The Value of Your Network

“The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot.Thus, good schmoozer’s are good listeners, not good talkers.”  Guy Kawasaki

As many of you know, I got my current position through good old-fashioned networking. And building my network took (and still takes!) time, consistency and effort. I consider my network to be one of my most valuable assets. I can rely on it to help me get questions answered, develop professionally, provide me with ways to expand my skills and to offer a friendly ear to hear about my challenges. I have known many networkers (and some so-called networkers) over the years and I have gleaned some best practices for networking. These have surely helped me.

We all need to tend to and build our networks. Our network can be one of the few consistencies we have in our career even as it grows and changes. I think of my network as a garden. Even when you aren’t growing things, you still need to care for the soil so that when growing season starts you are ready to go. The same goes for a network – you have to have the infrastructure built before you actually need it. Your network should include a broad spectrum of contacts from both inside and outside your field as well as inside and outside your company. This way you can identify areas of development to help you and your company get to the next level. I call on my internal network for consistency within our walls and my external network for best practices and ideas to enhance our business.

The toughest part of building our network can be stepping out of our comfort zone and meeting new people (or learning more about those you already know). Here are some things I keep in mind as I continue to expand and develop my network.

Be Seen. I belong to several organizations inside and outside our business and make every effort to attend meetings and events. While I have a busy schedule, I put these events on my calendar and make arrangements to attend as many events as I can. I find it really important to get out there and be seen. This can show others you are committed to the organization and your own development and it is a great way to build bonds with others.

Be Heard. I strive to meet someone new or learn something new about someone I already know as often as I can. When I go to meetings and events and have the chance to network, I start with the people near me and see where it goes. I have found that many people at events are a bit anxious about meeting new people (and I get this way, too) and a great way to stop that feeling is to start chatting. It is amazing what you can learn! Another way to get heard is to volunteer with professional organizations. Serving on a board or committee can get your seen and heard. Just make time for it – everyone is busy.

Be Sincere. I feel that the goal of networking is to offer your skills and abilities to others and help them develop and, as we all know, when someone succeeds they usually remember those who helped them get there. When meeting someone new, let them know how you can help them by offering your skills, abilities and knowledge. Remember to be genuine and be yourself.

Think Globally. I have connected with people from other companies, industries and geographies. This helps me keep a global perspective while working in South Florida. And keeping this global perspective has gained me relationships outside of my comfort zone. Keep an open mind when meeting people – every one has something to offer. I have a nice network in Egypt that I met at the SHRM Leadership conference in 2009 and still chat with them regularly. How cool is it to know HR professionals in EGYPT?! We just need to listen to them.  Oh and be that person who goes up and introduces yourself to the person standing alone. You never know who you will meet!

And Don’t Forget. Don’t forget about your network. We all get busy and life gets in the way, but find a way to engage your network. Before I had networking hardwired into my psyche, I populated my calendar to make sure I sent Tweets, did LinkedIn posts and wrote blogs. It took some time but now it is second nature, the key is to keep the conversation going and others will listen.

The time to build a network is when you don’t need it. Then when you do need it, your connections are there to support you. I know many people who are great networkers and those that aren’t have an opportunity to become great networkers. The satisfaction in knowing that I can email or call someone to get answers to almost anything helps reduce my stress, provides me with support system and allows me freedom to help others. We are all in this together; why not help each other out?

Last night, I attended the Greater Miami Society for Human Resource Management (GMSHRM) meeting at FIU and had a great time. I made it a point to meet 2 new people – and I did within the first 20 minutes of being there. One was someone who I was wanting to meet and the other became a connection that I hope to retain indefinitely. I got home and immediately connected with them on LinkedIn and added them to my network.

What networking success stories do you have? 

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


The Power of Networking

It’s all about who you know and being in the right place at the right time.

My family and I have spent the last 3 years determining the ideal place for us to move. After much research and deliberation, we decided in 2010 that living in the South Florida area would best meet our professional and personal wants and desires. We started to make routine visits to the area and started pinpointing specific areas that we felt would best meet our needs. Being the HR geek that I am, I immediately started my networking. I joined the local SHRM and WorldatWork affiliates. In November 2010, I attended the SHRM Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA and made it a point to seek out the chapter leaders from the chapters I had joined. I made some good connections during the conference that would lead to life changing circumstances for me.

Flash forward to August of 2011 when I had the pleasure of attending the HR Florida conference in Orlando, FL. Just prior to the conference, one of the people I had met at SHRM Leadership had indirectly connected me with someone who was looking for input for a student networking presentation they were giving at HR Florida. I was happy to give comments for the presentation and offered further assistance, if needed. Well, this person later contacted me and asked if I would mind being a judge for the student networking competition. Of course, I happily accepted. The presentation was great and I learned from the participants. I feel the students had many valuable takeaways to help them become solid HR professionals.

As a volunteer, I was invited to attend a group dinner after the student event. I met the group at a local restaurant and reconnected with those I knew and made my way around to those I did not so I could grow my network. It was great meeting everyone and learning about these new contacts. One of the people I met is a director for a large hospital system in South Florida. After chatting for a few minutes, he shared that there was an opening at one of their facilities in the Upper Keys and gave me some information about the position. That night, I went back to my room and started researching the company and location. I was quite impressed by everything I found and the next day, I sought this person out at the conference and expressed my interest in finding out more about the position. He gave me his card and told me to forward my resume which I did as soon as I could. Before I knew it, I was interviewing for the position. A few weeks later, I was offered the position and have relocated to South Florida. It still has not sunk in!

I just finished my third day in this new position. The company is more than I could wish for and the position is a dream come true – the ideal next step in my career progression. The moral of the story – get out there and network. The ideal time to build and develop your professional network is now. When you need them, they will be there to help. Remember to give more than you ask for and be available to provide support and help to your network. Who knows, you might get a fantastic new opportunity!

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


The Language of Business

The language of business is money. As HR professionals we are surrounded by buzz words and phrases like “think strategically”, “what’s the return on investment” and “do more with less.” But what do these mean and how do I make them happen while I am recruiting for open positions, have investigations happening and presenting employee development opportunities? How does HR move from transactional to transformational?

On Friday, August 26, I had the pleasure of attending GMSHRM’s Global CFO Forum at the Sofitel in Miami. What a great learning experience! It was an intimate setting – about 30 in attendance – where 3 CFOs from global reaching organizations presented their business ideas on the value HR. For 2 hours they shared their thoughts and ideas of how HR can make a
positive impact to the bottom line and build value for the whole organization. Each panelist introduced themselves and shared their philosophy. One of the CFO’s mission hit home with me – “Lead people to deliver their best.” He also referred to HR as “Capitalists for change.” What a fitting description.

The key to moving HR into a more strategic role is finding positive ways to contribute to the financial results of the organization. Understanding that just because something is the right thing to do does not mean it should have the capital outlay for implementation. There must some sort of return for any decision. Many ideas that HR presents can have significant cost savings or even make money for a company. For example, the implementation of a wellness program not only can lead to a healthier workforce but reduce healthcare costs and decrease absenteeism. All 3 of the panelists agree that HR needs to look at every decision according to how it would affect the bottom line. Many HR people know how an idea will benefit the company; sometimes we just need to find the best way to communicate it. And using the cost savings and revenue driving terms of the idea will help HR navigate the idea to approval.

Easier said than done, right? A great place to start is by knowing, understanding and managing the HR budget. How much do you have? What do you want to do? What items are on your “need” and “wish” lists? Your CFO will respond favorably to an HR person’s ability to speak the language of business. Knowing how the company makes money, where the strengths and
weaknesses lie and most importantly that finance is the catalyst for the company’s strategy. What the CFO might not tell you is that without HR, the company will fail. Rest assured that HR is needed but the need can vary based on the strategic direction and slant of the HR team.

Another thing I learned was that there are times that we may need to present something 2, 3 or more times to have it become a hit. There might be a new training opportunity you want to implement or software that will help streamline operations. When you pitch it to the executive team, you might get shot down the first time. Don’t let this discourage a valuable idea. Some great ideas were denied before they were implemented. Ask for feedback when you are told no so when you can go back to the drawing board you know what will be needed to get something done. If a solid business case can be made and there is a positive effect on the profit and loss statement – even in the long run – you stand a better chance at getting what you need. So when you want to purchase a new HRIS program that will have significant upfront costs, be ready to show the actual savings it will bring to the company. It might take some time until you get it.

The CFOs also agreed that they look to HR for change management support. This includes training and developing employees and paving the way for change acceptance in the organization. HR should be on the front line of change efforts which include mergers and acquisitions. Most change projects fail because of a lack of leadership and failure of assimilation. HR should (and needs to) be equipped to lead the organization through change with the executive team.

The financial instruments of profit and loss statements, balance sheets and statements of cash flows are historical. They become strategic tools when they are used for forecasting the future of the company. The financial plan of an organization is a roadmap for the year and is subject to change. The HR team should be well versed in the plan and how they can
impact the various stages and milestones. If you don’t have a working relationship with your financial team, start working on it. The CFO is an important person to be connected with when working in HR. Take time to know your financial people and what makes them tick. You won’t regret it.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


Healthcare Reform – An Update

Healthcare Reform is upon us! Are you and your company ready? Yesterday, our local SHRM chapter hosted out monthly meeting where a local benefits administrator, Palmetto Benefit Management (www.PalmettoBenefit.com), gave us a comprehensive update of the legislation; where it is, what is next and how to prepare. I thought I knew about the upcoming changes, but I quickly realized that I need to get on the stick and learn more about what to expect.

To date several pieces have been implemented including dependent coverage to age 26, no caps or maximums for coverage and the requirement of a dedicated lactation room.  Fortunately, we already had a dedicate lactation room but this could be a challenge for some workplaces since there are specific parameters that must be met. And the addition of  dependents to age 26 can cause some significant cost increases for some plans. Be sure that you are adhering or you will when your next open enrollment happens. There are also many  changes in the hopper for 2012, 2013 and 2014 as long as future legislation does not change their timeline or verbiage. Check with your benefits team or counsel to make sure you know how each stage will impact your organization.

Currently, there are several lawsuits in various stages contesting different parts of the Healthcare Reform laws. These include the Medical Loss Ratios (MLRs) and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) as well as suits contesting the Constitutionality of the whole or parts of the Healthcare Reform law. But until there is a formal decision or legislative vote, the bill is law and needs to administered and followed in its current form. Companies should (or already have) determine their healthcare band position, plan options and which employee(s) will be grandfathered.

There is little doubt that there will be no changes up to, during and after the 2012 elections. In 2012, there are several congressional seats up for election as well as the Presidency. A new administration would and could have significant impact of the course of the law and any new measures that are implemented. If President Obama remains in office, the Healthcare Reform legislation will more than likely remain the law of the land in some form.

The Healthcare Reform law continues to be fluid and has changed very recently. For example, on August 1, 2011, contraception was added to the list of free preventative services under
the law. What will be next? There are many ways to stay on top of the changes like joining benefits organizations like WorldatWork (www.WorldatWork.org) and the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans (www.IFEBP.org). For more information, please check out http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform and www.Healthcare.gov.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


Developing Leadership Skills

One would think that working in HR would give HR professionals great insight into the best ways to interview and look for positions. Ironically, this is not always the case. Most of the time HR professionals are swamped with work and don’t have the time (or sometimes the energy) to hone their skills in their own arena. This can lead to gaps in professional development and when that great opportunity comes available, HR professionals can fall short. If you are like me, it is hard to develop some of these areas while at work (just too darn busy!), so I need to find ways to polish my skills through other venues.

About 3 years ago, I started on a development binge, so to speak. I dove headfirst into all extracurricular HR activities I could find locally including memberships, certification and education. I immersed myself in total rewards, employee relations, recruiting and staffing management to get the most knowledge and experience under my belt. Fortunately, I had lots of practical experience through my work in many of the competencies of HR. As my knowledge increased so did my confidence level and I started to be seen as a “go to” person for many things HR. But I was lacking in one main area. In order to make it to my next step in my career goals, I needed to build my leadership skills and opportunities to build this type of experience were limited in my organization. So, I came up with some different ideas.

When I was studying for my SPHR in early 2008, I was a member of my local SHRM chapter’s, Coastal Organization of Human Resources (COHR), study group. The certification chair allowed me to take the helm and help put together and run some of our study sessions. This was an opportunity for me to both learn the material and develop leadership capabilities outside the traditional workplace setting and gave the certification chair the ability to concentrate on their own life and responsibilities. It was a win-win that helped both of us.

Fast forward to when the incoming President of COHR was assembling the 2009 Board of Directors. I was approached to serve as the certification chair, a role I was honored to be offered and happily accepted. This gave me the chance to join a leadership team consisting of my HR peers including many I viewed as mentors. I quickly took on additional duties including community outreach and scholarship coordination that helped me gain additional experience. It was a lot of work but I was happy to be learning and gained a greater understanding of being a proactive leader. Additionally, I used the opportunity to also study for and achieve my GPHR certification in 2009.

During the summer of 2009, the 2009 President Elect approached me to serve in the role of President Elect in 2010. This required a 3 year commitment (2010 President Elect, 2011 President and 2012 Past President) and included chairing COHR’s SHRM Foundation commitments and developing and executing the annual Executive Session event held in October. This was the opportunity I was looking for! I garnered the necessary support from my employer and happily started in the role in January 2010. Serving the members of COHR has given me multiple chances to build my leadership skills and learn how to interact with a Board in a non-HR role. This has lead to other prospects including attending several national and local SHRM Leadership Conferences and serving as Chair of the Compensation Committee for our local United Way chapter. And I love every minute of it!

So, when you see the email from your organization’s leadership asking for volunteers, think about throwing your hat in. Start off small or jump in feet first – whichever works best for you. I have found it to be one of the most valuable expansion opportunities I have ever had.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


Celebrating COHR’s Commitment to Diversity

As an HR professional, I know and see the value of Diversity in the workplace and support the business case for it. However there are times I need to be reminded of the need for Diversity in other areas, namely professional and civic organizations. My SC local SHRM affiliate, Coastal Organization of Human Resources (COHR – www.CoastalHR.org) hosted our annual Diversity program at our monthly general meeting today. We were happy to have a great learning session hosted by our Diversity Chair, Kimmy Raymond. Training a group of HR professionals on Diversity can be a daunting task even for the most seasoned trainer, but Kimmy did an excellent job! The meeting was thought-provoking and full of energy. Kimmy shared anecdotes and facets from her background and experience as a corporate and contractual trainer and even took us through a Privilege Exercise that shed light on perceived differences and how they impact other’s views on us. It really brought about a better feeling of understanding among our members and guests. Kudos to Kimmy and her skills!

Earlier this year, I tasked the COHR Board of Directors (I am the 2011 President of COHR) with developing a brand and mission statement – more on that in future posts – for the organization and Kimmy volunteered to lead this charge. Last month she put together a comprehensive survey and sent it to our general membership to get their buy in on various issues and ideas pertaining to their COHR membership and their expectations of the Board. The responses were overwhelming and resulted in over 20 pages of compiled data. Kimmy incorporated the results of the survey and shared some highlights during her presentation focusing on the Diversity attributes from the study. The feedback was met with positive energy and continued to fuel the Diversity theme of our meeting. Diversity is a vital piece of any brand and mission and will surely play a key role in the creation of our COHR Brand. Thanks, again, Kimmy!

For more information on COHR and our commitment to Diversity, please email me at John@JohnHWilliamson.com.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!