Meaningful Work Isn’t Just Saving Puppies

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes work truly meaningful. Many HR professionals believe that for employees to be truly engaged, they need to feel that their work is meaningful.

I agree with this idea.

However, some HR pros have misunderstood this concept. They’ve started pushing social causes onto employees, thinking that supporting these causes equals meaningful work.

Tom’s shoes are the best example. Each pair costs around $45, but the materials and labor probably only amount to about $5. While Tom’s donates a pair to a child in need for each one sold, they’re essentially sacrificing $5 of profit per pair. Can we really say this is meaningful work?

So, what’s my idea of meaningful work?

Meaningful work isn’t about saving puppies. It’s not about supporting causes. It’s about employees feeling that what they do every day contributes to the organization’s success. For many organizations, this has little to do with supporting specific causes—although it might for some.

The problem with equating meaningful work with causes is that everyone has their own causes they care about. If an organization defines helping the homeless as its cause, that’s great! But now, they need to find employees who also care about this cause to make work meaningful for everyone.

In HR, we sometimes make the concept of meaningful work too complicated. Instead, we should help leaders communicate better with their teams about how individual efforts impact the organization’s success. Meaningful work is about using your skills to contribute to your organization’s prosperity.

Sorry, we’re not saving puppies or planting trees here – but I promise it’s still going to be meaningful to us!

Online Ghosts or Privacy Hosts

Ever come across a candidate who seems to have almost no online presence? No LinkedIn profile, no Facebook or Instagram account, not even a trace on Google? It’s like they’re a digital ghost, right there in front of you with a resume in hand, but little else to go on.

Let’s say you meet someone like this – let’s call her Karen (not her real name, of course, I’m in HR – her name is Jill). She shows up for the interview with a solid resume, work history, and references, but beyond that, she’s pretty much a mystery online.

In today’s world, where social media is everywhere, this kind of absence can be scary. Usually they’re an Instagram story away and I know what you had for breakfast, how you like your steak, your husband’s name, cat’s name, the whole damn thing.

It raises questions. Why the secrecy? Is it a deliberate choice for privacy reasons, or could there be something more to it?

During the interview, ask about it. Karen might mumble something about valuing her privacy – a word that still holds a lot of weight to some. As an employer, it’s tricky. Privacy matters, but so does transparency. Trying to balance these can be tough.

In the end, you might not get clear answers. But it’s a reminder that in today’s world, having no online presence can be a red flag when hiring. Or not. What do you think?

Getting Recruitment Right

Sometimes we get so far into the weeds in recruiting that we forget what is actually important.

We have to have a brand!

We have to have an ATS!

And now, a new ATS!

We have to have a CRM! What the hell is a CRM!

Our job descriptions need a refresh, and let’s face it, our career site could use some work too.

And don’t get me started on the employee referral program.

There’s always a million things to do in recruitment, and it’s hard to keep up.

But here’s the thing: recruiting isn’t rocket science. It’s just about finding people to join your team. There are plenty of potential candidates out there; you just need to let them know you’re hiring.

That’s the golden rule of recruitment: Spread the word that you’re looking for new team members.

It’s pretty straightforward, yet so many good candidates slip through the cracks because they didn’t know there was an opportunity.

Recruitment is all about getting the word out. Sure, you might get some applicants who aren’t quite the right fit, but that’s part of the process.

To find the right people, you need to cast a wide net and let everyone know you’re hiring. Cast that net people!

It’s not just about posting on job boards or your career site; it’s about creating a culture where everyone in your organization understands the importance of spreading the word about job openings.

Unfortunately, many companies miss the mark on this. Whether it’s because they’re too proud or they think it makes them look desperate, they don’t make enough effort to let people know they’re hiring.

This is a big mistake that can sink your recruitment efforts.

Recruitment isn’t about showing off; it’s about being humble and inviting talented individuals to join your team.

High-Maintenance Who?

Ever wished there was a way to spot high-maintenance behavior during job interviews?

We hire high-maintenance employees because they’re very good at hiding their diva-ness during the interview process. Sometimes they even hide it through the probationary period of their employment. These are the really hard-to-handle ones because they know they’re divas and hide it long enough to make your life difficult.

So, what’s the best approach when you find yourself dealing with one?

Managing these individuals has been a recurring challenge in my HR career. They have a knack for causing trouble and thrive on being the center of attention. The key lies in redirecting their focus from their personal needs to what the organization requires. But how do you go about doing that?

Usually, high-maintenance employees become a problem because their direct supervisor doesn’t stop this issue immediately when it comes to light. But, this is common, especially with new hiring managers, so it’s critical to work with them and help them become better managers.

These employees are skilled at playing you against their manager. It’s essential to prevent this from happening. Collaborating closely with the hiring manager to create a unified approach is vital. When they attempt to stir up trouble, it’s important to intervene immediately: “Let’s bring in your supervisor so we can sort this out together.” Despite their objections regarding confidentiality, emphasize the importance of clarity and alignment among all parties.

High-maintenance employees hate to be on the same page because they get their power from the lack of communication within organizations. So the best way to limit their impact is to get everyone in the same room and nip the issue in the bud before it gets way out of hand.

The Truth About Reference Checks

When I started in Talent Acquisition and HR, I was sold on the idea that checking references was the key to snagging top-notch hires. The whole “past performance predicts future performance” spiel is practically carved in stone tablets right?

But around 100 reference checks into my HR career, I stopped believing it. Either I was a hiring genius (mostly true), or the reference check thing was a massive hoax.

Reference checks are the perfect scam. And not just any scam, but a scam that everyone is in on. Everyone knows the set up: The candidate wants the job, so they want to make sure they provide good references. The candidate provides three references that will tell HR the candidate walks on water. HR accepts them and actually goes through the process of calling these three perfect references.

Let’s face it: When was the last time a company passed on a hire based on a reference check? Most draw a blank; we hire based on references every single time. Is that a solid system? If you’re struggling for an answer or it’s always ‘never,’ maybe it’s time to rethink the whole reference check circus.

  1. Get Your Own References: Ditch the usual references candidates throw at you. In interviews, get the names of their old bosses. Give them a call – you might get some real talk even if official references are a no-go.
  2. Go Automated: Use fancy tech for reference checks that doesn’t make references feel forced into singing praises. It spills the beans on a candidate’s work style without giving away the game.
  3. Fact-Check with Tech: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn – they’re not just for stalking. Use them to fact-check a candidate’s story. With over half of people stretching the truth on their resumes, tech is your truth serum.

Smart HR folks should question a system that gives the green light to almost everyone. Catching less than 0.1% of fakers isn’t a sign of quality; it’s just lazy.

Break the mold, try new things, and maybe your company will see you as the one who can pull off walking on water.

What are your tips for checking references?

Here’s an idea, just do the job you were hired for

Every day, people get worked up over stuff they can’t control. Everyone’s telling you to be this or that, depending on the latest trend or generation.

I’ve stopped listening to people who don’t know my job or haven’t been in the field for ages. Instead, I talk to my employees – the young, the old, and everyone in between. They all matter because they all contribute to moving the organization forward.

I don’t care about what others think; I focus on what my employees are telling me. Their problems are personal, from daycare and student loans to health scares. Forget the big world issues; help them with the close ones first.

Your employees are individuals with their own problems, and millennials aren’t college kids anymore. The newbies might have different labels, but they’re still young people with their own issues.

At the end of the day, employees want to succeed. Helping them be successful is my top priority as a leader. Success is personal, so I figure out how to tie it to the organization’s goals.

We keep letting others tell us how to do our jobs. I’m sticking to doing the job I was hired for because, frankly, no one knows it better than me. Maybe we should all just focus on doing the job we were hired for.

Hey, Be A Career Guide

Remember what Steve Jobs said – people don’t know what they want until you show them. This applies to careers too. You might think you want a specific job title or hit certain goals, but the reality hits differently.

I once told my wife I wanted to be a vice president by 35 when I was 25. Got there, and it didn’t feel any different. It turns out, what I really wanted was control. Titles didn’t matter; I wanted to be the one calling the shots.

As a leader, I’ve noticed maybe 10% of the people you guide know exactly what they want in their careers. The other 90% are like me back then – they think they know but are just winging it until they hit some goal.

Most employees don’t really know what they want in their careers. That’s where leaders come in. It’s our job to help them figure it out.

Your job as a leader is to show your team what they want. Don’t assume they already know – most don’t. They won’t admit it, but that shouldn’t stop you from pointing out the possibilities.

From my own experience, the best leaders I had showed me the way. Four mentors in my life called me out on my title obsession and guided me in the right direction. They didn’t give up on me, and I’m grateful for that.

So, leaders, your role is like a career guide. Help your people see the path, and you’ll see them step up and do more than they thought possible.

Career Roulette

BookofOdds.com has a piece titled Hey Kids, Choose Your Career that breaks down the chances of your kid (or any kid, really) landing in a particular job. on consideration for both of them. As you can imagine the article gives some of the fun careers first, like the odds my kid will be a:

  • Surgeon: 1 in 2,872
  • Pro Athlete: 1 in 9,684
  • Fashion Model: 1 in 81,440
  • Firefighter: 1 in 452
  • Elementary Teacher: 1 in 87

Because you know, we all thought we were going to be one of those when we grew up!

When I did a career test in high school, it didn’t tell me I’d end up in HR. It gave me my top 3 choices, which were kind of weird: 1. Teacher; 2. Floral Designer; 3. Sales. No idea how “Floral Designer” got in there, but I still love gardening. HR wasn’t even on the list.

Thinking about my sons, realistically, they’re most likely to end up in:

  • Administrative Role: 1 in 5
  • Sales: 1 in 9
  • Food Service: 1 in 11
  • Healthcare: 1 in 19
  • Education: 1 in 16

But what about HR?

Human Resources: 1 in 656.9

The odds for Human Resources (HR) at 1 in 656.9 shows how jobs can be all over the place, and your career journey can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Even if we’ve got certain ideas about what we want for our kids, the job market can throw some curveballs. Landing an HR job isn’t something you’d bet on every day, but it’s a cool reminder that surprises can pop up in unexpected places when it comes to careers. So, while we might have some thoughts about where our kids will end up, the job scene has a way of keeping us on our toes with its own surprises.

The Snowstorm Test

Throughout my career, I’ve had conversations with coworkers who think they’re more crucial to the business than they really are. You know the type – they drop comments like “This place would be lost without me” or “Let’s see how things go if I’m not around.” Usually, it’s the sales or tech folks who, despite their contributions, sometimes overestimate their importance. Over time, I’ve come up with a simple two-step test to figure out if someone is truly essential to your business:

  1. Snowstorm Test:
    • Ask yourself if this person is required to show up at the office during a severe snowstorm, lasting multiple days.
    Example: In a large Health System where I worked, doctors and nurses were essential, with plans in place for emergencies. Meanwhile, in HR, I wasn’t on the list for a 4-wheel drive SUV pickup.
  2. Self-Promotion Check:
    • Consider if the person spends a lot of time trying to convince you of their importance to your operation.
    Examples: Statements like “Our biggest client wouldn’t be here without me” or “Our department saved the organization $500K last year on a $3.7M budget.”

Looking at how organizations evolve, it’s interesting to note that in the beginning, only essential employees are truly needed – those involved in getting materials, making products, selling them, and handling finances. Support functions like HR and Marketing often come later, usually after the company grows beyond 100 employees.

Regularly reassessing who holds essential roles within your organization is important. As a “client” to these vital contributors, focus on tasks that support their efforts. This means having direct conversations, asking, “How can I help you do your job better?” It’s simple but often overlooked.

Think of organizations like picking teams on a playground. If your most essential employee were choosing a team, where would you stand – first, tenth, or last? It’s worth thinking about where you fit in.

Consistency Matters More Than You Think


Ever wonder what your workplace really wants from you? I’ve spoken to this before.. It’s not about being a superstar, an A-lister, full of energy, or cracking the Top 10%.

The real deal is being consistent—not shining all the time or totally sucking. Just meet expectations. Every day, every week, every year. Dependable and consistent.

But let’s be real, we don’t appreciate consistency enough. We feel the need to be more than just consistent, like it’s some kind of new low.

We’re all about being ‘world-class,’ creating ‘best practices,’ and leading the industry. Sounds cool, but it makes being consistent seem like a bad thing. Truth is, if everyone in our crew kept it consistent, we’d crush the competition.

So, why aren’t we owning the game? Because being consistent is tough. That’s why we chase after rock stars. We need them to make up for the not-so-great ones. Getting everyone to meet expectations is like herding cats.

Next time you’re with an employee who’s just ‘meeting expectations,’ give them a pat on the back. Thank them for doing their thing every day. Imagine if everyone else followed suit—boom, greatness!

You don’t need over-the-top performance to win. Just get everyone to do what they’re supposed to do. Consistency—let’s slap that on a poster and call it a day: “Just do what you’re supposed to do!”