Over the last few weeks, I have been in several discussions about changes and the dissection of things that may or may not work. Each of these chats has included at one point or another a qualifier that we are different and that a particular change or process will not work because of this difference.

Yes, we are all “different” and that matters.

However, being different doesn’t mean being immune to change or needing to be adverse to trying things in a new or novel way. Different is not an excuse.

Be different. If something doesn’t work, try something different again!

While fighting the “different” bug, it’s often tempting to cite a best practice or exactly copy what another organization is doing.

Here’s the thing; we are different so some adaptation or change is likely to be needed to another’s best practice or procedure. It’s worth a shot and being open to different may lead to something else. That something is being better! This is always something to strive for. Better than we are now, better than others, better than yesterday.

Different is better. And better is different!

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1st days

Here in Michigan, Labor Day truly signals the end of summer as school starts on the Tuesday after for the vast majority of students in the state. It’s fun watching my children prepare for the year ahead in very different … Continue reading

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Like many of you in the United States, I attended fireworks with my family over this Fourth of July weekend. This prompted discussion among us about previous holidays and the traditions that accompany them. My wife reminisced about watching fireworks along the shores of the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana at the George Rogers Clark monument while I talked about the 100’s of fireworks shows I saw while working at Kings Island and the times when I had debris falling on me while trying to sweep up the trash from the masses of people who had enjoyed the rides during the day.

Like families, workplaces have traditions that people find important. Every organization I’ve been part of has had traditions that those in the organization find reassuring and contribute to the meaning they find from the work. While we often talk about engagement at work and strive to find the “secret sauce” that can increase engagement, we forget that our traditions can provide either incentives or disincentives to be engaged.

Way back in my theme park consultant days, a tradition we had on days for client visits to our office was to have our popcorn machine going so that the smell of fresh, buttery

Imagine your office filled with the smell of fresh popcorn!

popcorn would be present in the building when our client arrived. This was always followed by another tradition after the client left. That one was the making of caramel corn in the machine. Since it made a huge mess, that deliciousness was followed by yet another tradition, cleaning the popcorn machine! These traditions made for a great time (yes, even the cleaning!) since we all equally enjoyed and took responsibility for maintaining these traditions.  The cleaning, while not fun, was still an essential part of what we did to make working there full of engagement through tradition!

What traditions exist in your organization and do they work as an incentive or disincentive to accomplish what needs to be accomplished?

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Difficult to fill?

There is more talk at this year’s SHRM Annual Conference about recruiting difficulties than there has been during my previous visits to this conference.

We 1st heard about this from the perspective of Mike Rowe. He pointed out that we have 2.8 million unfilled jobs yet have record amounts of student debt piling up. Was his conclusion that we are training people for jobs that they don’t want or don’t exist anymore correct?

The Tuesday morning keynote featuring political pundits Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson touched on this as well. Both speakers talked about the rising inequality and the stagnant wages that many in our country are suffering from.  The startling statistic from that chat was that 47 percent of people who consider themselves middle class could not come up with $400 within 24 hours.

Do you want to drive a school bus?

My own organization has challenges with certain jobs. Number one on the list, school bus drivers! Even when offering sign-on bonuses, paid training to obtain the necessary CDL and certifications, and as much or as little work as one wants, these positions are incredibly hard to fill.

As our companies have gotten better at improving productivity, there has been a human capital cost to that. While we in HR talk about finding better ways to do things and doing more with less, there are jobs being left behind and these tend to be some of the ones that are hardest to fill.

So, what and where are the solutions? Is there one?  Based on the conversations taking place here in DC, no one has yet discovered one.


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What I am looking forward to at #SHRM16

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As another SHRM Annual conference looms in my immediate future, I find myself looking forward to several things during this time in Washington DC.  On the keynote side of the house, Amy Cuddy (author of Presence) is the one I … Continue reading

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Confessions of a serial SHRM speaker


When you’ve spoken at 20 SHRM conferences, you’ve seen and heard many things!

Many people know Karl Ahlrichs after seeing him speak at local, state, and national SHRM events. For all but 2 of the last 20 years, Karl has been a fixture at SHRM Annual Conferences and returns to Washington DC (his favorite conference city!) to present two (2) sessions this year. During a recent meeting in his hometown of Indianapolis, we sat down to talk about his time as a SHRM speaker and some highlights of his sessions.


In his 20 years presenting at SHRM annual conferences, Karl has been to many cities and heard many speakers. This year’s host city, Washington DC, is his favorite. No where else can you hear a session on the FMLA or an update on the latest from the Department of Labor and then leave the conference and see the Capitol and directly engage with those making our lives more difficult (or occasionally easier!) The energy in DC is unmatched and when fortunate enough to be in town during big events, it’s even higher. Karl was in DC on the day the ACA ruling was released by the Supreme Court and stood outside with the dueling protestors as the ruling came down!

A couple of SHRM keynote speakers that Karl found remarkable were Christopher Reeve whom he described as “amazing” and Madeline Albright when describing her worst moment as Secretary of State kissing Yassar Arafat.

In 2016 Karl is excited to return to the SHRM Annual Conference after a missing Las Vegas last year.  He did not mind missing the conference in his least favorite conference city where messages in the conference about wellness are followed by seeing masses of people sitting, smoking, and drinking!

This year, Karl is presenting two topics. First is Communicating Total Compensation and Benefits to Millennials http://annual.shrm.org/sessionplanner/session/18639 where Karl will talk about communicating complex subjects to people who do not care! Karl believes that it’s important to know that much of what we in HR have been told about generational differences is now dead and there are benefits to making messages simpler.

Karl’s second session is Advanced CFO Wisdom: The Art and Science of Communicating HR and Benefits with Finance

http://annual.shrm.org/sessionplanner/session/18703 Karl talks about the fact that many CFOs have become experts in the ACA. CFO’s are typically fast learners and are quickly becoming expert in engagement and retention since theses are parts of the HR world that affect bottom line. While many HR metrics are evolving, partnering with your CFO can yield tremendous results to the field of talent management.

Karl shared that he speaks to many different types of groups. Karl is a frequent speaker at CFO, CPA, and engineering groups. When stacked against those groups, Karl will take an HR group anytime describing them as engaged, wanting to learn what works (as opposed to what doesn’t!) and are willing to share ideas about what works. HR audiences also tend to forgive poor platform skills in exchange for good content.


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It’s a classic

When this question was originally posted, I figured it would be an easy one for me to answer. However, as forced reflection is apt to make us do, I found myself considering and reconsidering the answer. Music is an essential … Continue reading

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Week 4 reflection question

This week’s question is relatively straightforward and a bit personal in nature. Is there a song, piece of music, or sound that you rely on for inspiration? My #HRMusicShare friends should have some great answers for this one!  

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It’s all a system

The dilemma that faces me from my own question… What class (in high school, college, or grad school) influences you now in a way that you did not anticipate at the time you originally took the class? There have been … Continue reading

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Reflections – The question for Week 3

This week’s reflection question again looks to the past to establish a link to the present. What class (in high school, college, or grad school) influences you now in a way that you did not anticipate at the time you … Continue reading

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