The cavnessHR Podcast – A talk with David Siler
The cavnessHR Podcast can be found at the following places:
Social Media links for David Siler!
Jason: Hello, and welcome to the cavnessHR podcast. I'm your host, Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Davis Siler. David, are you ready to be great today?
David: I'm ready to be great every day. I've got a lot of customers that depend on me being great every day.
Jason: That's great to hear. David Siler is SPHR, GPHR, SPHRI, PHRI and APHR, and he's a managing partner of the firm Distinctive Human Resources. He is the creator of the Distinctive HR Learning System that has helped thousands achieve PHR, SPHR, APHR and GPHR certification by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI). David has 30 plus years of experience as a senior-level HR practitioner. He was an HR executive for a Fortune 100 company prior to dedicating his career to HR certification. David certifies by taking the exams instead of turning points. He holds a Master's degree in psychology. Now, for a quick turnover, David, I was actually a customer of David's program and it is outstanding.
Jason: The customer service is great. The business is win-win. The products, the Facebook groups, everything, is great. It's so great. Right now, I have a HR company I am trying to get off the ground. If I'm successful. One thing that my people will have to do [is] to go to David for certification – I'm actually going to pay for it – that’s how great the program is. The tricks he tells you (not tricks, pointers he gives you) and you ask a question and within a minute someone's helping you out. His team is great and I can't say enough great things about this program he has. So, David, we want to know some more about you. Give us some of your background and everything you're doing to help HR people get certified.
David: Well, thank you, Jason. It’s a pleasure being with you today and your listeners. Let me say that I'm glad that we worked together well. That we formed a good relationship and made a good team. Because that's the way we try to reach out to all of the customers that wind up using our materials. When you ask me whether I want to be great today. I actually look at our system as helping people to be great to achieve a level of greatness that they may not have ever felt before in the HR profession. What my goal for them is to pass the requirements to become part of the HR Intelligence Unit, to become maybe, perhaps, someday, a member of the HR Hall of Fame (which there is no such thing, but still if I had my way there would be).
David: The way to become a member of the HR Hall of Fame is you need to become certified in the profession. Whether it’s the HRCI certification or the SHRM certification, and by the way, I did not list, but I'm also SHRM-CP certified. I've taken their tests and passed their tests also. Our goal is to help people achieve something that they may have thought they never could achieve and that is professional accreditation. As you know, Jason, because you've just gone through the process, they do not give these certifications away easily, for free. You've got to reach out there and grab it and take it and pry it out of the cold, clasping fingers of either SHRM or HRCI and earn this certification. The only way you can earn that certification is to pass that test, and you did successfully. So, I'd love to work with any other and the rest of you guys out there. You can find us at Distinctive Human Resources, Incorporated, or go to our website phrexamprep.com and find out about our materials or sign up for an HRCI exam and at the same time you sign up for exam they also will have offered you something called a Bundle Package where you can get a discount on a cert-prep product and there's four choices – ours is one of them (Distinctive HR) – even though a lot of people call it the Siler Program, it’s Distinctive Human Resources. Think of HR incorporated and that's the name of our company and our system.
Jason: David, one thing I like about this course is all the great stories you tell. You usually tell 2 or 3 great stories a day, so whatever you teach on that day, you always had a great story. I especially like the story about the one old lady who I think had a union problem and just great stories. How do you come up these stories? Are they from experience, or just battle scars?
David: Yeah I'm almost afraid to tell people that I've been in the HR profession for 35 years and for part of that time I worked for large corporations – with small corporations, large corporations – and then for part of that time I was an HR consultant. Essentially, when you're a vice president of HR for a large corporation or you're a consultant, the only time your phone rings is when somebody's having a bad day. In one of my facilities one of my HR managers, something had happened, phone rang, and or they you know and they're being told that OSHA's in the lobby or EEOC sends a certified letter and being in HR. Getting certified letters is never a good thing because you're being sued by somebody or somebody’s investigating something or there's been a complaint filed and now you've got to respond and react to it.
David: If you're in the field long enough, you will certainly see a lot. This is part of what I love about being in Human Resources. It changes every day every day. I thought it would calm down. When I think I have seen it all, something new comes up. When you're dealing with human beings I mean something new comes up every day. That's what part of the complexity and the sophistication of the field of Human Resources that keeps you challenged and will certainly keep you mentally alert on a day-to-day basis. That's where my stories came from.
Jason: I know one thing that a lot of people don’t realize is how expansive the body of HR is . There are companies that just do employee engagement, companies that do payroll benefits. There's so much stuff in HR, it can be overwhelming sometimes.
David: Well, and that's what you found that out especially, Jason. When you're preparing for one of these certification exams it's almost like the test writers – the test makers – know what you have done because they're not going to ask you questions about that. They're going to ask you questions about the areas that maybe you've never worked in. You've maybe never worked with the Union, maybe you've never designed an executive compensation plan. Maybe you've never done a 4/5th analysis to determine whether you have adverse impact or not in your organization. Which is kind of a statistical discrimination tool that we use. They're going to ask you about everything: safety and training, reward system, about how to manage HR, what is the most important purpose of Human Resources, and every initiative that you launch.
David: So, you have to learn the vast body of knowledge and become a really good expert in all the areas; at least, you've got to have a smattering of knowledge of all the areas of HR and it's a challenge to learn all that, as you know. We're going through the process. That's what I like about it and that's why I would encourage anyone who is interested in HR certification – it will stretch you, it will grow you. Jason, I even told you in the first class and you tell me whether I'm crazy or not, But those people think I'm a fanatical the first night of class when I would tell them that at the end of this 12 week, 14 week, however long your cert-prep program is (your preparation program), you will be different by the end of it. You're not going to come out of the other end the same professional that you were when you started, You're going to be exposed to things that you have never seen before, that you didn’t even know was there. But you got to know all this stuff if you're going to pass the exam and, if you stay in the field long enough, you will gain those skills and gain those abilities.
Jason: David, even just going through the course itself makes you a better HR person, I think.
David: In fact, I think that's the real advantage. A lot of people, they want their business card and, by the way, nobody's business card looks like mine with all the certifications that I've got on my business card. It's crazy, nobody needs it unless you're doing like I do which is kind of the certification guide for a lot of people. Trying to help guide them through the process. But they want to earn that one certification and hang those letters next to their name and I always look at it and go, “no, no, that's not the real benefit.” The real benefit is the preparation process because when you finish by the time you sit for the exam you're going to already have recognized and realized benefits to the prep process that has made you more knowledgeable, giving you more KSA's (more knowledge skills and abilities) than you ever thought possible.
David: So, you have to improve; simply getting prepared to sit for the exam. People that walk in and cold off the street and try to pass those certification exams, and their certification exams take no prisoners – national pass rates are in the 50-percent range in the field of Human Resources. So, you if you walk in cold off the street, that is a recipe for disaster, you’re committing, not professional suicide, but at least certification suicide because you're not going to pass. Most people cannot. Maybe you could, but most people cannot – you've got to prepare.
Jason: I know that it is an investment in time on everybody's part; it takes a lot of hours. Now, I know in the course you tell us what hours we should be prepared to invest. What is that number hours again?
David: It depends on your background. The more exposed you are, the deeper your experience level, the less time you're going to need. The newer you are to the profession, or the more specialized you have been in the profession, (because these are generalist exams, they're not going to ask you just about one particular. [thing] Let's say you're in training and development, they're going to ask you about safety. They're going ask you about compensation design and administration, they're going to ask you about unions. They're going to ask you about employee relations, how to hire, how to fire, how to promote, how to discharge; they're going to ask you about all those other areas you haven't worked in). So, if you do not have any generalist background, at a fairly high level, then you're talking about maybe upwards or up to the level of about 200 man hours of study.
David: If you are very experienced and maybe only about a hundred hours of study preparation and I know that sounds like a lot. But, generally, we recommend about a 90-day preparation process so if there's ninety days you're talking, if you're very experienced, only maybe an hour a day. If you're less experienced and less exposed in the profession, then maybe an hour and a half to two hours a day or even more on the weekends. But one of the fallacies, one of the myths, that a lot of people have is because they come up through the public school system, and college. Is that they can cram for this exam. Not for this kind of exam. This kind of exam you've got to start and kind of pace yourself, budget yourself, to learn a little bit every day for this 90-day period and if you do that you've got a really great chance of passing. Jason, as you said, we've got a system, it's a proven system, it's been in the works for 22 years that I've been developing this thing. I have tried every methodology, every technique, every cheat system I can think of trying to help people. Give them an advantage and give them an edge to be able to pass the exam and the system. We've developed it to a system that we have found helps the most people which is why instead of a 50-percent pass rate. We've got more like a 90-percent pass rate with the people that follow our system religiously and do it the way we tell them to do it.
David: When I hear from people “your system doesn't work” and I go and check their online access (see, I'm Big Brother – I can go and see whether they’ve been online using the practice quizzes or listened to videos and doing all the things, playing the games that we've asked them to do) and if they haven't done it. I go, “you tried to do it your way, not my way, and you were not as successful.” The way most people try was the way they learned going to high school, or elementary school, middle school, maybe even college. Those academic approaches do not necessarily transfer in to a preparation process that’s going to be successful for a professional body of knowledge. Professional body of knowledge is much greater, much broader. So, thinking you're going to cram and take a couple of weeks to study, unless you're some kind of genius. But generally it takes more to know and to build this body of knowledge slowly and surely over a period of time and that's what we have found works.
Jason: Yes, you definitely have changed our thought process of studying and it's a change they have to make and the quicker you make it, the easier it’d be on you. Now, you actually provide HR certification for everyone worldwide, for all the countries, correct?
David: Yes, we do provide these programs via webinar, via the wonders of modern electronics, and we can hook up electronically and deliver these programs anywhere anybody is. The only thing they have to do is, like Jason is on the west coast, I'm on the east coast, you've got to allow for that time differential. Normally, I do three programs a week – I do one on Tuesday nights here on the east coast (I'm in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area). So, we do one from 6:00 to 9:00 on Tuesday nights. We do one on Friday afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00 east coast time, Eastern Time, and then we do one on Sunday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00. That really picks up a lot of West Coasters that can't do it during the week because of the work conflicts and schedules but we get people from all over the world.
David: I've had people getting up at 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., their time, in Hong Kong or in Greece or in the Ukraine. Or all over the world that people have tuned in for these programs because people want a program that will match up and appeal to their lifestyle and to their learning styles. Depending on where they are and what their location is and my Tuesday and Friday programs have live students also who are sitting up. The experience we’re trying to give people is as if they're right there in the classroom with us. It's me speaking online in video where they can see me live. But I also have assistants who are monitoring and typing in answers, responding to their questions. If it’s something they can't respond to, they pitch it to me and then I answer it. I repeat the question and answer for the entire audience. But we try to integrate both live audience and webinars to do this all into one program to give them the best learning opportunity possible. To simulate, frankly, and to engage them into a real, live program that's going on and they can engage in and they can participate in.
Jason: I like the fact that you let your students, if they want to, they can go to all three webinars they want to – it’s up to them. You didn't say, “oh, you can only do this one.” You let them go to all three, and I know a lot of students appreciate that.
David: Yeah, what I'm really trying to do is take away any excuse anybody has. I want to say, “look, (this is what I even say in my program) I'm going to do my part to help you get certified> You've got to do your part, which is to put in the work.” But we even, Jason, as you know, offer office hours on Mondays and Thursdays. I would also get online for any of my students that had questions, that want to talk directly to me, and we would answer questions. All I do is give them a period of time on Mondays and Thursdays where they can check in with me and ask me questions. I don't go in with any prepared script like I do in class – in class. I know what I'm going to say, yeah, I've got my stories that I tell (you evidently like Grandma Moses and that story of the little old lady, and that was true) and most of my stories actually have some original truth to them anyway but they're all designed to help people learn.
David: I learned a long time ago that people remember stories and they don't remember jokes, and I don't tell any jokes, I tell stories. But some of the stories are very humorous, they're very cute. But they all have teaching points to them that people can walk away with those actual real-life like case studies and they'll remember them. I heard from thousands of people that we worked with over the years about how they may not remember everything. But they remember the stories on exam day. Because the way they're going to earn their credentials is passing a three-hour, 175-question exam. As you know, Jason, they're going to ask you about everything. It's going to be all over the place and you got to be able to answer those questions and they're going to give you a lot of scenarios. A lot of situations which aren't cases and examples and then you've got to try to figure out what the best answer option is and the stories in the cases that we've provided the program help do that.
Jason: Yes. So, David, moving on. Talk to us about a time that you were successful in the past, what you learned from the success, and what our listeners can learn from this.
David: Yeah, I measure my success nowadays. I've done the HR thing for so long that now I look at the way I measure success is what my pass-rate is in my class. I am not satisfied unless I have a 100% pass-rate, and we have had groups of students that are 100% invested in the program and therefore became 100% successful and passed the exam. See, I don't get to choose all of my students of the candidates that I work with. I have had some that when we started the program and I looked at and I was like, “this poor soul has no chance of passing, at earning their credentials.” But it's a dream they have; it is something that a goal, a target that they have set for themselves, and my job is to help them. And 12 weeks later, I get a phone call, I get an email, from this individual saying they're now professionally accredited and I'm running around the room pumping my fist in the air going, “I'm a genius!” for helping this person who maybe was not so much of a genius. That's our goal, to help them earn those credentials. Almost every class I have somebody that I know it's a reach goal for them to earn their credentials and when that happens, that lights me up like it's Christmas morning and I'm ten years old again. So, that's one of the ways I measure my success and/or failure. But that's a way I measure my success – when I can help somebody that I think really had little to no chance of earning their credentials.
Jason: That's great to hear, David. So, similar to the last question, talk about a time you failed, what you learned from this failure, and what we can learn from this?
David: See, I learn from my failures all the time. I'm going to tell you that I am as thin-skinned as the next guy, but when someone fails it hurts me. I can hear from fifty people in a day that they all passed the exam and then one person tells me they fail, that hurts me. But what really hurts me, is when I expected them to pass, when they put in the effort and they put in the time and they followed my system, then I have to question me: “what did I do wrong? How can I improve this system?” Now, I have had 22 years to try to improve this system and it's been the school of hard knocks along the way and people give me criticism, and I welcome constructive criticism, (I'm not a big fan of the haters, the one who just wants to criticize and give destructive criticism). But when they can give constructive criticism, I will listen with both ears and I will adjust and adapt and change. Frankly, what I have been doing for the last three months – it's in the summer months right now that you're doing this interview, Jason. What I try to do is recreate and improve and listen to the critics and what we have done wrong and what we could do better and how we can improve this system and that's what I continuously try to do. So, after-action reports I know is what the military calls it but when I have failed and somebody didn't pass, that should have passed, it's on me.
David: And I tell them, “look, it wasn’t you, it was me. I've got to do a better job and I'm going to improve my system, my techniques, so that it will help you pass next time.” What I tell people is, “let's don't quit; let's go back to it; let's stay at it.” Probably, the people that I have the most respect for – because I'm in the business of both successes and failures; there are winners and losers with this whole certification game. We have a lot more winners than we have losers, but I stick with the losers, I let people retake the program for free – if they fail the exam. We're going to come right back; I'll give them upgrades, I'll give them personal attention, I will sit down with them, map out a personal study plan when they get their grades. Because we want to be successful in the long-run. So, I look at defeat as only a temporary issue; it's only a temporary state of mind and we're going to come right back at it. It's going to cost a little bit of money because they're going to have to pay HRCI to retake the exam again. But let's go back at it and let's get it a second time around. A lot of people do. [For] some people, it takes more than two tries. But let's keep trying, let's keep going. I will also keep trying and keep working with that individual until we are successful.
Jason: Those are some great insights, David. Next talk to us about somebody that has helped you out in the past, and how that person helped you.
David: Well, right now, my students help me the most. They give me a lot of feedback, a lot of insight about what's on their exams, what weren’t on their exams. So it's almost like you and I, Jason. It's almost like we form a bond. I went to the National SHRM conference back in June down in New Orleans this past year, and in DC the year before. It is very rewarding and satisfying to me to meet people there. That come up and everybody is like they've known me because they've spent all this time with me. Either online or live in the programs that they get to know me pretty well, and I get to know them, to some degree. But they get to know me better and so all their guards are down and we're like long-lost buddies. Even though I'm looking at them maybe for the first time ever because they've been on the webinar and they've seen me every time, but I haven't seen them. So they come up and they give me great insight, great tips, great advice; they tell me their life stories and I learn a lot from them.
David: But the individual I learned the most from that I think may be my original mentor, way back thirty-five years ago, fresh out of college, out of graduate school, and decided I did not want to be a psychologist. I wanted to do something different, and so I thought, “let's try human resources because there, if you get fed up with somebody, you can fire them. But you can't do that if you're offering therapy to people. So, I went into HR, I really liked it, I enjoyed the work, they tried to move me out of it for a lot of years.
David: But the original mentor, a gentleman by the name of Brian Harris, who's passed away since then. Was the guy that gave me a start. [He] used to call me college boy all the time because I was and I was very educated but very green in the ways of people. He taught me a lot and gave me a lot of practical tips, advice and really helped me grow as a human being and as an HR practitioner. So, I will always be indebted to him for that helping-hand he gave me in the beginning. Used to be in the field of human resources (still is, to some extent) they want you to be about 25 years old with about 35 years of experience at your initial, entry-level job. In finding that first job and at first pathway is a hard thing to do and he gave me that first pathway opportunity. I've tried to do it from then on.
Jason: Next, tell us something about yourself that most people don't know. Like your family knows, your friends know, but something but we don't know. Like, “David Siler does (this)…”
David: David Siler pretty much lives for work; I work out every morning, I swim, I bike, I lift weights. I find going to the gym is cheaper than hiring a psychologist. To work with all these neurotic HR professionals that I work with that have test-anxiety and stress and are freaking out. So, I need my own health and my way of dealing with the stress of the job is I go and I leave it in the gym and so maybe that's something that a lot of my students don't know that I worked with – I try to go to the gym every day and the more stress I have on me, the more I hammer in the gym.
Jason: So, David, next, I’ll have you talk about something. Right now there’s something, they're called new HR and old HR; the HR of yes and the HR of no and that’s the kind of struggle going on right now within HR. Can you talk about that for a little bit?
David: Well, you mean whether to make a HR a career or not? Is that what you're saying by “yes” or “no” like that?
Jason: No. The old HR where somebody comes in with a problem and they always say “no”. Where the new HR finds a way to say “yes”. How do you make people become the people of HR-yes?
David: Yeah, I'm a big believer that the saying is that “the answer is ‘yes,’ now what's your question?” HR is a pure, support function. The more knowledgeable you are, the more skilled you are, the more experience and exposure you have. The more options you can offer the operational side of your business. The goal of Human Resources is to be viewed as a strategic partner to the operation side. I don't care what you do in business, whether you're a non-profit, government. Work for the military (the army is one of my largest customers, maybe that's something a lot of people don’t know – I work a lot with the military), or you're a for-profit organization, manufacturing, whatever. Regardless, in human resources, and we are often the butt of jokes and we are deservedly the butt of jokes because we are saying “no” because we are a bunch of paper-pushing bureaucrats and that is not what a modern, progressive HR department ought to be.
David: What you ought to be is a way of, when they come in, to say that, “traditionally, we haven't done it this way, but let’s come up with a plan together. Let's figure this out so that the operational side of the business can execute and perform like we want them to, to help this organization to continue to stay healthy. If we can help the operational side of the business achieve their goals, which is selling widgets, or producing widgets, or providing services, whatever it is that your organization is, we need to figure out how we can help them succeed. I think a lot HR professionals I've dealt with over the years view their job to say “no” to the operation side, to be a gate, to be an obstacle thrown in their path, that is not what our role is.
David: Our role is to be a help; our role is to be that strategic partner that they come to because they know that you have options and answers that they haven't considered and that's the way to be Captain Yes instead of Captain No. Every time an operations person walks into your office and the operations people will come see you more if they view that you actually have real pragmatic, practical tips and advice and solutions to the problems they're facing. They've got problems and we've got the skills that can help them to succeed. If you do help them succeed. You're going to be held up on a pedestal and you're going to be invited to the conference room, to the strategy-planning table. Not just to bring the coffee and doughnuts, but actually to be in the room as a contributing member and, perhaps, one of the best strategists in the room. But you’ve got to change your mindset first, and that mindset has got to be, “yeah, we're going to help you and we're going to say “yes” to you, not “no” all the time.
Jason: David, that's great advice, great insights. I just hope more of our HR counterparts are following that advice.
David: Well, that's something I’ve got a lot of passion about. There’s something else I have to tell you, that if you wind up sitting for your PHR HRCI exam, you better adopt that mindset on that exam also, which is how to become a strategist. I want to tell you, there's a lot of bureaucrats and a lot of paper-pushers in our field and there's not but a few strategists out there. Strategists are hard to find, rare as hen's teeth. But they're the ones that make the big bucks and they're the ones going to help you in your career, if you can become that kind of individual and adopt that mindset.
Jason: Yes, very true. David, can you provide our listeners with some of your social media links or website links?
David: Sure, if you're interested in our products, interested in our services, if you want to take a class and you want the best class in the world, (and I'm smiling when I'm saying that but I mean every word of that), you want to go to phrexamprep.com. You can get the links, you can find out about our products, you can find out about our programs and when we do them. We're launching them all year round now that HRCI has gone to year-round testing. You also can, if you want free stuff, there's even some free things on that site. During the teaching season, I do a free question-of-the-day and a tip-of-the day on Facebook and it’s Distinctive Human Resources, Inc. We put out a free question one day, we put the answer the next day. We put a tip and piece of advice about how to sit for and prepare for and pass the exam on that site every day for about 170 days during the period.
David: The only time we really take off and when we will not be posting is during the summer months of June, July and August. Otherwise that, we're posting out there every day, something new, something fresh, announcements. It's a community of HR professionals that are all in the same boat of preparing to sit for and pass those exams. They are, you'll find out if you are going for your certification prep or if you’re just thinking about it come on there and play with those daily questions and see how prepared you would be, then test yourself on those daily questions. You don't have to post your answers, but a lot of people do. But you would find out you're not alone, that there's a lot of other HR professionals that are going through the same challenging process of getting themselves ready to earn their professional credentials.
Jason: For our listeners, all the links will be on our show notes on our website and on iTunes. So, David, before we end our talk together, any last words of advice or wisdom you'd like to pass on to the listeners?
David: I know that a lot of people, and I guess since I'm in the field certification, I'm talking about certification, a lot of people still ask me, “which one should I get? SHRM or HRCI?” It’s still almost three to one people are earning their HRCI credentials over the SHRM credentials and that's been several years now. I would have thought if SHRM was really going to cut into the market they would have done so by now. So, if your question is going to be, “which certification should I go for?” I'm going to tell you still the granddaddies of certifications to hold, the ones that are most respected, are still the PHR, SPHR certifications. But SHRM, hopefully, someday will pick up some momentum and they will also become a respected certification. But, right now, at least the time that I'm being interviewed today, PHR, SPHR certification is the one you want. That's the last words of advice I got for you today. SHRM I'm sure will not like that much but it's the truth, it's my observation.
Jason: Yes, indeed. David, thank you for spending this time with us, we appreciate it. I know you’re a busy person, you do a lot of things for, not only HR people, but for people in general. You have a great program, great people. I really appreciate what you did for me. I'd like to see you continue to do that for our listeners. So, listeners, thank you very much. I appreciate your time you spent with us and remember to be great every day. Thank you.
Social Media links for David Siler!