In case you don't know, I'm cool. I took my two daughters to see Selena Gomez in concert. That's right, me and two tweens, along with hundreds of other screaming tweens. As I looked around the venue, I saw them. Dads who were as cool as I am. I wanted to ask for the microphone after the opening acts were through to announce a meeting for us "Cool Dads." We should celebrate our coolness, right? As Selena was singing "Who Says?" this is what I was thinking. I had to put my mind elsewhere because I realized that the throngs of screeching girls were driving daggers into my ears...um, maybe I'm not so cool.
On a practical matter, I have been privileged enough to bear witness to both sides of the coolness equation for corporate interaction in regards to employee relations and training sessions. I have seen people dress up, dress down, dress in costume, dress in a dress...you get the idea. The dog and pony show gets pulled out when certain topics have to be covered or certain compliance points have to be met. I mean, really? How many times can I watch a video on sexual harassment? Part of me worries that if we have to spend so much time defining it, aren't we losing our audience? I, also, think that if we have employees who don't know what sexual harassment is by now, perhaps we should really consider whether their aptitude is at an appropriate level for the company.
To combat this, some HR professionals spend more time planning to introduce engagement programs than actually preparing for the meat of the program. We want to be cool. We want the employees to love it. We want the employees to ask for copies of the presentation. We want our egos stroked (ouch!). The Internet is full of stuff for HR folks to use, and unfortunately, as HR professionals, we spend time looking at all of it. Listen, I am all for updating the repertoire (and I will cross that bridge in a moment) but I don't think we should swing the pendulum so far the other way that the latest and greatest is what we look for constantly. There is something to be said about tried and true learning methodologies.
Engage your employees based on valid and reliable adult learning and adult interaction principles. Having dock workers make balloon animals in an icebreaker exercise to prep for a session on appreciating your co-workers might not be the best idea. Think of the balloons, for Pete's sake! Know the audience; know your employees. If, as HR professionals, we are to relate policy, procedure, mission, and vision to the employees we serve, then shame on us when we use trite, non-thoughtful ways to engage those employees. Aren't we delivering a message that we just don't understand them?
Take an informal pulse of communications, culture and creativity in the workplace. Set up a few skip-level interviews and allow them to be causal for both the senior executive and the line worker. Get feedback from both or sit in on some of them. You might be amazed at the insight. The needs of the company may actually be different than you had originally thought.
As promised, however, the other end of the spectrum deserves recognition. I mean, haven't you seen that FISH video enough? Are you still pulling out that tape? First of all, if you've purchased the DVD of it, I can tell you that you've been using it too long - you've had to order the DVD after the original VHS issuance. It's old! Some of the guys in the video have mullets (if you have one, I apologize, but it's time to let it go - Billy Ray did!) Love the message, but those Pike Place fish stink by now. Look for something newer. And don't just do it because new is better, but rather do it because new may be more relevant.
The messages in some newer product will use language that is more current and the product of more recent research. Old data in a presentation will be a distraction to the audience as they try to figure out what the new info might/should be. It, also, delivers a message that you are just going through the motions, even if you are not. Don't allow aged material to damage your reputation to employees and to senior management. Both groups can think you don't have your finger on the pulse. In 2007, I sat in a meeting where someone shared with the CEO to not worry about social media because it won't be around in a year or two; "there's no money in it" is why he said it would be gone. So, as many of you follow me and Humareso on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn...you get it.
Relevance is crucial in talent acquisition and in talent engagement. What I am sharing is not just about Gen Y. Model technology usage, model fresh approaches, model competitive market analysis and do so in a way that shows investment of time, talent and resources on your part. The employees we serve are selling and interacting in a culture that is all about those items. Show the executive team how they can be used internally with employees and show employees how they can be used externally with customers.
I must, however, show love for those HR professionals who are balancing this well. Adult learning, modern business interaction and relevance is an art to manage and combine appropriately. I have been in sessions with some superstars. Part of this week's blog is based on the awesomeness I have seen and the conviction that it can be done well. Employees were inspired and engaged; they left the room ready to tackle their work differently. Many left the room confident in the company they work for, confident in the company's approach in the marketplace and confident that they could contribute to that effort.
Who says you can't incorporate accurate appropriate adult learning methods for engagement with modern technology? Nobody. Who says you aren't able to invent new modes for your company that show clarity of mission while encouraging updated methodology? Nobody. Who says you can't be cool? Nobody...except your kids.