The 2024 Conference Season is Here! Here is what I’m looking forward to

The HR/TA/LOD/Payroll/Etc. conference season is upon us. I’ve got a new book launching at SHRM Talent in April, so it will be an especially busy season for me this year. I’m excited for 2024 for a number of reasons.

I think the one thing I enjoy about conference season more than any other is connecting with peers and friends in the industry. I have the most inspiring and challenging conversations at conferences. I’ve found lifelong friends at professional conferences. I genuinely find it an awarding and educational opportunity that I love being a part of.

It came to my attention late last year that a group of professionals is working to put together a movement called #OperationPurpleLight that helps protect individuals from getting assaulted at conferences. I’m not naive to the problem of mostly women getting drugged and raped in our society. I was shocked to hear the rate at which this happens at professional conferences. Especially at HR-related conferences, with a demographic upwards of 80%+ female, we have to find ways to keep all participants safe.

It’s disgusting that anyone would ever feel threatened at a professional conference to begin with, especially if the perpetrator is a peer! So, as you are out this season, make special note of the efforts by Operation Purple Light, the conferences that are supporting this effort, and what you can do personally to ensure the peers around you have an enjoyable and safe experience attending conferences!

What am I looking forward to?

  • TransformHR – Vegas, March – Transform has a unique format where almost all of the content is done in a panel format with actual practitioners. Many of them are from SMB and Mid-enterprise organizations, and it leads to some amazing conversations that can really get into the weeds about the what, why, and how we do things!
  • Michigan HR Day – Lansing, MI, April – 2,500 HR pros all coming into Lansing, MI, for a day full of content and development. It’s one of the largest HR conferences in the US at that number! And it’s in my backyard! How the heck?! Over 15 years ago, the governor of Michigan decided to declare the second Wednesday of April to be a state-wide day of celebration and development for HR, and this thing has gotten big! The majority of state SHRM conferences can’t get 2500 attendees!
  • SHRM Talent – Vegas, April (I spend way too much time in Vegas) – Besides the aforementioned book launch, I’ll also be the closing keynote speaker at SHRM Talent this year. I’m super excited about that and a bit nervous. It’s a big crowd, but I’m speaking to my peeps, so that’s comforting. I believe this is the best Talent Acquisition conference currently running.
  • HR Tech Europe – Amsterdam, May – The sister conference to the world’s largest HR Tech conference in Vegas, HR Tech Europe is going on the road overseas, and it will be an amazing show. The HR Tech Conferences are amazing, and I’ve gone every year for the past decade. This is one I won’t miss on my calendar.
  • SHRM Annual – Chicago, June – Ted Lasso is keynoting!! Always huge. Always fun. I’ll be speaking and signing books. It’s the single largest HR conference on the planet, and really, no one else is even close. It’ll be 20,000+ HR pros in one place. If you ever have the ability to attend, it’s an HR bucket list must-do.
  • RecFest USA Nashville – Nashville, September – This is an outdoor recruiting festival, big tents and all, in the heart of Nashville. There is nothing else like this on the planet! It’s completely unique, and I’m taking my entire TA team with me to this event this year. In 2023, the best TA conversations I had all year happened at RecFest!
  • Workday Rising – Vegas, September – One of the fastest-growing and largest HCM suites in the world, Workday seems to be taking over the universe! Workday Rising brings together thousands of enterprise Workday clients for development, education, and a little bit of fun. If you’re a Workday client, you should be investing to send your team here.
  • The HR Technology Conference – Vegas, September – If you’re an HR Technology nerd, like I am, this is another bucket list conference to attend. You’ve got the startup pavilion, Pitchfest competition, HR tech products of the year awards, and the biggest HR Tech expo in the world; it’s by far the top HR Tech conference on the planet.

This is just a tip of what’s available and out there for your own professional development. There’s been a giant growth of HR Tech user conferences as well – Workday Rising, Oracle World, LinkedIn Talent Connect, etc. are a few giant ones. This isn’t even getting into the SHRM state conferences, industry-specialized conferences, etc. Then you have local DisruptHR events, local SHRM events, etc. If you wanted to, you could go to an HR event every single week of the year.

Let me know if you’ll be attending any of these conferences that I’ll be at. I would love to connect and share ideas.

The 10 Rules of Office Romances

So, I’ve dished out some rules before—actually, a lot of rules. You’ve probably seen my guide on Rules for Hugging at the Office, but let’s face it, office romances are trickier than a casual side hug in the hallway. In case you need a refresher, here are my no-nonsense rules for office romances that you can share with your team.

Rule #1 – Avoid falling for someone you supervise. But let’s be real, it happens. If you find yourself in this situation, be prepared to either quit, get fired, change departments, or witness the person you’re involved with facing similar consequences.

Rule #2 – Steer clear of anyone in Payroll. Messing with them may result in a temporary paycheck glitch, and even when it’s fixed, errors might haunt your payslip forever. Just don’t mess with payroll.

Rule #3 – Keep the office and office grounds off-limits for romance. I get it, love is in the air, but security footage is forever. Don’t give us reasons to laugh at your love escapades long after you’ve left.

Rule #4 – Save the explicit emails for after hours. It’s not that I won’t enjoy reading them, it’s that I get embarrassed when I have to read them aloud to the unemployment judge at your hearing. Trust me, it’s awkward.

Rule #5 – Don’t get involved with a married colleague. Even if you’re the work spouse, remember it’s not real. Reality hits hard when the actual spouse shows up, possibly keying your car in the parking lot.

Rule #6 – Choose someone with good performance. Falling for a stellar performer is a win-win. Don’t complicate things by getting entangled with someone who’s about to be shown the exit. It just makes life easier for everyone.

Rule #7 – Inform relevant parties ASAP. Movie dates are no big deal, but waking up in a different bed than your own might be. If there’s any hint of conflict, let someone in HR know. They’re there to help figure things out.

Rule #8 – Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Don’t rationalize a questionable relationship. Saying things like “If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right” is a clear sign that it’s time to reassess.

Rule #9 – No need to hide your relationship. We’re all adults here. If you’re considering keeping it under wraps, that’s a red flag. Normal relationships don’t need to be hidden.

Rule #10 – We all know. Seriously, office romance isn’t as discreet as you think. We see the frequent stops at their desk and the suspicious stairwell visits. We’re not oblivious. Cut it out.

Don’t Say That!

Found this oldie but a goodie and I thought it would be a fun one to revisit. Still holds true, right?

7 Things You Should Never Say When Asking for a Raise!

Posted on  by Tim Sackett

There are certain conversations in our work lives that cause people the most anxiety and having to go in and ask for money is, on my list, the next most anxious work conversation most people will face.  I can think of many times that I wanted more money, thought I deserved to get more money, and heck even our good old Comp people said the market should be paying me more money, and still, it is a difficult conversation to have with my superior (at least for me).

Like many people, I think I do a good job, give my best effort, produce great results, and after all that, should I really need to ask? Shouldn’t my boss ‘get it’ and just want to write me a blank check?!

With all this in mind, most people will screw this conversation up by saying things they really want to say, but shouldn’t, if they’re trying to get a raise.  Here are the top things you probably shouldn’t say when asking for a raise:

1. “If you pay 10% more, I will really put in some extra effort!” – So what you’re saying is you’re not putting in extra effort now…

2. “I looked in our HRIS system and I know Sheila on the 5th floor is making $5000 more than I am – and she’s an idiot!” – Not the best strategy to look at others’ private comp information, even if you have access, then call them an idiot – at least in my experience…

3. “If you don’t pay me more money, I’ll be forced to find another job that will pay me what I worth” – Be careful, I’ve tried this one, and they might call your bluff!

4. “I’ve done the math and if you fire Mike, I can do his job and mine, you save $50K, after giving me $25K of his $75K salary” – This actually might be a really good idea, But Mike might be the last one standing with the $25K raise, not you!

5. “I really don’t understand how you can be worth $50K more than me, I do all your work – and deserve more money” – Bosses just love to hear they are overpaid, don’t do anything, and you can do their job – NOT!

6. “I saved the company $1 million in reducing recruiting fees, by implementing a social media strategy successfully, I should at least get a fraction of those savings” – Why, yes you should – if you were in sales, but you’re in HR, and this was part of your job description. Sorry for the wake-up call – all employees aren’t treated equally – put on a helmet.

7. “I know times are tough, so I was thinking instead of more money you could give me an extra week’s vacation or pay for my health insurance or something else like that.” – Okay, Einstein, stop thinking – it’s all money. Vacation, health insurance, paid parking, lunch money – it all hits the bottom line on the income statement. You just showed how expendable you really are.

I’ve learned over the years, through trial and error (okay, mostly error) that many, if not all, of the above statements just don’t seem to have the impact that I was hoping for with my supervisor.  I have seen peers, who performed well, were loyal, dedicated to doing their best for themselves, their co-workers, and the company, and got the raise they wanted by just being patient.

Supervisors are as uncomfortable as you are to have the compensation conversation. If you are as good as you profess to be, then they do want to give you more, but probably can’t due to budget, market, others performing even better than you, etc. It may be the hardest thing to do, but being patient usually works out the best of all!

Why You Should Recruit from Competitors

Is it cool to hire from your competitors? This usually gets mixed responses. If you ask 100 Talent Acquisition Pros, half might say it’s a no-go due to agreements not to poach from each other – a common practice in the corporate world.

Infamous legal dramas, like the Silicon Valley case, highlight the downsides of these secret pacts. Between 2005 and 2009, tech giants allegedly avoided recruiting each other’s people, causing lower wages and less job mobility. The lawsuit claims this left workers in the dark about better-paying opportunities.

Surprisingly, openly declaring an agreement not to recruit from competitors is not just ethically weird – it’s illegal. Yes, you heard that right. While it’s tempting to dodge the hiring treadmill in a competitive market, there are smarter ways to deal with it.

One approach is to invest in better pay, engagement, and talent development. DUH! Smart companies know it’s crucial to pay at or above market rates to keep their team happy. Instead of reacting to high turnover with higher wages, these companies stay ahead by regularly adjusting compensation to retain top talent.

Choosing between paying upfront or dealing with turnover costs is a classic business challenge. Reactive companies end up paying more on the back end due to turnover and higher wages. On the flip side, proactive organizations invest upfront in talent development, keeping a competitive edge by promoting from within and having visionary leaders.

I would actually love to see legislation that makes it illegal if you’re a corporate recruiter and you don’t make cold calls to recruit! You saying you’re a ‘Recruiter’ but you don’t recruit! That’s the real criminal activity going on!

Your Secrets Are Safe With HR

I’m not big on secrets, but let’s chat about the lowdown that HR folks usually have. In the HR circle, there are always a few things we’re told to hush about.

These are the secrets that only we as HR pros have:

  1. Spotting folks in the office about to exit. Others might catch wind, but HR usually has the inside track on everyone’s moves.
  2. Knowing who’s moving up the ladder, and not necessarily because they earned it.
  3. Figuring out how much you’ll get in your next raise. Yep, we already know, but don’t slack off – we don’t want it looking pre-decided.
  4. Understanding why some departments get more resources than others. Sadly, we can’t spill the beans – it would mess things up!
  5. Getting a sneak peek at your annual bonus 6-12 months in advance. Budgets need planning, after all.
  6. Anticipating changes to your benefits 4-8 months before they kick in.
  7. Knowing who might go off the deep end at work. Can’t tell you for privacy reasons…

There are probably more secrets, but they’re not just HR-exclusive. Consider this: We might tweak our metrics, but guess what? Every other department does it too! In a corporate world driven by politics and metrics for resources, the numbers won’t always be squeaky clean. What makes HR unique is our stash of substantial secrets and the duty to keep them locked up. One common pitfall for new HR folks is sharing these secrets to make friends – it usually backfires.

So, yes, HR’s got secrets – you knew it, and I’m just confirming. Let’s keep moving, though, because I’m not spilling the beans on the details!

The Change Code

What’s the one thing that drives employees crazy? Adoption new technology? No. Not enough PTO? Probably, but no. The biggest thing? Change.

Seriously, it’s the top contender for the most disliked thing a company can do to its employees. I know, some claim they’re all about change—love it, embrace it, advocate for it. But let’s get real. Those folks who shout about embracing change? They’re the same ones devastated when their favorite TV show gets the boot. Truth is, most people hate change. They like things steady—the same morning coffee routine, knowing their familiar doctor is on their insurance plan, the predictable paycheck schedule. That’s their jam.

So, here’s the secret to keeping your employees around.

Your folks don’t secretly plot their escape route. Starting a new job, dealing with a new boss, different location? It’s a headache! They actually want to stick with you. But, and this is a big but, they don’t want their job or the company to become unbearable. That’s where the problem lies: Change is bound to happen, but it’s also what they can’t stand.

How do you navigate this without causing an uproar?

Simple: Communication is key. Many HR departments tend to blow small changes out of proportion by drowning everyone in unnecessary info. New payroll system? Cue the panic. Checks arrive on different Fridays now! The usual reaction? Form a committee, plaster posters, rewrite policies, and talk about it endlessly for months. But hold on.

What’s needed is straightforward talk. At all times. Hey team, our payroll’s getting an upgrade. Less errors, more savings for the company. Checks will come on different Fridays. Get ready, and if you need help, your supervisor’s there for you. Change kicks in the next pay cycle. Done!

Here’s the thing: People hate change. So, let’s not make a big fuss over small changes! Only communicate the big stuff. When major changes happen less often, it won’t feel like a constant whirlwind. Your employees WANT to stick around. They HATE change. Stop bombarding them with unnecessary upheaval just to look busy.

Employee retention? Not rocket science. Because, deep down, your employees would rather stay put.

The Big List of Sh*t You Can Do in HR and TA for 2024!

The gift and the curse of a new year in business is we are tasked with doing stuff. Stuff that matters. Stuff that will have a positive financial impact on our organizations. We have the same issue in our personal lives, but unlike our professional lives, our personal lives don’t demand and pay us to get better.

So many of us spend the first week of the year, or many weeks last year before we left for the holidays, trying to decide what we would do in 2024. Some of us will have big projects ahead of us. I know more than a few who are implementing new tech this year. Some of us will just be looking for incremental improvements on things we put in place in 2023. But the work doesn’t stop. Our job is to get better. And something is motivating about that. It’s a very straightforward, clear direction. Get better. Be Better. Do better.

The question is, what are we going to do in 2024? Here are some ideas to get you motivated:

Fix your apply process. It’s the one thing I can almost always go and look at for a company and immediately see a number of things that can make it better. The first step is easy: go apply for your own job on your career site, but do it in the parking lot of some fast food joint, stealing the WIFI on your mobile device. It will be painful and take too long. Fix that!

Become a top 10% user of your current tech stack (I.E., Super User!). Have a plan to get on stage at the user conference to share your story. Most of us will never be super users of our technology, but it will move you forward more in our careers and our organization more than you can imagine. All it takes is interest and effort.

Start measuring one new thing that actually matters in your function. If you’re in TA, start measuring conversion ratios of screened candidates to hiring manager interviews and work on making that better. In HR, start looking at benefit utilization around preventative healthcare and develop a simple nudge communication strategy to get more of your employees to use their healthcare benefits before they get sick.

Create a Save Strategy around one role in your company that has the most financial impact. We let people leave us too easily. We can save many of these folks. I’ve seen save strategies reach 40% save levels one year out. Stop letting your good employees just walk away from you. You would not allow someone you loved in your life to just leave without fighting for them. Fight to keep your employees. Everyone will notice!

Mentor one person in your company, from your school, from your profession. Just one! We are surrounded by individuals who want and need a little help. Someone who can be part of their network and help them grow. It doesn’t take hours per week. It might take an hour per month. You think this is all about helping someone else, but every time I’ve done this, I’ve actually helped myself so much more. Get your best upcoming leaders in your company to do the same. Challenge them.

Find out what your CEO and senior C-suite team want from HR and TA. About twelve times per year, I meet with different senior teams, and one of the first questions I ask them is what it is they want from their HR and TA teams. The answers always blow me away because I already know what their team is working on, and it almost never aligns with what the senior executives want. This simple conversation can align your entire year. We don’t ask it because we think we are already supposed to know the answer. That is nonsense. Go ask! Almost always, the CEO will say to me, “No one has ever asked me this!”

I can ask them for you and send you the results. Just share this survey link with them, and I’ll send you the overall results. Also, if your CEO or senior executive team fills this out, I’ll put your organization’s name in a hat and do a raffle for a full team TA meeting with me for free! That’s a $5000 value!

The What the Hell Does Your CEO Want From HR/TA Survey!

Whatever you decide to do in 2024, make it something you will actually do. So, I recommend you only commit yourself to one thing. Stay laser-focused on that one thing! Our life and job is hard. I can do one thing.

Are Layoffs During the Holidays Wrong?

I find it interesting that so many people are concerned when someone gets laid off in December but don’t even notice when they get laid off in March or September. “OMG! How could a company be so heartless to lay off staff right before the holidays!?”

In reality, getting laid off at any time sucks! The time of year has very little to do with timing. When you look at the average layoffs by month, over time, companies do fewer layoffs in December on average. Again, this data is particular to industry and economic timing and has very little to do with the month of the year.

The chart above shows total separations, which includes layoffs, in recent months. You can see that hiring and separations follow the economy, not the seasons. Unless, of course, your hiring is seasonal. Again, this is all baked into the overall numbers.

Should you do layoffs during the holidays?

Here’s my unpopular take. You lay off people as soon as you know you have to protect the business and as many jobs as possible to remain healthy and viable. Being good at business is about making the right business decisions. If you kill the business, you will kill every job.

Sometimes, those layoffs have to happen when it seems heartless. “What’s the difference of a few weeks!?” Maybe that difference is another dozen people getting their notice and the company being less viable. The goal should be to save as many jobs as possible.

Layoffs are a negative situation every time they happen. What you hope to do is make a negative situation the least possible negative for all involved who are trying to maintain the success of the business. To give them as many resources as possible to make it work. If that means we lay off people during the holidays, it’s going to suck, but that is the right decision.

As I said, it’s an unpopular opinion, but it’s the right one.

The tech industry is getting pounded right now for doing layoffs, and many are happening during the holidays. Many of these tech companies got caught up in a new reality around raising money when interest rates shot up. Most are finding it extremely hard to raise money to maintain their businesses and are forced to cut expenses. This is their business reality. They overhired in previous years when interest rates were near zero, and VCs were throwing money at them, and they shouldn’t have done this. They are now paying the price to try and become profitable.

This is Capitalism. For how much it can suck, I still prefer it to all the alternatives. You have amazing upside, but that means you also have down side risk when you don’t run your business to spend less money than you actually bring in. Many in the workforce in the tech sector have never experienced this, so this is extremely hard to take when it’s your first time.

Layoffs don’t happen by month or holiday. They don’t happen because some executive is trying to be cruel. Layoffs happen when business financials are failing, and something has to be done to save as many jobs as possible and cut expenses. Those times come when they come, and it has almost nothing to do with the calendar.

The Quest for Simplicity!

Ever wondered why HR Departments insist on tangled processes? Truth is, we all crave simplicity. But peek into our organizations and complexity rules the roost. The harder we try to simplify, the messier it gets. Surprisingly, the culprit’s closer than you think—it’s you. Yes, YOU. Yup, making things complicated? It’s kind of your thing. Go ahead and pick up that red pencil in the photo and circle “Complicate” instead, you know you want to!

Harvard Business Review dropped some knowledge bombs:

“There are several deep psychological reasons why stopping activities are so hard to do in organizations. First, while people complain about being too busy, they also take a certain amount of satisfaction and pride in being needed at all hours of the day and night. In other words, being busy is a status symbol. In fact a few years ago we asked senior managers in a research organization — all of whom were complaining about being too busy — to voluntarily give up one or two of their committee assignments. Nobody took the bait because being on numerous committees was a source of prestige.

Managers also hesitate to stop things because they don’t want to admit that they are doing low-value or unnecessary work. Particularly at a time of layoffs, high unemployment, and a focus on cost reduction, managers want to believe (and convince others) that what they are doing is absolutely critical and can’t possibly be stopped. So while it’s somewhat easier to identify unnecessary activities that others are doing, it’s risky to volunteer that my own activities aren’t adding value. After all, if I stop doing them, then what would I do?”


Ron Ashkenas. “Why Organizations Are Afraid to Simplify.” March 28, 2013. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/03/why-organizations-are-so-afraid-to-simplify

Turns out, people love complaining about being swamped, but secretly, they enjoy it. Being busy is like a gold star.

Managers cling to tasks like lifelines. Admitting something they do is low-value or unnecessary? Terrifying. Especially when job cuts loom large. They’d rather sell the idea that what they do is crucial, even if it isn’t.

Here’s the kicker: you can break this cycle. How? Reward people for axing pointless work. Right now, we hail the overworked, perpetually busy folks like heroes. But let’s not forget the silent achievers—the ones who nail it in half the time. Somewhere down the line, ‘working smarter’ morphed into ‘work smarter and longer.’ Truth is, most folks can’t work smarter, so they pile on hours and glorify every task as vital.

Embracing Challenges on a Mission

Whenever someone mentions being “on a mission,” it reminds me of the Blues Brothers movie and their pursuit:

In our modern leadership landscape, openly declaring one’s mission is a powerful step. It makes complete sense, set a goal, sharing it with the world, now you’ve got some investment into making sure you truly do go after that mission. However, there’s a crucial aspect of missions that often goes unaddressed.

Acknowledging the inevitable bad days or rough patches within a mission is vital, yet rarely discussed. Many leaders shy away from admitting this reality. When challenges arise, panic sets in, and people begin to believe that the mission won’t be accomplished.

As leaders, part of our responsibility is to equip our team for the journey ahead. It’s not just about motivation; it’s also about presenting the truth. We must prepare our troops for the tough moments, the setbacks, and the muddy paths. Embracing the possibility that not everyone will emerge unscathed and there will be backwards steps is crucial. It’s in these moments that the real strength of leadership shines through.

The greatness of being on a mission lies not just in the endpoint but also in the journey itself. That has to be on a motivational coffee cup or something, right?