. It can't be that." I'm like, "Yes, I live it every day." Every day is great, and challenging, and messy, and picky but that's okay. That's why I'm in it.

[00:24:06] Alexa: Well, that's what we're here to do at People Problems, Steve is help change the voice. Really quickly, just for context for listeners who are like, "What are you talking about?" Let's explain the emoji article real quick, because it's actually-- and we'll make sure it's in the show notes. We'll share it in the newsletter, but people should hear your explanation of the article and also check out their emojis. Then I want to get back to Tyson's point that she called out a little bit about like how we actually do some of this stuff. Tell everyone a little bit about your beautiful emoji article.

[00:24:36] Steve: I called it time for a change because I'm tired of people viewing the profession I love the way it comes up. It was a Google search that Eric did, and then came up with emojis and they're just awful.

[00:24:47] Alexa: They're bad. They're like frowny face. [crosstalk] Stress face. Anger face.

[00:24:51] Steve: You're like, if that's the image where HR-ing is burned, then something needs to be done about it. The first thing is to own it and say, "All right. Sorry. If I've mistreated you, bummer. Let's work on that."

The bigger message is HR people have forgotten they're people themselves. I have the same pride going on that everybody else-- I have the same challenges going like everybody else is but we probably put on an HR face. Like, "No. Everything's great, Alexa. Things are super. Aren' you--" instead of saying, "I'm having a tough day. You having a tough day?"

[00:25:25] Tyson: On my Instagram account HR Shook, I did a story and I asked people to respond with what they thought represented HR. Most of my following are HR folk. I think the number one response that I got was the emoji where the face is being covered and it's just peeking through the eyes or the one of the face that's melting, the melting face which is hilarious.

[00:25:54] Alexa: Those are new emojis, by the way.

[00:25:57] Tyson: These are new emoji ninja came up, the people hitting their head, their forehead.

[00:26:03] Alexa: Face bump.

[00:26:04] Tyson: The swirly eyes. I'm just looking now. There are some funny ones. Someone sent a middle finger so we know how they feel.

[00:26:12] Alexa: Nice.

[00:26:14] Tyson: The head blowing up. A brain. I got some pretty funny responses as well.

[00:26:20] Alexa: Notice there's no hugs. There's no amazing jazz hands.

[00:26:27] Tyson: Superhero. I did get a superhero. Shout out to [unintelligible 00:26:32].

[00:26:32] Alexa: A ninja. All right.

[00:26:33] Tyson: It was a friend of mine who put the superhero. I don't know. The swirly eyes was very common as well and a rocker.

[00:26:43] Alexa: Punk rock. It's really fascinating. Steve, I love because I'm going to call this out exclusively. I think you are the first professional and not maybe that has ever implied it that we've spoken too but then has said it explicitly that there is responsibility on the side of the HR professional for the reputation of the HR professional which is everyone-- I combat this all day. It's all we talk about. It's like, the reputation is broken. The brand off. It's got to get fixed to make the function more effective and for businesses to actually utilize it as the powerful function that it can be and should be and is. Also, that it requires a recognition of like, "Here's how we got here and here's the behaviors to continue to keep us here."

I have not heard enough people say, "We're also responsible for this. We're not just jaded. It's funny and yet it sucks." We can talk about how bad SHRM is all day and how old school but also, it takes one to know one. Everybody collectively got ourselves here. I guess to go back to more of the positive note and the more functional note is when you talk about how we can better train leaders, How we can move the profession in a conversation forward. Like, "What are the biggest tangible things that you're a proponent of?"

[00:27:59] Steve: The first one is model the behavior you expect in others. If you want me to treat you well, then let's do that. If you want me to respect you and value you, let's do that. We have, as a company, chosen to be people first and it's not a cliche. It's not some thng on the wall, it's something you live everyday but there's a big shift [inaudible 00:28:19]. Let's make a business decision.

We're going to make this giant acquisition. We're going to do this. We can go, "Cool, how does that affect them and who's involved from a people perspective to make that happen?" Instead of them looking at people in HR on the outside of the organization, we had to be integrated in the organization intentionally.

There's ways to do it. It's hard. The other big thing is stop collective HR, I mean it. Like, "Here's the policy for. I do it this way." In fact it's HR individually, we're going to take care of every person the whole work.

[00:28:56] Alexa: Explain more about this. Double-click on this idea of HR collectivism good. I think this is fascinating. Say more about what you mean by that. Give some more examples.

[00:29:05] Steve: Let's take the three of us. Our background is X, Y, Z. I need to work with you and develop with you and help you strive in what you do for the company based on your strengths. Tyson has a completely different background, completely different responsibility. I work with her, I develop her, and I listen to her based on what she does. When you do that, it takes care of the whole over time. We tend to say, "Here's the performance management review system. Pick one. Here's our feedback system. Just [unintelligible 00:29:36]." All this stuff is overarching [inaudible 00:29:39] you can't sustain it. I can't take good care of every person at a time. It's a lot of effort. It's a lot more tiring. I have wants.

People respond when they're valued. People respond when they're heard. People respond when you know they matter. All of the other HR terms and labels how do we value diversity? I love that, you're different. "What?" Yes, I love that you're different. You know what? So am I. Together we're different. How weird is that? They go, "Well, what's the Diversity Program?" No, we're different, it's natural. Let's work with that. I'm an introvert, I'm an extrovert. No, you're a person. You went to a space-based system, you used space finders and I know it's old but space finders is the only thing that's not comparative. Every assessment is comparative.

Space Finders says, "This is who we are." If I know that about you, this is how I can do it, for example, Shauna who's my senior HR manager will cover for benefits when I let the other benefit person go in this situation. I've been doing benefits forever because I've been doing HR since you both were born. I knew benefits back when it was young, non-calculated, non-internet, everything was paper and pen, I learned it. I've known it, I gave it to her.

She really wanted to learn and know it but I didn't look into her straight, so I just said, "Here, Shauna, do it," because that's what we do, "Do this." Went back to our space finder, found out she's a learner. [unintelligible 00:31:03] I want you to-- every webinar you want to go. I want you to go to every class you want to go. I want you to do every resource you need, She's, "Let's [unintelligible 00:31:11] budget." I go, "You need to run benefits, I don't care."

You learn this and you ask questions, but I want you to learn it the way you want to [unintelligible 00:31:20]. In a month and a half, she took over benefits [unintelligible 00:31:25] A month and a half she took over benefits. I don't get one question anymore. Every one of our team members [unintelligible 00:31:32] when she's using her space. I think HR it sounds stupid.

[00:31:37] Alexa: God bless the benefits people.

[00:31:39] Steve: Yes, we need to focus on human not the H in HR which is just that.

[00:31:46] Tyson: I have a question. Hold on though. I think that that sounds really good in theory and it sounds like you did it excellent. As an excellent leader, you were able to use strength finders, identify what her strengths were, let her run with it. That really bespoke approach to working with people is amazing but unfortunately, we have some leaders that aren't able to be as bespoke. Either they don't know how, they're too busy trying to do their deliverables, their individual contributor work, so they don't have the time or tools. What are some ways that we can help as HR to better coach leaders on just the simplicity, without making too blah, blah HR? To coach them on really doing this bespoke style management?

[00:32:40] Steve: It's a great question and I appreciate that framework [unintelligible 00:32:44]. First thing is to challenge people [unintelligible 00:32:47] really. Where's your time [unintelligible 00:32:48]? Other deliverables you're giving really adding value or you're just getting stuck? There are so much [unintelligible 00:32:57] we don't prioritize or if I do these things, it moves these things. For example, if I can invest in my district managers to make my general managers better. Please find district managers, I'm not doing it, "Hey, guys, you keep arguing about numbers but you're missing the person. Let's focus on the person and show them how to hit the numbers." Let's do it that way. Let's do it over time.

[00:33:22] Tyson: Teach you how to fish.

[00:33:23] Steve: Yes, it's using that people's first lens intentionally, and then my team knows that that's what we do HR, that's how we do it. I've talked to people and public employers, private employer, union environments, there's nothing that says you can't do that, nothing. It's just you choose not to. You become more a system person, people person, you need to be people first in order to use a good system in order to get results you got to flip it around.

[00:33:52] Alexa: Yes. This goes back to, Tyson and I have talked about it. I love it, it's right, it's just that how do we get the collective role of the organization, Steve, to understand that in order to turn the titanic around you'll have to go two degrees at a time. Almost all of that effort is probably better focused on things like empowering your management team, teaching your people how to deal and manage with people, coach people, all these things. It's not about the tactical work of let's slap a policy on this, let's make sure this procedure it's done, let's do this administrative work that people associate with this.

The collective knee jerk response to this kind of talk is always like, "It's not scalable, it's not really hard." I think the problem with that combat, that feedback, that Tyson and I have had ad nauseam at this point is, that it implies an inherent disconnect between the HR team and the management team and that somehow those are different teams. We're all sitting on the same bench here, guys. We need to think of the HR team as like the people that are actually the most important in identifying those moments. Where you were like, wait a minute, my regional directors are talking about numbers. No one would be like, "Oh, the HR guy cares that the regional guys are complaining about their numbers." All of a sudden you're like, "Wait a minute, that's a people problem." The numbers are a function of the people. I just wonder how we get the collective business world to think of those things as conjoined, instead of thinking of those things as two different issues.

[00:35:37] Tyson: Part of the issue, I think, also is that going back to what Steve said, we don't give leaders the time and space to do the people stuff, which is why then HR has to come in and be like, "Everybody needs to submit their performance review by this date." Then it's like, [crosstalk] following up with the leaders.

[00:35:56] Alexa: Because people are scalable that's the problem.

[00:35:59] Tyson: Right. It's like, "Hey, I noticed that you didn't complete your performance reviews for your team, just please make sure you get that done by this day." That's what HR becomes. It's like, "Hey, I can coach you on how to have these conversations." That's great, you can throw a little bit of strategy in there, but what happens is, you have these leaders that just aren't doing it, which pushes the team's leadership and HR further and further and further apart.

I also think there's a little bit of people who are usually leaders get there, because they were really good at something technical, like, let's go back to the engineering folks that you worked with, Steve. They were promoted because they were a good engineer, chances are they might not-

[00:36:37] Alexa: Not a great [unintelligible 00:36:38].

[00:36:39] Tyson: -great manager. They could care less about managing people. There's a lot of things, I don't think there's-- If I had a magic wand, maybe I could fix something. [laughs]

[00:36:49] Steve: Wait.

[00:36:52] Tyson: Steve has a magic wand.

[00:36:52] Steve: I have a magic wand, look.

[00:36:56] Tyson: Oh, my God. [crosstalk]

[00:36:57] Alexa: Steve just busted out a wand.

[00:36:57] Tyson: Okay, where do I get a wand? [crosstalk] where is there an Ollivander's?

[00:37:03] Steve: Which was [unintelligible 00:37:04] I did a conference and spoke at a conference and somebody said, "You need one of these." She gave it to me. Here are the three things I would recommend. One, deconstruct HR.

[00:37:17] Alexa: Yes, so rebrand that shit.

[00:37:19] Steve: Make it simple. Drop it down. Tyson, you said it too, Alexa, you said. We need to be bottom-shelf people. It's how we talk to each other. We're much more base and human when we just bring it down here. Second thing is, reposition HR. If people say, "I have to go to HR," they're not part of the organization. They're not. I can go to, I'm outside and don't exist. [unintelligible 00:37:40] HR goes to you. However, that is, remote, hybrid, in-person. It is scalable when you have to reposition a I'm coming at you all the time. The third thing is, organizational. You stop starting in the middle and say it's strategy.

We keep saying dah dah, dah, dah and it's functional intact. As an executive, when I became Chief People Officer, were here last year, it was like, you know what? Every conversation I hear we had is the-- what if we said, "Back here, let's start here. I'm more of a busy guy. I am not your [unintelligible 00:38:13]." My thinking is, whoever that is, you need to pull HR along and say, "We want to make sure that the businesses moving forward because starting in the middle and going down, and going, "I wonder why we're not getting different results-- [crosstalk]

[00:38:28] Alexa: What's an example of that? Sorry, just for people who-- what's an example of starting in the middle?

[00:38:32] Steve: We're doing a menu reengineering. It's exciting for pizzerias. Woo-hoo, big step. What we've done in the past is say, "Oh my gosh, we have challenges, let's change them." Instead, we pulled back and said, "We're going to have a sprint team, a bunch of quality sprint that focuses and it's sharp,[unintelligible 00:38:52] but instead of just taking it and running it and putting in place they have to take it pull it back, share it with the executives, give us the big picture, let us scrub it and then it's the next step.

For more people effort, for making sure the right talented people, our private sprint team. We're going to have incredible cost savings at a time of inflation. It's showing how to integrate HR through the different things through the people, through the talent of the humans you have. It's fun. We're doing it every day.

[00:39:23] Alexa: It sounds like you're proposing an iterative approach. Tested, align the right people for the right incentives and then work these changes through the organization iteratively instead of we need to change the menus because inflation, we changed it, we're rolling it out.

[00:39:41] Steve: Right. Some of the things that you've done, this is going to run really contrary, we don't do performance review.

[00:39:47] Alexa: I hate performance reviews but I'm allowed to say that.

[00:39:51] Steve: We have a way to talk to people about it and say, "Tyson, do you know what success looks like in your role?" If she does or doesn't you say, hear what she has to say, and back here, you have all the tools and say, "Hey, I tell you, not bad. I'd like to add these three things, but let's work on this thing." We're taking big steps towards ongoing development that will lead to succession, that will lead to all these things down the road. We've had to take a strategic individual approach with our people in order for it to work. We're learning. When we screw up, and man, we make big freaking mistakes, it's great, but this other thing that we do is called plan, do, check that. You plan it, you do it, check it, you fix it. Plan it, you do it, check it, you fix it. We do it all the time, and it's very open environment, transparent environment. A lot of fun. You have lava lamps.

[00:40:43] Tyson: That's awesome.

[00:40:45] Alexa: Love the lava lamps.

[00:40:48] Tyson: I think it's important again you said. You keep going back this idea of like, do what works for the individual. I think that that in a perfect world is definitely like what we should be doing as leaders. Even if it is like, if you have some sort of policy that governs how you do performance reviews, there's always wiggle room within that. There's always ways that as, like if we have managers listening to this, that you can work that with the individual. Because me, for example, I love my performance review because I could just sit there and get compliments until the day is done. Just bring it.

We're coming on Leo season here, bring on the compliments. Give me constructive feedback, though, and I might not be so happy. You really do have to work. You really do have to work to like the person. Again, if someone's here sitting thinking like, "Oh, but I'd love to have no policies like Steve, there are always ways to wiggle the policy, and I think that's where like I have a lot of fun in HR is like, all right, this is what we have to work with. This is how we're going to skirt around it, and have a lot of fun.

[00:41:52] Steve: We call it LaRosafying. Here's your cool idea. Here's the [unintelligible 00:41:57] strategy--

[00:41:57] Tyson: I love that you're talking with the wand..

[00:41:59] Steve: We talked with the strategy. We're like, "Oooh." I hate the word "best practices." I hate the word. The funny thing is, take the good information, the great content, the great ideas, good stuff that's out there that other people are doing, and go, "Okay, I like that. In my company, dah, dah, dah. Magic wand. This is how it works here." Too many people are trying to be mimics. Mimicking in HR doesn't work.

[00:42:27] Tyson: No. That's the death of HR.

[00:42:28] Alexa: That's such a bad idea, yes. Such a bad idea. I love it. All right, Steve, I have one last question for you before we move to our people problem, which is, if you were going to wave a magic wand, and you were going to change one thing in every HR person's working day starting tomorrow that they're in control of, what would it be? If you could have them all change one thing, what would it be? One thing.

[00:42:58] Steve: I have a picture up my wall. I can't turn my camera on [unintelligible 00:43:00]. I believe most people are good. Not all people, but most. If I have that as my base, most people want to do a great job. Most people want to bring who they are. It's funny, we talk about talent hiring, but not talent once you get hired. Your talent's gone. No, that's when your talents shine. If I could get HR people to believe in people instead of getting sucked into the mire and the mud of the dark side of what we do, which will never go away, I believe in Alexa, and she's got. I'm going to have a better view for her. I'm going to work with her better. She's going to work with me better. We need to start believing in people better and more consistently, instead of focusing on the people to suck their souls away.

[00:43:44] Alexa: Amen to that, Steve. With that, it's a fantastic note to end on. Tyson, let's move to our people problem for the week. What do we got?


[00:44:02] Tyson: The listener question is, "How do you deal with a situation where a leader made a decision that you don't agree with as an HR?"

[00:44:10] Alexa: Take it away, Steve.

[00:44:12] Steve: I believe in the mirror effect. This takes a lot of courage. I'm telling you. If I sit down and go, "I want to tell you about a situation, Paul, that I heard about. I just want your input." You tell him, you go, "Oh." You lay out the scenario and the bad decision that was made, you go, "What would you do?" Then we go, "Oh, I ra ra ra ra ra." That's cool because that was you.

They're like, "You jerk." I'm like, "No." I think the respectful way you turn that back for people to go, "The decision you made affected people this way. It inhibited us here. It was short-sighted. I was narrow, or it was a good try." What if we did this instead. Not to tear them down, but just to complain about it and throw your hands in the air, which too many of us do. We talk so much about people instead of to people I think we go to people. We go, "Hey, struggling with this here, help me out." I've just had it happen this week where I said something and I didn't think anything about it. One of my district managers was, "Hey when you said this you kind of hurt people's feelings and this is what's you did.

I don't think that's we want to do that. You are the head of HR." I said, "That's awesome." I fired her. [laughter] To have the relationship for her to be able to tell me that, amazing.

[00:45:27] Alexa: Makes a big difference. Yes. I like the idea of-- One of the things, I talk about this a lot with other people who run businesses and are growing things or whatever because you're just constantly making decisions. Like 90% of starting and running a business, you just have to make decisions whether they're right or wrong, you're blocking and tackling constantly.

Sometimes those are bigger strategic decisions. Sometimes those are just decisions to move something in one direction or the other. Recently had a friend that was saying that-- Is a COO. They basically came down to like, "We have two options. We can strategically decide to sell this kind of client and run the product this way, or we can decide to sell a different kind of client and run the product a little differently." One involved more margin, one involved more market share. Silly business conversation. It was basically like, "We can take the red pill or the blue pill." He was pretty adamant that they should take the blue pill, but the CEO was like, "We're taking the red pill."

The red pill backfired pretty spectacularly. I was very proud of this person, instead of saying, "I fucking told you so, [chuckles] he went back to the CEO, and was like, "So do you remember when we had the red pill blue pill conversation? We chose the red pill? How are we feeling about that decision? What have we learned from that decision? What would it take to get us to the blue pill strategy if you are now on board with that strategy?"

It was like, "Yes, I made the wrong decision. Yes. We need to go the blue pill route and carte blanche, whatever you need to get this done tomorrow. I'm on board." It was him, the CEO in this case, recognizing like, "I got it. I remember this conversation." Sometimes you just have to play it as like you made the decision, you made the wrong decision. It's okay. CEOs aren't perfect. People don't make decisions in a vacuum. They also sometimes just have to make decisions.

It's about getting someone to recognize the learning, I think, and the responsibility involved is really important. Sometimes you just got to fucking own it. If someone makes a bad decision or a decision you disagree with, but you can understand how and why they got there, you just have to get on board sometimes. What do you think, Tyson.

[00:47:33] Tyson: Yes. I heard this really amazing quote and I probably said it a hundred times on this podcast, but people try to make the best decision that they can at the time with the information that they have. I trust in the good of people and that everyone's just trying to do that. They're trying to make the best decision they can with the information they have at that time. Sometimes it's the wrong decision.

One thing that both of you touched on that I want to highlight is in both those situations, it's super essential that first there's trust. Steve, in your example, you had a trusting relationship with that individual. They could come to you and say, "Hey, that wasn't right." Alexa, in your situation, that person probably had a good enough relationship with the CEO that they could postmortem afterwards.

Leading with trust, having a good solid foundation first, I always say this but giving pros and cons to the situations, how they might play out. Also remembering that again, if you're the HR person in this situation, you don't want to be like, "You can't do that. You can't do this and you can't do that." That's why HR gets a bad name. It's this idea of playing out scenarios as they might. If we do this, if we take the blue pill, these are some of the things that could happen. If we take the red pill, these are some of the things that we can happen. The pros, the cons, the risks, the benefits, et cetera. Playing out the scenarios I think is super helpful as well. That's all I would add.

[00:48:46] Alexa: I don't know if this is helpful for other people, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I'll say it out loud. Treating decisions like testing hypotheses makes it much more of a collective discussion than an authoritative discussion because lots of times when decisions get made, people are like, "Oh, so and so made that decision." Or, "Oh it wasn't my decision."

We scapegoat the person above us or whoever is in charge. The reality is like, "No, we all had a collective discussion about the decision and the decision is around testing. If we make this decision, we are going to test this hypothesis, which is-- This is true. This customer is the right customer. We're going to learn these things by testing that. If we make this other decision we're testing a hypothesis of A, B, and C instead of X, Y, and Z, and we're going to learn these things from that decision." When you take it as a collective discussion around learning and testing a hypothesis, I feel like there's a lot less like, "He made a decision or she made a decision or they did a thing." There's a lot less scapegoating.

[00:49:45] Tyson: Yes. Because then people are afraid to experiment. If you're in an environment where if you make one wrong decision, then all of a sudden it's like, "Oh, you suck and you made this bad decision." Well then no, one's going to do anything fun. [unintelligible 00:49:57]-

[00:49:57] Alexa: Versus we tested the hypothesis-

[00:49:59] Tyson: -totally.

[00:50:01] Alexa: -and it didn't work. Exactly. There's a lot less ability for that to get toxic. There's a lot less ability for this exact question to come up, which is like, what do you do when someone makes a decision you don't agree with? It's like, "Well, they didn't make the decision, we made the decision by providing them all the information to then make it." Someone had to make the call, but we all did it with our eyes open.

I only worry about when people make decisions that the people below them cannot explain. That's when it gets nasty when it's like, "Okay, why did we change this thing, and no one who has to go implement that on a managerial level has any idea why they actually did that." Which I think is hard. What do you think, Steve? Any closing thoughts on this one?

[00:50:40] Steve: I think decisions need to be given context. It's a skill we've lost. It's worth time to tell people why. It doesn't mean that you're not going to have a decision for the same decision may come out even the blue one versus the red one. You do this because then be upfront with them, not this closed door behind the scenes, steep [unintelligible 00:50:59] approach which many of us do. We make this decision because [crosstalk]

[00:51:04] Alexa: Here are some things we considered in the because, we were not oblivious,

[00:51:09] Steve: Right. If something goes bad, we could have done that differently. Had a manager yesterday who said, "Hey, I got this rough email from somebody. I guess I should have done this." I said, "That sounds good." She goes, I think I'm going to go tell people I missed this. I'm sorry. Next time when this happens. This is how we're going to do it. Everybody involved? They all went--

[00:51:28] Alexa: Couldn't ask anything better than that.

[00:51:29] Steve: That's great leadership.

[00:51:30] Alexa: Perfect. You got to learn, you got to grow from it. Yes.

[00:51:34] Tyson: Absolutely.

[00:51:35] Alexa: Too much black and white on these things. I agree. All right, Steve, if people like what you have to say, this has been a fantastic conversation, where can they find you, your books, all your good things?

[00:51:45] Steve: The two most visible places you can find me is I'm on Twitter. If you're on Twitter with me, it's a conversation. It's not just a bunch of shouting and screaming and [unintelligible 00:51:54].

[00:51:55] Alexa: No shouting, please.

[00:51:56] Steve: I want to engage people. There's a hashtag that we use, often called HR community. It's a way to build HR up. It's not how tear HR down. I'm very active in LinkedIn. If you're connecting with me understand this. I'm not here just to be an election piece I want to be a part of who you are and lift you up and share the good work that you do. You can find my books on Amazon. HR Rising, HR on Purpose. Yes, I know there's two exclamation points. Yes, I know it's grammatically incorrect, suck it. It's the way it should be.

[00:52:28] Alexa: [chuckles] It's your brand. Steve, Browne with an E. Browne with an E. You can find him on Amazon, Twitter, LinkedIn, all the places. Steve, thank you so much for being here. It's been a true pleasure.

[00:52:36] Steve: Thanks, and I appreciate the chance.

[00:52:38] Tyson: Wait a minute. Before you leave, take some time to leave us a five-star rating. We'd really love your feedback. Also, if you'd like to see our lovely faces each week as we're recording these episodes, check us out on our new YouTube channel. Thanks.

[00:52:50] Steve: This episode was executive produced by me Alexa Baggio with audio production by Ellie Brigitta of Clear Harmonies. Our intro music was also done by the wonderful Ellie Brigitta ofClear Harmonies. You find more information about us and future episodes at--

[00:53:01] [END OF AUDIO]

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