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#SHRM18 - HR Is Simple, Really

For those in HR who have been living under a rock and don't know who he is, Steve Brown is the Executive HR Director of LaRosa's Pizzaria in Cincinatti, Ohio, and also a member of the National SHRM Board of Directors. Steve isn't your typical HR guy. He wears jeans and tie die shirts. He laughs at things, makes jokes, loves music. And also, he thinks that many HR people are doing it wrong.

Steve presented today at one of the concurrent sessions, and his topic was Cultures that Rock! It's no secret that Steve loves rock music. And he used music as a backdrop to his presentation. The bottom line, HR is focusing on the wrong things. We focus on rules, policies, procedures, when we should be focusing on our people. "Who in this room is judgy? We call that recruiting..."

Steve loves people, and it's his sole concern. Everything else is a byproduct of the people. When HR walks into the room where your employees work, and they begin getting nervous about who's getting into trouble, you know there's an issue. And Steve says before we can focus on our people, we need to focus on ourselves first. We need to bring our whole selves to the workplace, and we need to do it purposely. Only when we are genuine and approachable, can we make real and genuine connections with our people.

Steve makes regular visits to the stores. But he's clear that he wears plain clothes when he goes. He doesn't want to be viewed as "corporate". He wants to be Steve. He recalls a story where a female employee vented some frustration on Facebook, putting a pretty nasty post on there. How did he handle this? He had a conversation. And during that talk, he found out that there was a pretty serious issue going on, of which the employee who made the post was the victim. And his response to her was simple: "Will you allow me to fix this for you?" And he did. And the young lady continues to be employed with LaRosas, and she continues to be a high performer.

One of Steve's pet peeves is the generation talk. Specifically, a particular age group that starts with an M. We are inundated with talk about how to lead these people, how to talk to them, what do they want. The problem in Steve's mind (of which I agree) is that we are acting as if all members of each age group is the same as everyone else in their group, are motivated the same way, respond the same way. Steve makes it very clear that it is about the individual. We don't do enough talking to people as individuals, we keep trying to organize them by group. And that's just wrong. "How shameful is it that as a society, we use discrimination to describe groups of people?"

Being a music lover, he used music technology to describe the inherent issue with referring to people as part of a group. He pulled out a copy of the White Album by the Beatles. It was one of the classic versions on white vinyl. Then, he pulled out a cassette tape. Next, a CD. Next, an iPod, and finally, an iPhone. 5 generations of devices, playing the same song. The mechanism that we use to play the song may be different, but the message is the same. But as HR, we spend more time focusing on the different mechanisms, than the common message.

In Steve's mind, the rules for our people are very simple:

- Rule 1: Be Happy

- Rule 2: Be Awesome

- Rule 3: Help others with #1 and #2

"We need to value people, because people freakin' rock."

-- Steve Browne, 2018

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