Tag Archives: Human Resources


Endings and beginnings

“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.” 
― L. Frank BaumThe Marvelous Land of Oz  

Check out the new Michael VanDervort Blog

New blog, same dude.

Nike hat manufactured and purchased in the Net...
Nike hat manufactured and purchased in the Netherlands (Photo credit: mvndrvrt)


I started the Human Race Horses blog on July 14, 2007.   Since then I have published 1,530 posts of which a few were alright.  This post which is #1531 published on April 20, 2014 will be my last on this blog. Thanks for reading some of the stuff I’ve shared over the years.

“There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.” 
― Ellen Goodman

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be publishing stuff on my new eponymously titled, more brand friendly blog. Http://MichaelVanDervort.com. I hope you’ll join me there.

Where did Human Race Horses come from anyway?

Sometimes the best way to end is at the beginning, so let’s close this thing down the way it started.  Here’s the story behind the name of the blog – How it became the Human Race Horses.

The story: When I was working with Texas Instruments, our Vice President of Human Resources when he told a story about how much he enjoyed calling from Dallas Texas to Versailles….no, not the palace in France, but Versailles, Kentucky, which is pronounced phonetically….Vur Sales. TI owned a facility there and there was a woman who worked in the HR department whose name has faded into my past, but whom Chuck the HR VP loved to hear answer the phone, because he said it always sounded to him like she was saying: “Hello, Human Race Horses, may I help you?” He was sorely disappointed that he never got to see those special race horses run around the track, although he did say that Versailles, like the rest of TI had excellent human workers, and he made do with visiting them.

In the nearly 18 years since I first heard that story, I don’t think the race run by humans at work has slowed down, and in fact, while Chuck the VP is no longer with TI, and the Texas Instruments business I worked for has been transformed fantastically, some things do remain constant. The pace of the race for human capital has increased at just as fast a pace as the levels of technology have within business, and we are at the beginning of another fantastic leap into the future. It may be HR 2.0 or HR 3.0 or just on-going process of change that drives business today, but many techniques and tools we utilize today to hire, train, develop, and retain talent are changing faster than the employees or the HR professionals that support them can assimilate.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A bunch of Mike’s, including The Professor, but no Gilligan

Who am I?


It depends, according to Google.


Bob Denver as Gilligan on Gilligan's Island
Bob Denver as Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


For the most part, I own the Google rights to “Michael VanDervort”, including my oft delayed but still forth-coming new blog site Michael VanDervort.  There are even sites set up by strangers that use my Instagram pictures for reasons that escape me.


What’s most fun is to find the alter ego Michael’s mixed into my Google awesomeness.   Say hi to them with me:


  • The rock and roll guy
  • my great, great, great, great, great, great, really super terrific ancestor
  • some other dude named MIchael who sued a bunch of other dudes
  • all the Michael’s belong to Spokeo (157 to be exact)
  • another list of Michael’s found in public records (83 to be exact)
  • the Professor, but no Gilligan alas
  • “Michael VanDervort” wanted in Shenzhen
  • Michael the Coronoer
  • Michael’s Florida mugshot
  • Mike, Mike, Mike…LinkedIn


It was fun getting to know myself….well, not my selves a little better.




Enhanced by Zemanta

The Rules of HR


Not all rules are created equal

No More Rules
No More Rules (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human society is based upon laws and rules.  Rules put the civil in civilization. Rules also put the profesh in professional..or something like that.

Most professionals, including HR professionals also develop a personal code of ethical conduct that helps guide our conduct in the workplace. Personally, I have found this to be useful.

Let’s look at both sides of this coin.

Professional Rules

SHRM has a code of ethics for HR professionals that were published in November 2007.  I’m excerpting highlights, but you can find the click on the link to find the full SHRM Code of Ethics.




Core Principle

As HR professionals, we are responsible for adding value to the organizations we serve and contributing to the ethical success of those organizations. We accept professional responsibility for our individual decisions and actions. We are also advocates for the profession by engaging in activities that enhance its credibility and value.


Core Principle

As professionals we must strive to meet the highest standards of competence and commit to strengthen our competencies on a continuous basis.


Core Principle

HR professionals are expected to exhibit individual leadership as a role model for maintaining the highest standards of ethical conduct.


Core Principle

As human resource professionals, we are ethically responsible for promoting and fostering fairness and justice for all employees and their organizations.


Core Principle

As HR professionals, we must maintain a high level of trust with our stakeholders. We must protect the interests of our stakeholders as well as our professional integrity and should not engage in activities that create actual, apparent, or potential conflicts of interest.


Core Principle

HR professionals consider and protect the rights of individuals, especially in the acquisition and dissemination of information while ensuring truthful communications and facilitating informed decision-making.

Personal Rules

Good stuff really, filled with high minded principles and professionally appropriate jargon that we should all take to heart as HR professionals and practice inn the workplace on a daily basis.  The problem with high minded principles, for me at least is that they don’t answer real world questions very well.

I’m talking about a question like: “Is it appropriate to be personal friends with professional colleagues?”  

This question was always a personal conundrum for me, especially early on in my career.  I had a hard time reconciling how I could be friends with people I saw every day in the workplace because I was afraid it would compromise me professionally if I ever had to participate in a disciplinary action, or a termination action involving one of them.

Early on in my career, I took the coward’s way out, electing not to establish any type of personal friendships in the workplace.  This was one of my first personal rules of HR conduct.

It was a terrible error in judgement.  It hurt me personally and professionally. Co-workers perceived me as aloof and unfriendly.  It took me a few years in the profession to figure this out, and a few more years before I learned to correctly balance the personal and professional aspects of workplace friendship.  I’ve been a much happier and complete human being since I gave that personal rule up.

Another question I still struggle with is “When is it ok to give a professional colleague a personal compliment?”  I’m not talking about compliments like “great job on the Spacely Sprocket acquisition!”.  I mean stuff like “great dress”, “Nice shoes”, and “You look mahvelous.”  I’m not talking about creepy stuff here, just sincere heartfelt compliments. Every time I say something like this to someone, especially someone of the opposite sex I begin to question myself, and the appropriateness of the action.

I experienced this again recently when I saw a really good picture of Rayanne Thorn with her kids. She looked so happy and radiant, it was just wonderful. I sent her a DM on Facebook that I thought she looked gorgeous (which she did).  Then I apologized for sending her a compliment.  Kind of like giving a  Christmas gift and telling someone they are going to hate it when they open it.  Rayanne reassured me it was a nice thing to hear.

One of the personal rules that has stood the test of time is “Refrain from sharing your personal religious and political beliefs” with your co-workers.  People hate that.

I’m still defining my personal rules of HR.  Which ones do you struggle with? I’d love to hear from you.






Enhanced by Zemanta

HR Reincarnate


Society for Human Resource Management
Society for Human Resource Management (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  1. 1.
    (as believed in some religions and philosophies) cause (someone) to undergo rebirth in another body.
    “a man may be reincarnated in animal form”
  1. 1.
    reborn in another body.
    “he claims that the girl is his dead daughter reincarnate

Matt Stollak asked me about a piece I wrote back in 2009 called HR – not dead yet, which I wrote while a great debate was raging on one of the old LFR blogs over whether HR was dead or alive.

Here’s part of that piece.

HR is not dying.

I would agree it is bifurcating to a certain extent, from a blended generalist type function into several smaller more specialized areas, like talent management, etc,.  But there is still a need for someone to do the shit work that line  managers hate when it comes to dealing with people.  There is also a need to ensure that the bad managers out there  be required to stick to some form of cultural consistency and conformity.

I think too many HR people hunker down and develop a reactive mentality to issues. We need to stop trying to avoid disasters and litigation.

HR peeps need to step out and make shit happen.

When you do that, you are at the table, whether you got invited or not.

BTW – the invites are not coming any time soon.   You have to create the opportunity. Same holds true for authority and respect. And you have to work to hold on to them once you have them. They are pesky and disappear quickly.

The great companies out there typically have great HR departments under the hood somewhere. But there is also a lot of “What have you done for me lately?”

Stop hiding.

Do the work.

Make shit happen.

HR rocks anywhere that happens.

It still sounds like sound advice to me.

I think the HR conversation has shifted in the blogosphere over the last five years.  Our echo chamber has expanded.  We have more champions of HR like Steve Brown advocating the joys of our profession.  SHRM has adopted social media as an effective means of sharing knowledge.  New bloggers have come on the scene, adding their contributions.

We rarely talk about tables any more.  That’s true progress.

Keep up the good work, HR!

Enhanced by Zemanta

When your employees fear the boss

Why employees join unions

Detroit and Windsor
Detroit and Windsor (Photo credit: dherrera_96)

I’m headed to Detroit today to say farewell to an old friend, so I’m recycling some old content a bit for today’s post.

You may wonder why your employees would think about joining a union. Your employees will only think about going outside your company for help  for a few reasons.

  1. You have something  they want, and they’re seeking help to get it.
  2. You gave them something they like, and now they are afraid you’re going to take it away.
  3. You don’t listen to them when they tell you stuff.

Good employee relations practices can help you avoid these issues.  It also helps to remove poor performers from your organization, and to reward excellent organizational achievements on a regular basis.

The final piece of advice I’ll share is brilliantly simple.  Believe in your culture, run your organization with your employees as the top priority, and have the intestinal fortitude to face challenges with resolve if they come your way.

Otherwise you may wind up dealing with something like this.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A major milestone and some news


Marking a major milestone and a transition

Today’s post represents the 1,455th post I have published here on the HRH blog since I first created the site on July 14, 2007.  That means I have just 45 to go to hit 1500 posts.  That will happen on March 9th.  It’s going to be kind of a big day.   It’s also going to be the last time I post on HRH.  On March 10th, I’ll be moving my content over to a new site with the unwieldy name of….yeah, you guessed it.  “MichaelVanDervort.com“.

Typically, it’s all about me, and maybe a few other things, old and new.

IN the meantime, you might get a kick out of reading this random scribbling that I posted on July 23, 2007 in which I think very deep thoughts about the social media, the future of HR and the meaning life.   I seem like such an ingenue. and yes, I even published it in that blue script.  It was also the first thing I ever wrote that was seen by double digit readers, 19 people to be exact, according to my blogger analytics.

Social Networking and the Flat World

On April 24th, I was in New Century, KS attending a session on using the SAP HR module, and one of my colleagues from Copenhagen, Denmark asked me if I had ever heard of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn?” I said curiously, “What’s that?”

“I’ll send you an invitation.” My colleague, Nicolai said, and he did.

Since then, approximately 3.5 months has passed. As of 7:42 this morning, through LinkedIn, I have:

· Established exactly 900 connections from all around the globe on LinkedIn.
· Corresponded or talked with a large number of these people
· Found old friends, family members I haven’t seen in years, and networked with a number of former professional contacts.
· I have been contacted by several companies regarding possible job opportunities.
· I have used the site to source experts and vendors for projects for clients

I have also begun to examine the impact my relatively new found interest in social networking has had on me personally, and to ponder the way these tools will affect the Human Resources field in the next couple of years.

I am interested in Social or Open Networking for many reasons. These range from the simple to the complex. The simple question: Who, Where, What, Why, and When can I encounter someone who will assist me or help me grow as a professional and an individual?

The more complex idea: We do indeed live in a Flat World. As a result of this flattening, a convergence of the technological and the sociological aspects of the Internet is occurring that I believe is already vastly influencing and changing the way we do things in our daily lives, as much the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web did in the past few decades.

I am not a technologist or a sociologist, but my professional work is in the field of Human Resources and most of my personal interests revolve around things that involve groups of people. Therefore, I am interested in how this convergence affects my work and my life. I seek to understand how it will work and have jumped into the water with both feet to examine how social networking and Web 2.0 can lead me towards practicing HR 2.0 as a professional, and add value to my personal life by developing networks around the globe for sharing of best work practices, career opportunities, and perhaps even personal relationships in places where they wouldn’t have existed without this medium.

Since April 24, in trying to understand social networking

· I have joined Xinghttps://www.xing.com/profile/Michael_Vandervort

· I have joined Ning.

· I have joined Viadeo.

· I have joined Ecademyhttp://www.ecademy.com/account.php?id=186529

· I am on Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=549337373

· I use Plaxo Plus to keep my finger on the Pulse of all of this. http://pulse.plaxo.com/pulse/events/

· This morning I joined Brijj.com which is a social networking site for India.

This represents around 2000 individuals I am networking with around the world at various levels. One of these people found a job through a referral I made. Business relationships are currently being developed through the power of LinkedIn connectivity. I hope to do a live LI event in the Tampa Bay area in October with some colleagues I have met in the HR community to promote these types of tools and the power they bring to your daily life if you learn how to use them.

All of this just scratches the surface.

Oh yes, the other things that have happened in my life since April 24th?

· My company changed hands.
· I became a grandfather.
· I turned 50.
· My wife went to India and back for the second time this year.
· The stock market hit an all time high and then plummeted like someone pulled the plug.
· My daughter went to Mexico for two months and came back.
· Bunches of other stuff too numerous to mention…welcome to the Flat World!


Enhanced by Zemanta

4 pillars of a sustainable employment brand

Make sure your employment brand is sustainable

Recruitment (Photo credits: www.mydoorsign.com)

Since I started blogging in a regular basis again< I’m also doing guest posting elsewhere from time to time. I’m also returning to the blogger lineup over on Blogging4Jobs.  In fact, my first post for them in 2014 went up yesterday as part of their Recruiting Trends theme week.

My post is 2014 Recruiting Trends: Employment Brands Under Fire #recruittrends Go check it out.

Four ways to build your employment brand

Here are four solid things you can do to make sure your organization maintains a sustainable employment brand.

1.  Foster a positive employee relations environment.  I firmly believe that strong, capable, integrity based leadership  is a key element for success in any organization.  Practicing clear consistent organizational behavior with a clear mission, strong values, and fair treatment of your employees are the foundation elements for a healthy, high performing organization.

2. Put some skin in the game.  I have worked for two employee owned companies, and all the following statements about those companies are still true.  More Profitable. Better performance. More engaged employees.  We need more employee owned companies.

3.  Ensure your business is involved in the community.  If the company contributes to the community, so will the employees.  It becomes a virtuous circle, and builds a better performing organization because people will know you care.  ContributeBuildCreate.

These strategies all build the positive side of your employment brand, and boost your ability to recruit.  They are important all the time, every day.  Make sure your organization is focusing on them.

4. Focus on monitoring  your brand via social media for positive and negative messaging.  In 2014, I believe it will become critical that corporations have a strategy in place to find and respond to such issues as they develop.  While it is inevitable that your response strategy will need coordination across a variety of business units, this is something strategic that HR can take the lead on.

This isn’t stuff you do for damage control or in response to a crisis.  This is stuff you plan and execute as part of every day HR plan.  You can  make your company better and make sure that your employment brand investment continues to pay off every day.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Doctors to sick people: “Stay home!”

Skip the Sick Note

Do you currently ask your employees who miss a day or two of work due to illness to bring in a note from their doctor? If the members of Ontario Medical Association is any thought leadership in the medical professions, you may not be able to do so for much longer.

Here is the text of a recent press release on dealing with flu this year:

Please Stay Home if You Are Sick: Ontario’s Doctors

Toronto, Ontario January 7, 2014 – With the flu season in full swing, Ontario’s doctors are encouraging people who are sick to stay home. “I can’t stress it enough going to work while sick is bad for you and potentially worse for your colleagues. Staying home to rest will help you to manage your illness and prevent others from getting infected,” said Dr. Scott Wooder, President of the Ontario Medical Association. “Think about those around you, and please don’t take the flu to work.”

The flu is highly contagious. Most cold and flu viruses are spread because people touch surfaces and then touch their faces, other objects and other people. Employers should encourage workers to stay home when sick – not require sick notes which has a discouraging effect and forces patients into the doctor’s office when they are sick, which only encourages the spread of germs to those in the waiting room, who in some cases are more vulnerable. People such as children, seniors and those living with chronic diseases are more susceptible to the flu and are at a greater risk from its complications.

Following a few basic guidelines such as coughing and sneezing into an elbow, using hand sanitizer, and washing hands frequently will help prevent the flu. These are important tips, but getting the flu shot is still the best defence against the flu. If you haven’t received the flu shot yet this year, it’s not too late to make an appointment with your doctor. It’s important to protect yourself and those around you by taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the flu. Remember, if you’re sick, please stay home!

Scott Wooder, MD
Ontario Medical Association

Many employers have already adopted policies that make a doctor excuse for short term illness unnecessary. Most union contracts contain some language that prevents requesting any kind of documentation for illness unless the event exceeds three consecutive days or more. For those companies that cling to the old school rules, it could be that you are going to be forced to adapt soon if the medical profession changes the rules of the game.

How does your company deal with short term absence?

Kickstart my year of blogging with some crowdsourcing ##Blog365

Day Two of #Blog365…in which I ask the readers for help and feedback

Dear Readers of HRH,

I could use your help.  Over the last few years, I’ve run this blog as a kind of stream of consciousness publication for my own interests.  I’ve published irregularly, and many times have published esoteric stuff that was mostly for my own amusement.   Thanks for sticking with me.

In 2014, I’d like to step up my game a little, still having fun, but maybe making this blog thing a little more professional at the same time.

I’m going to approach this in a few different ways which will hopefully allow me to stretch myself a bit.

This could mean using more video – hopefully much better than the one I shot at my desk.

It could mean starting a podcast.

It could mean using an editorial calendar with daily themes or topics for each day of the week.

I’ve been playing with some of these as possibilities.

Playing with the idea of a weekly topical schedule for the blog next year.

Morale Monday – would cover topics like workplace engagement and positive employees relations
Technology Tuesday – would cover the tech stuff that interests me, whether that would be HR tech or social tech. It won’t cover HRIS advice.
Wide-open Wednesday – is whatever the hell I want it to be…..
Leadership Thursday – will be about various aspects of DUH…leadership and management issues
Freaky Friday – would be quirky, weird stuff that I wander across or think about.
Saturdays (alright for fighting) – would profile one of the seemingly thousands of activists issues and groups that are developing out there in the workplace.  It would be a chance for HR geeks to read about some of the groups on the other side, filtered through my pro-management bias.
Sunday Funday – another kitchen sink day.  some good stuff, some bad stuff.

Podcasting – old school but something i would like to try.  Two potential topics/themes.

1.  Labor Relations on the inside.  Straight talk from an HR practitioner on what managers should be doing, companies that are doing things great and not so great…boring, right?  …maybe not

2.  The work I do  – interview people about their work, how they got into it, and why they stay there. Why their job matters, and so on.  Work is such a critical part of who we are, I think it would be interesting to tell some of these stories….

So help me out here….what do you think?  Am I way off the mark?  Did I miss something? Do I suck?   Let me know.


Enhanced by Zemanta

2013 summed up: My attitude is gratitude

My Attitude feels like Gratitude

Thank You
Thank You (Photo credit: drp)

This has been the best holiday season I’ve had in years, and I can’t explain it. There hasn’t been any magical event take place.  No big life announcements of starting new careers. (Congrats Trish and Lars!) Just a good time of year during what has been a good year of 2013.  I’m grateful for that.

I’m grateful for a bunch of stuff.  This short list won’t be all of it.

  • my family…no matter where you are
  • The entire tribe at PeopleReport….Tdn2K. Thanks for everything that you do!
  • the HR professionals who help me grow every day via SHRM and on-line
  • BTC for raising the bar and reminding me every day by #JFDI that we can all do more for each other
  • friends.

Gratitude 2013

On the professional front, there’s a bunch of labor stuff  coming that HR peeps need to keep half an eye on.  These include movements such as:

  • Rapidly increasing calls to raise wages and improve benefits.  The small community of SeaTac has already gone to $15 an hour.   Washibgton DC has passed a local minimum wage increase and added a paid sick leave requirement.
  • Increased employee activism in the work place.  Additional business sectors will experience labor actions similar to those conducted by OURWalmart and the Fast Food organizing effort in 2014.
  • More traditional  labor unrest, like strikes or lockouts,  driven largely by health care and pension issues.
  • Immigration
  • labor issues up and down the supply chain

The time is quickly coming when HR will need to reinvest itself in labor relations on a daily basis.  We’ll see more of this in 2014, and it will be at fever pitch in 2015.  Time to think about proactive strategies for fostering positive employee relations  – on the hard and soft sides.  I’m here to help, and will be writing about this stuff throughour the year.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being there when I need you.

Stay strong. Stay thirsty, and whatever you are doing, whereever you are – have a happy effin’ new year! – Mike



Enhanced by Zemanta