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Meet Melissa Fairman

2 Nov

Meet Melissa Fairman. Melissa is the author of the HRreMix blog. She has worked in the HR industry for over five years and is currently working as an HR Generalist. Melissa has an MBA with an HR concentration from Baldwin Wallace College and holds the PHR certification form the HRCI institute. You can follow her on Twitter at the handle @HrRemix.

Joey Baird, Sage HRMS: We love the name of you blog and your Twitter handle. What inspired you to choose that name? Did you use to be a DJ?

Melissa Fairman: Well I do love music, and a good friend of mine is a DJ! When I was thinking about starting my blog, I wanted a name that was different, that communicated the idea of change. Techno and house music, especially mashups, are a form of music that is heavily tied to change. Quite a bit of it is a blend of other different types of music, and oftentimes it builds upon older music and makes it better. So it was in that vein that I decided on my name. I almost decided to name the blog HR mashup, but I liked HR remix better.

Blogging is very popular way to share information in the HR industry. How important is it for an HR professional to participate in engagement through blogging and social media?

Social media is an excellent way for HR professionals to get involved in the community.  It helps you to learn and grow within the field on a daily basis. It isn’t something to go into half-heartedly; I make time every day to be on Twitter and Facebook.  That consistent presence has helped me to build a large network of other HR professionals I can reach out to when I have questions.  Jump in with both feet in order to build a community and establish a presence.

Blogging is a much bigger commitment, but I encourage everyone to do it. You develop such a great knack for synthesizing your thoughts in a few hundred words, and that is a great skillset to have. I’ve been blogging about a year now, and I’ve learned so much from blogging; it makes it easier to keep up with the pace of HR news because I’m constantly writing and thinking about the issues.

There must be an endless amount of topics as they relate to HR write about. How do you prioritize and choose topics to blog about?

I wish I had some ordered system, but I really don’t. I use Evernote to take notes about potential ideas because it allows me to sync all my notes across all my devices. These notes are usually short thoughts about news stories that stick with me. After I think about these stories for a while, I’ll then develop the ideas into posts.

Do you have any insight as to what some industry trends will be in this upcoming year (2013)?

It’s hard to predict what is going to be impactful in the future. So much of what affects HR depends on what happens in the general world of business. I know that a big force of change we are currently seeing and will continue to see is technology. There are constant additions of new technology to the industry, and I can barely keep track of all the tech solutions. Social media is another aspect of technology that’s helping to push human resources forward. The overall driving force though is how quick technology is changing. If a company can keep up with the pace of technology, that will give it a huge edge in the marketplace.

The HR blogger community seems like a close bunch. Do you have a change to get together with members of the community throughout the year outside of conferences?

I’ve only been in social media for a year but I’m really starting to develop some connections. Earlier this year I was able to meet Buzz Rooney from The Buzz on HR. I recently attended the Minnesota SHRM State conference and had the opportunity to meet many people from Twitter in real life as well as some of the great speakers.

There are so many HR publications! What are your go-to resources that you find inspiration for your blog posts?

I think it is important for HR professionals to read information that is geared toward business, not just HR. To truly partner with a business, you need to understand how money is made.  I read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, the Economist, and articles from It’s a lot of information, so I’m always a few months behind!

I’m a member of SHRM so I read the email newsletters and their magazine as well. I also read a lot of HR blogs. Some of my favorites, my must reads, are by Chris Fields, the Buzz on HR, the HR Capitalist, and Fistful of Talent.

Sometimes I cut back on blog consumption in order to read some of the great books that come my way. I have limited time so I have to prioritize my reading selection.

We noticed you’re a fan of the NFL. How are you feeling about this season’s encounter with replacement refs? Do you have any friendly HR advice for the NFL?

The NFL can learn a number of things from this season’s replacement ref ordeal especially along the lines of talent management, succession planning, and workforce planning.

For example, I worked briefly at a company where some of their manufacturing team was part of a union, but some were nonunion. We started planning a year in advance for the contract renegotiation just in case there was a walkout. We knew we needed to be prepared for that and other instances.

It shocks me that with the money the NFL generates that they didn’t have people on top of the issue. Their back-up plan was to bring in refs from the lingerie league. Really? What kind of a joke is that? I didn’t even know it existed.

Thanks for the interview, Melissa!

Meet Ian Welsh

12 Oct

Ian is a 20+ year veteran of the human resources industry and now currently operates a consulting business out of Toronto, Canada. He is a frequent contributor to the ToolBox for HR and The Search for Mutual Success. Ian’s posts are his thoughts and expertise on how human resources operate within organizations and society’s impact on business operation and HR’s role. Ian tweets from the handle @ianclive.

Joey Baird, Sage: You’ve been involved in the HR industry for a while now. How did you get started writing for the HR Toolbox?

Ian Welsh: Well I think I came across the HR Toolbox on LinkedIn originally. The Toolbox is a great open forum where lots of people talk about HR and post their blog posts as well. I contribute about ten articles a month, and over the past several years I think I’ve published over 400 articles.

Do you follow any specific bloggers or other sources to remain up to date on what is going on in the world of HR?

I do read a number of websites but nothing on a set consistent basis. I really enjoy getting the international perspective and often visit UK, Australian, and South African sites. Usually I find these blogs and sites through LinkedIn discussion groups. LinkedIn is great because there is a broad international base of people involved in each group.

Another source of information that I enjoy following is the Carnival of HR. That is a great sort of “cooperative” that brings together a number of different viewpoints that focus on different themes every few weeks.

What’s the biggest change or shift you’ve seen in your HR career?

I haven’t really seen major changes to HR principles over the last 30 years, the same programs that were in place then are still in place today. One area that has changed is ethics. Legislation really has led to large changes in this area, especially around government compliance. As soon as some of the major ideas were passed like nondiscrimination, affirmative action, occupational health and safety, and environmental, companies really took notice and focused on building their HR departments.

Generally employees embraced these changes, and employers wanted to be good citizens. In the past few years or so, though, I’ve seen businesses become more Machiavellian, almost ruthless in a way. Businesses are now prepared to buck the system and confront government legislation; they’re almost more willing to take the fines and punishments if they believe it will be better for their business. In some businesses this has really created a gulf between HR and management.

The trend then was to treat any program like compliance programs as a burden, and management was prepared to go against legislation if they balanced the risks and thought they would be better off. I think this also has a lot to do with the tenure of top executives now. The average tenure has gotten much shorter, so they are making decisions more for the short term rather than long. 

As a neighbor to the Great White North, are there any work policies in Canada that differ from the United States when it comes to work-life balance or work culture?

Canada has stricter rules around employment standards and various things such as social programs. In Canada, though, people aren’t as close to one another geographically, and many companies operate in multiple provinces. This really opens up the need to have employees who are able to work remotely and balance their priorities on their own.

We’re having a Facebook contest and giving a year’s worth of free HR training by asking followers to share their most essential HR management tip. We have to know, what’s yours?

I’d say that human resource professionals need to really put themselves in the other person’s shoes that they’re dealing with. They need to be practical and observant; they need to provide the value that is needed within businesses. They need to understand the issues and attack the problem, not pull some off-the-shelf program and try to fix issues that way.

I’m sure we have some HR readers who toy with the idea of starting a blog. Do you have any tips for newbie HR bloggers?

The most important thing is trying to write in a natural style that the blogger can maintain. Don’t write in flowery language with large words to just try to sound educated. Be yourself and use your own voice. Also, bloggers have to engage readers and introduce questions and ask for comments.

I actually wrote a couple of posts about this in the early stages of writing my blog. One was written about three months after I started so it really does have newcomer perspectives. The other was after my first year; it reinforces some of my earlier thoughts and also talks about some of my accomplishments.

Do you have any other projects coming up in the near future, perhaps new blog posts?

One project that I’m really excited about is an e-book. I’m working to bring some of the themes and thoughts I’ve had over my 400+ blogs into a more concise format. So be on the lookout for that!

Meet Charlie Judy

8 Oct

Meet Charlie Judy. Charlie is a global HR executive and talent management blogger. Charlie is a Human Resources Executive with expertise developed globally in organizations recognized for their people-centric environments; he brings two decades of broad and progressive experience as a strategic business advisor and HR steward to organizations and their employees; he is the global director of HR strategic development and operations for Navigant Consulting, Inc. where he is responsible for optimizing the firm’s Human Capital function. Charlie Judy is also the author of the talent management blog HR Fishbowl and tweets at the handle @HRFishbowl.

Joey Baird, Sage: We are huge fans of the HR Fishbowl blog and frequently share your posts with our followers. How do you decide which topics to write about?

Charlie Judy: Most of my articles really are consistently focused on making HR easier, making it more of an extension of who we are as people. I try to speak to how people can just learn to leverage what is already part of their makeup and not waste time on stuff that doesn’t add a lot value to the career experience.

When I first started the blog, the online space, especially around social media, was dominated by people and groups who weren’t necessarily living and breathing the practice of HR every day. Their voice was crucial but only one part of the discussion. I really wanted to make sure the true “trench HR” practitioner had a voice.

You’re active in social media with not only your blog, but also on Twitter. Do you ever get to engage with any of your followers in real life at either Tweet Ups or HR conferences?

Yes, I attend several conferences each year. I’d love to attend more, but they are just really time consuming. I will be at HR Tech this week in Chicago, and I’m going to try to pop into HRevolution as well. I’d put those on everyone’s lists.  

I also enjoy the national SHRM conference. It is a pretty amazing event. It’s hard to find an HR conference with that kind of scale. The level of vendor participation is great, the content is extensive. It’s important HR professionals hit this one every now and then.  SHRM in general has also really done a good job of getting more plugged into the social space, and I’ve enjoyed supporting that foray.

I try to make it to at least one State SHRM conference a year – I was the emcee for the Illinois Conference again this year; there were close to 800 people and, as always, it really had a world-class speaker line-up. It’s amazing with the volunteer organizations for the State can put together – these are no small undertaking.

Many of the bloggers on your FishRoll are favorite HR bloggers of ours, as well. Are there any up and comers in the industry whom you haven’t mentioned yet on your FishRoll? 

There are too many to even mention and I’d be afraid to leave someone out. I admittedly don’t read as much as I’d like. And I do all that I can to encourage others to get their voice out there…I wish there were more. The echo chamber is alive and well – we need to mix it up if we can. I’d encourage all of your readers to go out there and find a few blogs they love and follow them regularly – the goodness you can get from this space is first rate.

Do you have any other important initiatives that you support that you’d like to get on the radar of our readers?

Well, lately side project stuff has slowed for me; I like to front-load most of my speaking and other activities during the calendar year because my day-job gets tough towards the end of the year.

I’m involved in a longer-term project which will hopefully get some energy behind it here in the near future. Last year I spent three days locked in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with some of the brightest cats in the talent management, marketing, social media, and leadership space, discussing ‘the future of work.’ We put together a Manifesto around what we think it might or should look like. It is our fundamental belief that what work becomes is something we all have a large responsibility for and that only through strong grassroots efforts might a sea-change occur. We’re all getting together again soon to talk about where to take this next – stay tuned on that one.

We are running a Facebook contest right now giving away free access to HR training, and we’re asking people about their most important HR tip. What is your tip to share with others?

I have a list of well over 200 of them that I call “Fishbowl Logic.” One of my favorites is that “it’s hard making things easy.” If we want to be really good at delivering HR services to and enriching the career experience for our employees, we have to do that in a way that isn’t burdensome or extraneous or doesn’t bring any perceived value. One of the best ways to do that is to make it easy for them to access, take advantage of, and ultimately get something out of what we do for them. But that takes a real concerted effort. It’s partially about removing the clutter. But it also involves challenging every aspect of what we’ve done, asking why it is we do it that way, and sometimes not liking the answer.

I have to ask . . . do you or your family have any fish?

That’s a great question; I do not have any fish. I was home one day with the kids, and in a moment of weakness I succumbed to their urging that we go to the pet store and get a lizard as a pet. The kids were ecstatic. . But while we were there I realized that taking care of a lizard wasn’t anywhere as easy as taking care of fish. So we went home with the idea to try and convince my wife about getting fish. She didn’t like the idea of anything in a tank and set into how much of a pain my dog was already. So sadly we remain fishless (and lizardless).

The moniker HR Fishbowl comes from the notion that people are constantly on the outside looking into our profession; everybody thinks they’re an HR expert and with that comes a great deal of scrutiny and critique. It’s just like being in a glass bowl.

Meet Dave Ryan! Director of HR, Avid Blogger, and Sage Customer

14 Dec

Meet Dave Ryan, Director of HR for Mel-O-Cream Donuts International, Inc.  He is an avid blogger and board member of the Illinois State Council of SHRM.  Dave’s blog, HR Official, is a play on his love of HR and refereeing hockey. Dave, or commonly known as @DavetheHRCzar, has been a longtime user and advocate of Sage.  Recently, I had the chance to interview him for the Employer Solutions Blog and learn a little more about hockey, donuts, and human resources, a great mix!

Joseph Baird: So you are the Director of HR for Mel-O-Cream Donuts International. Can you tell us a little about your company and perhaps share an interesting HR story?

Dave Ryan: Sure can. Our core business at Mel-O-Cream is manufacturing bakery products primarily for the wholesale distribution to supermarket and bakery operations.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret, you know those bakeries in grocery stores with big ovens and 60 year old ladies wearing hair nets?  Well, some of those bakeries aren’t real, they are just for show and most of the products in the cases come from companies like Mel-O-Cream! 

I’ve got a funny story that comes to mind, not about me at Mel-O-Cream, but about HR in general that was told to me from Mike Van Derhort of The Human Race Horses Blog.  Mike got the name of his blog from when he was a regional HR manager in the Midwest.  Every so often he would have to call a business unit of his in Kentucky and a sweet lady from HR would answer.  In her drawn out Southern accent she’d say, “Hello, this is the human race-horses department.”  She was saying resources but with that accent of hers it was hard to tell!

JB: Speaking of blogging, you’re very active in social media as well.  What other HR blogs or bloggers do you follow?

DR: In addition to Mike’s blog, there are many others like Charlie Judy of HR Fishbowl, Ben Eubanks of UpstartHR, Tim Sackett of The Tim Sacket Project and Fistful of Talent, Trish McFarland of HR Ringleader, and Jay Kuhns of No Excuses HR.  That’s just a short list too, I love reading everyone’s thoughts and ideas.

JB: What advice about recommended first steps would you give to an HR professional looking to get more involved in social media?

DR: I would say start with LinkedIn; if you’re not on there, first start with your personal profile and then make sure your company has a profile.  The next step would be to create a Facebook account and then when you feel comfortable move to Twitter.  Many people keep Facebook and Twitter for their personal network and LinkedIn for their professional network.  I have adopted the philosophy that I am who I am, and it’s all the same.  If you’re generally a good positive person, you should also have a positive image in social media too, no matter what network you’re on.

JB: Do you ever use some of your hockey refereeing skills to handle HR issues? Have you ever blogged about similarities between hockey and HR?

DR: Absolutely!  That is the whole concept behind my blog because being a referee is dealing with people in a heated moment of passion and hockey sure is passionate.  When you diffuse a situation where kids want to fight each other, it’s no different from working with employees in a shouting match.

I’ve got a funny story about passion that I wrote about in a post last winter called War Stories from the Ice Rink.  At the start of each game, as a ref, you usually introduce yourself to the coaches because they have to sign the score sheet.  I typically shake hands with them, wish them good luck and check their roster.  At one game, when I was shaking the hand of a coach, he was pressing a pre-positioned object in my hand.  As I let go, he said “It’s to make you sweeter.” As I looked down, I noticed a Tootsie Roll in my hand.  I laughed and told him that was a good one. A little humor can go a long way; that’s sometimes true with managing people too.

JB: Does Mel-O-Cream use social media for recruiting?

DR: Yes, we have a Facebook page with over 1,700 fans.  Here we post jobs and we have used LinkedIn and Twitter.  A great piece of advice that I’ve implemented that I learned from Jennifer McClure is about LinkedIn.  In our case, we have regional sales reps and sometimes it’s difficult to find sales people in other areas.  What I’ve done was find the biggest group on LinkedIn in that region that was dedicated to sales professionals and posted links to jobs there. We don’t even have the recruiter package on LinkedIn but just by doing that, for free, I can expand the communication of the job to many other qualified candidates.

JB: In additional to social media, you’re active in SHRM with your local Illinois chapter and attend HR conferences each year. Do you have a conference you attend that is your favorite? Do you have a favorite speaker or presentation that you’ve heard lately?

I try to make it every year to the national SHRM leadership conference as well as IL SHRM.  I’ve also had a great time the past few years at HR Revolution which is put on by a great group of HR professionals, I really like the “unconference” format.  I will say, it is almost as social as it is informative and there are some really bright people leading the way. It is mentally stimulating to hang out with that crowd.  A specific speaker I enjoy is Ryan Estis.  He was the keynote at IL SHRM last year, he is a very talented and passionate young man.

JB: You’re also a Sage HRMS user, and quite a loyal one.  Why have you stayed loyal to Sage?

DR: We’ve been using Sage HRMS since 1993, and we’ve found the product to be very robust; it stays current with our needs.  I think it is a testament to what you guys do there.  Sage HRMS isn’t rife with errors; it doesn’t crash; to a certain degree it is out of sight out of mind.  It has been durable and we’ve stayed current with upgrades. I rarely call tech support, but when I do, I get my questions answered quickly.  We’ve also coupled it with a few other Sage products so the integration really helps with other parts of the business.

JB: So we’ve had a lot of fun today, but now, the most important question; what is your favorite type of donut?

DR: Surprisingly, even working at a donut manufacturer, I don’t eat lot donuts.  I do preach moderation though, and I think my favorite donut says a lot about my personality.  I like a cake donut with white icing.  Cake donuts are made from batter, rather than dough and they’re more like a pancake than bread.  But the donut fits me; I’m just a plain vanilla type of guy.

JB: Dave, thanks so much for spending some time with us today.  I really had a lot of fun and think readers will enjoy this post!