You Don’t Have to Grow the Trees to Build Your Deck

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I love conferences. It’s great to gather with a group of other professionals interested in learning something new and connecting with colleagues.  I was thrilled to be invited to attend SHRM-Atlanta to tweet and share some written insights.  I’ve been to many conferences, and this one was particularly well run and organized.  As a participant, I appreciated SHRM-Atlanta’s online resources to help me prepare to make the most of the event.  Vendors were friendly and forthcoming with information, and there seemed to be food or a meal every time I turned around!

I was struck by a great lesson in the first session I covered.  Coincidentally, the same theme permeated three sessions I attended!  Getting Talent Management Right, Now That’s the Power of The Home Depot showcased speakers Clarke Peterson, Principal Consultant, Atlanta Leadership Consulting and Gretchen Lumsden, Senior Manager, Talent Management, The Home Depot.  The session focused on a “do-it-yourself” theme, as Home Depot is the mecca for do-it-yourselfers.  Peterson said something that really resonated with me.  He explained, even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, “You don’t need to grow the trees” if you want to build a deck.

It’s true, isn’t it? You can be a DIYer, but you can still go out and buy your wood to build your deck.  What does this have to do with HR?  The session focused on how The Home Depot customized a commercially available tool to help them identify the best talent to hire.  The presenters explained how a company used to doing everything themselves, from scratch, realized they could benefit from metaphorically “buying the wood to build the deck” for their talent management tools.

This lesson was also evident in Mark Toth’s keynote, “Everything you always wanted to know about employment law.  He illustrated employee scenarios and shared information that made it clear organizations need to train their employees and managers to prevent potential legal problems before they happen.  Toth described how stressed the workforce is, costing $200-$300B in losses each year due to “stress-related absenteeism, burnout, decreased productivity, workers comp claims, turnover and insurance costs.”

But, do you need to create something new from scratch to address it?  Implement new policies?  Organize new task forces?  Toth (while he may have intended this as tongue in cheek), answered these problems with one word: “Love.”  He says, “Be nice to your employees.” (Did I mention he cited a statistic – per Right Management – “84% of employees plan to leave their companies in 2012?”)

Yes, in reality, everyone (especially Toth) knows there is more to it than just “love,” but it’s significant that the presentation ended on that note. There is something powerful about breaking down all the problems and lawsuits to a simple principle – one that doesn’t involve growing your own trees to build your deck.

Matthew Grabell, attorney, president & CEO of Employee Relations Solutions presented, Social Media and Legal Implications – How to Avoid a LawsuitThis session further illustrated how big problems can be prevented with simple solutions, and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. One of the biggest problems?  Employees don’t seem to understand ramifications of sharing unprofessional details of their lives and opinions online.  These details become the manager or HR office’s problem when they (inevitably) go public.

A basic (no need to cut down trees) solution?  Train the employees.  Let them know, as Grabell explained, their Facebook passwords can be subpoenaed in a lawsuit if it were found they lied under oath about a topic related to what they may have posted there.  My suggestion?  Show employees how to use social media for the good – train them and encourage them to be brand ambassadors.  Do you need to grow your own wood to build this deck?  Do you need to write your own guide to social media use?  No, you don’t.  If you identify an expert who already understands social media to train your team, you will save tons of time and effort.  This coach should encourage your employees to use social media professionally and explain why it will be a boon to their careers.  The consultant can remind your staff why unprofessional information they post online may make it difficult for them to market their skills and expertise.  Will this solve every problem?  No, of course not, but it is a step in the right direction, and a step that does not require growing your own trees.

What are you doing in your daily job or business that effectively has you “growing the trees” to build your “deck?”  Are you trying to create a program or system someone else already provides?  Are you moving ahead, dogmatically ignoring people or tools to make your life easier?  Did you take the time to research options to make your plans into reality before you started effectively “planting seeds to grow your own trees?”  If so, maybe it’s time to take an all-important step back.  Stop sprinkling seeds and give a good look around to make sure there aren’t better resources or solutions that could improve upon your homegrown approach.


Miriam Salpeter is a social media strategist and author of Social Networking for Career Success (LearningExpress, 2011) and 100 Conversations for Career Success (LearningExpress, expected fall, 2012). CNN named her a “Top 10 job tweeter” and she contributes to U.S. News & World Report’s “On Careers” column. Featured on CNN and quoted in major media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times for her cutting-edge advice, Salpeter is an in-demand coach, writer and speaker regarding job search and social media. She teaches clients to take advantage of online tools and creates and optimizes social media profiles and professional websites. Learn more via her blog, Keppie Careers, and follow her on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Google+.


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03 2012

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