The cavnessHR Podcast – A talk with Sarah Morgan of BuzzARooney LLC
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Jason Hello, and welcome to the cavnessHR podcast. I'm your host Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Sarah Morgan. Sarah are you ready to be great today?
Sarah I'm ready.
Jason Sarah Morgan is a practicing HR professional with nearly 20 years of experience in the light industrial and retail industries. She's currently the Chief Excellence Officer of BuzzARooney LLC. Where she provides consulting and coaching surrounding organizational culture and total wellness benefits and executive leadership. Sarah also serves as a senior director of HR for an international Home Security dealer, headquartered outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. In 2011, Sarah began blogging under the pen name BuzzARooney. Then in 2013 made the decision to retire the nickname and cartoon avatar. She began to write and speak under her real name. Her blog, The Buzz on HR is now eight years old and has over 10,000 subscribers. She has also massed more than 20,000 followers across various social media platforms. In 2017, Sarah created the hashtag black blogs matter challenge, a 28-day writing challenge about the unique hurdles faced by African Americans and women the workplace. The challenge has continued as a hashtag movement that keeps driving conversations and sharing about diversity, inclusion, equity, fairness and belonging in a workplace. In 2019, Sarah added hashtag black pods matter to her hashtag movement Arsenal to expand the conversation to include the growing areas of podcasting. Sarah has been named to HR blog networks top 40 under 40, clear companies 50 unstoppable women in HR tech, HR executives, top 100 HR tech influencers and the expert HR UK list of top global HR voices. Sarah, you are one busy lady doing a lot of things.
Sarah Yeah. Who's that girl?
Jason So you sound like you found a way to get 48 hours out of every 24 hours a day.
Sarah I'm not even gonna perpetrate that lie. No, I don't everything is just about choice. Jason, right now I'm choosing to do this with you. When this is over, I'm going to switch computers and be on a call on open enrollment in my day job. I'll do that for an hour, then I have to take my daughter to gymnastics and then after that, I'm fully committed to watching the Grey's Anatomy season finale. Everything is just scheduling choices. So that's the only way I can get it all done.
Jason You bring up a good point. In the old days, people talked about work-life balance, I think now it's just life.
Sarah It is just life I got this time and what can I do with it. The work-life balance, I think was always a myth. I think trying to balance the two really drove people a little bit nutty. Because you're always feeling like one is competing for your attention. There's this constant feeling of guilt that comes because you're one place. But you feel like you should possibly be another or doing something more or doing something different. What I've learned, particularly in the last few years, as my business on the side has started to take off is that it is really is all about schedule and choice. I just have to make a decision to do all of it and not be apologetic about whatever it is I'm doing in that moment. So my calendar is just full of to do's and my choice to do this means that I can't do that. I just go forward and I don't apologize for it. At this point, I think that's pretty much the only way to do it successfully. Because trying to balance the two, I think it just naturally sets us in a mindset of feeling like something is suffering.
Jason Can you talk a little bit on the role of HR with change management?
Sarah HR is critical to change management in organizations because we are so responsible for the policies and we're responsible for the people. You can't change if the policies don't match where it is that you are trying to go. So you have to have strong human resources, this presence, and you have to listen to your human resources leaders. Some things can happen really rapidly and some things have to take more finesse. As HR leaders, we have to be change ready, and ready to lead in that aspect. We have to understand how change works, and what impact that has on people. So that we can guide the organization to make decisions and communicate in ways that are going to be for everyone's higher good and best self as we get to whatever thing is coming next.
Jason Whenever I think about change management, I think about the meme that was on Facebook a while ago; Where the guys talking about the employees. We need to make change. Are you ready for change? Everyone says yes. Are "you" ready to change? Oh, no, not me.
Sarah No, no, not me. No one wants to personally change and that's pretty natural in our relationships, we tend to look at the outward person. If someone would just do this, then everything would be okay. We never think it's our responsibility to change our own perspectives, our own approach. But at the end of the day, your organization can really only ask you to buy in and move in the direction that you're going. In my day job, we went through a merger last year. When our new executive team came to visit our office for the first time, our new CFO said something that I thought was so poignant. He said, I want to know that I have your buy-in and your support. I want you not to just cooperate, but also to collaborate. Because I don't know what I don't know.
Sarah I need you to tell me where the pitfalls are going to be. It was great that this person chose that moment to be vulnerable. To say, I know, I don't know everything I know, I'm not going to get all of this stuff. However, I know that you do. You know things that I don't know, I know things that you don't know. Together, if we work together, we can make this successful and I love that approach. Change is scary, it's different and the more that you accept that vulnerability and expose yourself and talk about it openly, not in a negative, venting, backbiting kind of way. But in just an acknowledgment that this is different. We don't 100% know what we're doing. We don't 100% know if this is going to work, but we've got this plan, we think it's going to work. We're just going to keep proceeding in this direction, and you just allow space. For those vulnerable moments, things tend to go a lot better than when people pretend like they're all of these assurances that just don't exist.
Jason Sarah, from your opinion, why do you think a lot of change management initiatives fail? Because employees are digging their heels, they refuse to change? Is it because the company doesn't communicate properly? Or is that something totally different?
Sarah I think it boils down to planning and communication. It's how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time right. What we do is we try to eat the whole thing at once, instead of recognizing that these sorts of things happen more in phases, then in large chunks. So what's really important when you're dealing with change management, is understanding the kind of theory of change that you're doing that people are immediately going to go into resistance. That you're going to see things that resemble the five stages of grief. Because a change is a bit of a death of the way that something used to be. It should lead to the birth of something new.
Sarah: But people are still going to grieve the old ways in the old processes. You're going to have 10% of the people who are going to be gung ho about this change and go all out from it. From the very beginning, you're going to have 10% of the people that you will drag kicking and screaming the entire way. Then you've got everybody else in the middle who you've just have to consistently shift as time goes on. Start with the ones who are the most willing, and just keep inviting more people into it. As people buy in bring them along, and those who are not bought in. Be honest with them and say, I can tell you're not bought into this. I can't have that. I've got to have somebody who's bought it and all in on what it is that we're trying to do here. So until you get there, I'm gonna sit you over here. I think that momentum, the change starts to look fun. That momentum will do that. But if you're not, if you haven't planned that out, if you haven't anticipated that. If you haven't communicated to people, what that's going to look like, you're not giving them the opportunity to troubleshoot through those difficult moments. You're going to have a hard time. So having a plan, understanding that, that change takes time, and communicating consistently throughout, honestly, and candidly, is to me is the key.
Jason Sarah, you do a great job of putting yourself out there on social media. Why is important for us as HR professionals to be on social media?
Sarah For me, social media has been a wonderful networking tool. So despite the fact that I blog, and I speak, and I do all of these kind of public figure kind of things. I'm like hella introverted. Talking to people makes me super anxious, large crowds, some networking events and things like that make me super anxious. Social media allows me to dip my toe into interactions with large crowds of people in a way that still allows me kind of the space of safeguard. So that was the thing that drew me into it. But once I got there, I realized that there was so much good stuff being shared. So many great people that I got to meet, become friends with partner with on, you know, projects and different kinds of things. That if I had just stayed in my one little corner and never tried it. I never would have encountered that. I mean, you and I met on Twitter. We follow each other on Twitter. I had commented on a prior episode of the podcast, and you reached out to me on LinkedIn and boom, here we are.
Sarah I don't know that any other way that that could have happened. So it's such a great opportunity for expanding your knowledge and your professional network. I don't understand why any human resources professional wouldn't want to do it. The other thing really important to remember is that your employees are on Twitter, and Facebook, and Snapchat, Instagram, all those other social media platforms too. They're using it, sometimes they're talking about your company, sometimes they're talking about other things that can be at times controversial. If you are a stuffy HR person who doesn't ever posts, who keeps all of their profiles on lockdown, There's no model for them to see what appropriate sharing and appropriate, posting looks like. So with the exception of Facebook, all of my profiles are public at this point. I have Facebook pages for like my blog and my business. But my Facebook page where I post that's really more where I interact with my family, and I post pictures of my kids and stuff like that, that's not necessarily something I want to make public.
Sarah There's still parts of your lives that you that needs to be just yours, right? But my Instagram, my LinkedIn, my Twitter, anybody can look and see and follow what's going on with me there. My team follows me the folks that I work with day to day, my co-workers follow me from all over the country. Some co-workers and other employees at the company who I've never met in person because we're in 42 states. I've never met them in person, but I know them through Instagram, or I know them through Twitter. But they see me, the HR lady posting and talking about all of the things that I talk about responsibly and they know what that looks like. They know that they can do it too. I think that that's really important. Social media is not going anywhere, it's just going to continue to get bigger. If we're not modeling the behavior, and we're not in those spaces to know how they're used and what's going on.
Jason I just think if you are on social media it gives you such an advantage. Everyone changes jobs. If you are competing with someone and they don't have social media and you do. I think they will go with the person who has social media. Because they know what you stand for. They know your brand, versus someone who is like, total silence on what they stand for.
Sarah I think that sometimes that works for you and sometimes that works against you. I can be very outspoken, surrounding issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in a way that I would imagine that can be off putting for people and someone who wants to hire me an employee. Someone who wants to hire me as their employee. They might look at that and go, ooh, I don't know if I want. So I don't know, 100%, if that has worked to my advantage. As far as that goes, I mean writing with the Black Lives Matter challenge, like when I start talking about white privilege is so fragile and those sorts of really controversial. Just talking about why some of the really hard hitting and underbelly stuff and some of the uglier sides of diversity and inclusion. That's not necessarily something a lot of employers want to touch.
Sarah I've embraced that, though. Because if I'm going to work in an environment as an employee, I want to be able to show up as authentically and whole as they will allow me to. If they don't agree that privilege exists if they don't agree that privilege is fragile. If they don't think that pay should be transparent and equitable. Like if organizations don't feel those things. That is not going to be a place where I'm going to be able to show up and be whole and authentic. So at this point in my career, 20 years in, and figuring out what I want my legacy to be. So I'm all right with that. I'm all right, with someone given me a pass, because they don't necessarily like the things that I say on social media or post about on Instagram.
Jason I see that as a good thing as they are disqualifying themselves from you.
Sarah I think, ultimately, it is, it can be hard. I've watched friends of mine, and I've experienced that myself, where I'm like, it's something that you have these qualifications. Nothing's wrong with me. Nothing's wrong with this person. I'm like, No, this is the thing like that. Your public profile your brands is going to either draw people in or push people out. At the end of the day, we're all just trying to find l our people. So if people disqualify themselves from it, I agree with you. Ultimately, that's a good thing. But it can be hard. When you're trying to make a career transition and you can't find a home. That can be difficult.
Jason Sarah, this is my personal opinion. So there are people like yourself, Jazmine Wilkes, Steve Browne, Ben Eubanks, Janelle Rodriguez, Cici Clark, trying to make HR better, expand it, all that kind of stuff. Then there are some people out there who seem like they don't want to do anything improve HR and they are just stagnating? Why are so many HR people satisfied with the status quo?
Sarah Because it's hard because change is hard. I'll use myself as an example, I jokingly say this. But when work gets tough, and I feel overwhelmed with the decisions that have to be made with the difficulty of a project with the conflict within a group or whatever, right? You know, what I do, data entry. Why? Because I don't have to think about it. I don't have to worry about it, it is simple, it is so transactional. When I'm finished with it is perfect and done. Even though HR people talk about we need to be more strategic, we need to be more people focused. People are complicated, strategy is hard. Implementing programming, developing innovative programs, rolling that out, maintaining it, that's hard mind consuming work.
Sarah When I can just push the button, check the box, that type of stuff that is comfortable. So we want the comfort. The other piece of it and now just to be really real, is our ideologies are messed up. We're still very command and control in terms of how we work and HR gets just as much sucked into that. Because we're a part of the matrix of corporate America as much as anybody else's. It's still very command and control. Still very white male, heterosexual, Christian dominated, fighting against that system is hard. A lot of us either don't know how to do it, or we don't even realize that we're a part of the system perpetuating that. So we can't even get out of our own way to try it. Because we're in our own privilege. We're in our own heads, we haven't done that kind of anti-learning work that's necessary to wake yourself up and realize that we're not doing as good a job of making people feel safe and a sense of belonging in our work communities as we could be.
Sarah I think it is both of those things. I think we're scared like we talked about being strategic. But strategy is hard and scary. So we run back to the transactional things. We just go into work every day and perpetuate the same stuff that we see outside, like, we don't swipe our badges, and stop being a supremacist. It doesn't work we don't swipe our badges and give our privileges up. We bring all of that into the building with us. Human Resources people, a lot of us just haven't done the work. We don't recognize that is a lot of people you see it on Twitter and on LinkedIn. It's a lot of us out here arguing about whether or not privilege even exists. In 2019, I see HR people posting about how women aren't paid equitably, because we have children and get off the career track. We're still talking about this stuff. It's 2019. Like, those are real things. So I think is some of it is being afraid of the strategy and holding on to the transaction and some of is just ignorance.
Jason So Sarah, follow up question. I already went over your blogs that you did where you talked about, and I agree with you. You'll tell an HR person, what are the numbers, what are the analytics. They are like, I'm not finance, I don't do numbers. I'm like, yes, you do. You're supposed to do numbers. Why do so many refuse to do analytics, metrics, numbers, I just don't get that.
Sarah Fear. So there are a couple things. One, and a lot of organizations, the Human Resources person is not, for lack of a better word classically trained, right? They're not someone and I'm not saying degrees are the be all end all. But I do think that there is the education in your field of in your profession matters. There are a lot of people who just get tossed into HR. You're at a small, possibly startup company and I'm not saying startup in the tech sense. I'm just saying somebody started a business and you come in as the admin person to kind of help with kind of back office types of things. Then the next thing, you become the HR person. That's true in a lot of organizations. Now you're dealing with people's payroll, you're dealing with their health benefits, you're dealing with their need for time off from work and leave for personal issues.
Sarah You don't even know what the FMLA stands for. You don't even know what the minimum wage is in your state. Because you've not been classically trained in those areas. Your organization may or may not have made you go out and get that learning. Now here I am doing this work and now I gotta do reports, I gotta do high level metrics. You want me to tell you turn over, you want me to tell you retention and attrition. I can't even program a formula in Excel, and you want me to do high level reporting. So a lot of times I think that plays a part. I think that human resources, technology, and a lot of spaces is still not intuitive enough for the needs of your everyday HR person. I think that plays a part.
Sarah There's a lot of tech out there that still can't from a dashboard perspective or from an ease of reporting perspective, give you a turnover report or retention report, an attrition report, a time to fill report on recruiting. I've seen human resources, HRIS systems that can't even give you an EEO-1 report filled out. It is 2019. Like how are you out here in the streets, selling technology to people that won't even make their lives easier to do the bare minimum simple things surrounding the work that they do. So there are companies out there that are still hand counting the number of people in order to fill out an EEO-1 report. That's madness. If I have to do that, I can't get that from my system. I'm having to pull two reports, pivot and what's the other thing that they do? You got to do a pivot table, you've got to do macros in order to make it work. like are you kidding? I can't imagine that. We automatically want to kick that kind of stuff over to finance because the finance people generally are classically trained. They get the Excel training, you can't really get too far into finance without some level of additional education, even if it's just an Excel class. We're not giving that to human resources, professionals. So we get overwhelmed and we reject it. We run back to the transactional stuff like I can't give you this report, but I can check this box and I can approve this thing and HR false farther and farther behind the business curve.
Jason Sarah why is important for people to keep on networking and looking for a job. Even if they have a job right now?
Sarah Your network is your next opportunity. The people that you know, are the people who are going to get you the next place that you want to go. Like who you know, matters. It's really important for you to cultivate relationships and not in the I need a job hook me up kind of way. Not in that kind of way. The thing that I've learned most and come to appreciate about networking, because I didn't like it. I didn't like networking for a long time. Because again, highly introverted person, I have a bit of social anxiety, the idea of walking up to a stranger, shaking their hand. Telling them about myself in a way to get them to want to engage with me seems like otherworldly and terrifying.
Sarah I can't do that. But what I can do is start a conversation and find out what it is that you do and find out what it is that I do. What are the things that you're interested in when you're not working. So you can connect, and then let's just build a professional friendship. When I started to look at networking that way, and not from a what can I get type of perspective. That I've got to know people so that I can call somebody up when I need a job or a reference or whatever the case may be. When I stopped looking at it as the hookup and started looking at it as a way to expand my social circle and the people who I know and influence me. I really encourage people to just look at networking as an opportunity to make professional friendships. That will help you move your career forward and create opportunities. I think when you look at it that way, and not so transactional, not so much what can I get? You're going to enjoy that experience so much more. It's going to be way more impactful than if you're just collecting business cards and LinkedIn connections like their Pokemon. Like that's not the way.
Jason I've never heard that analogy before, but I like that. Collecting leads and connections like Pokemon cards. That's a good one. Why do so few HR people look to startups, whether that is a tech startup or just a brand new business for opportunities?
Sarah I don't know, I think that those businesses are ripe grounds. Like, what what more fertile soil could there be for an HR practitioner than a company getting their start like that. So those are the ones that need strong HR people. think there may be a perception that they don't have money to pay, or that they're going to be resistant to policy. The truth of the matter is everybody's resistant to policy, people policy like it doesn't matter. Structured business is not for the people, it's for the product, it's for the profit, right? We have entire government agencies that had to be created, rules, regulations, laws that had to be created to stop organizations from abusing and working people to death, literal death. Now we've got to have somebody in charge of that. So then you take, you make this human resources personnel, it's gone through, like 18 iterations of who's responsible for this function. We want to take advantage of people, but we can't. So somebody's got to be in charge of making sure that we don't.
Sarah HR is going to be hard, no matter where it is that you're doing it. It's women dominated, handling the parts of the business, that the vast majority of the business wants to just stuff in the corner, and put a lid on top of it and pretend like it doesn't exist. It's the areas of business where people don’t really think there's ROI. it's just all these kinds of negative thoughts. Still today, a lot of businesses despite all the talk we have about modernizing the way that we look at human capital, the old regime still persists. I can see how larger companies because they have more money, and resources. I can see how those company and they tend to be more bureaucratic and role following. So I can see how that would be sexier to your average HR professional.
Sarah Because the amount of foolishness, and push back, that I'm going to get from a larger, more traditional organization, versus a small startup, Mom and Pop type of company is probably going to be minimal. But I just think that is such a ripe breeding ground for good HR and the future of work. Because we're such, we're shifting into this entrepreneurial, creative gig type of economy in the world right now. Small business, ultimate size business is the thing. Those organizations are being started in a lot of instances by people who are leaning out of the corporate structure. So who's more open to this idea of good HR and good people practice, then startups and small businesses. As long as everybody's hearts and minds are in the right place?
Jason Sarah, let's suppose that you Sarah Morgan are on the job market. As for companies going after you and recruiting you, what are you looking for?
Sarah So salary matters, right? We all work for money. But just as much as the money itself matters, I would want to know that. That pay equity exists for people in similar jobs as me and for people in every job. So is the organization transparent and equitable in terms of how they compensate people? Are they offering comprehensive health, wellness, health and wellness benefits? That would be crucial? Are they offering flexible work, scheduling, that would be crucial. My life is pretty raucous and I need to know that I'm not going to feel like my job is in jeopardy, or that I'm going to be looked down upon by my co workers. If I need to leave to take my kids to gymnastics, or if I need to come in late because I am a caregiver for my grandmother. I need to know that I'm not going to be judged and mistreated because of that.
Sarah We talked about pay equity, we talked about comprehensive benefits. I would say leave would be the flip side of that. I want to see that Diversity and inclusion would matter. I can't show up as the only woman or the only person of color anymore. I'm not about that first and only life anymore. It's 2019, we should be beyond that. If your organization is progressive enough to do all these other things, and diversity would be there too.
Jason Sarah can you share your social media links so people can reach out to you?
Sarah I am pretty much everywhere as the Buzz on HR. So my blog site is the Buzz on HR, Twitter, Instagram, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, I'm the buzz on HR. Then on LinkedIn, I am Sarah K. Morgan. So you'll be able to find me and connect with me there. But if you go to my website, Buzz on HR, all the links are there. You can just click and find me from that point forward.
Jason For our listeners, we will have a link to her social media on our show notes and you can find our show notes at www.cavnessHRblog.com. Also, be sure to subscribe rate and review the cavnessHR podcast on iTunes or Amazon Alexa. Sarah, we are coming to the end of our talk. Can you provide us some wisdom or advice on a subject you want to talk about?
Sarah Any wisdom or advice or any subject I want to talk about, I think, I feel like I've talked a lot. I would just say as we head into the back half of 2019 take a look as a manager, as a leader as a human resources professional. At what you're doing, and how you're showing up. Really do some hard work to make sure that you yourself, and whatever areas you lead our safe spaces for people. If there was one piece of advice that I could give people one last nugget that would be it. If you're a manager who employees hide what's going on in their life from you or afraid to tell you when they make a mistake. Or to share with you when they're not quite themselves. You are not a safe space and you are the person in power, you are the person in authority. It's your responsibility to make that space, safe for that individual to show up as their whole authentic self. Even when that whole authentic self is fractured and broken. If there was one last piece of advice that I would give on the back half of this as we wrap up this decade. Reflect on that and if you find that you are that person who doesn't get the information. Who people don't feel safe with, you need to figure out how to do the work to make yourself a safe space. Especially, if you're an HR or you're in some kind of leadership or management position. People entrust their livelihoods and lives to you every single day and you owe it to them to show up and make them feel safe.
Jason Sarah, thanks for that. Sarah thanks for your time today. You're one busy person doing a lot of great things. Thank you, to our listeners. Thanks for your time as well. Remember to be great every day.