Author: Wendy Berry

It’s Been 4 Months

It’s been four months since I’ve hit the publish button here. There are at least half a dozen posts sitting in draft status and approximately 45,338 ideas floating around in my head. Not an exaggeration.

In those last four months, a lot has happened. A lot, a lot. You get bullet points, because despite what some may choose to believe it hasn’t all been shared via social media and isn’t always covered in rainbow tinted glitter. But it’s real life and I’m all about real life.

  • I dove head first into a grassroots groundswell of activism led by an amazing group of intelligent and passionate women driven towards change in our community. I’ve never felt so empowered. I also announced my intent to run for West St. Paul City Council. (You can watch the video clip here and visit my campaign site here.) I didn’t know one of the perks of being a local politician would be getting to know so many amazing people and building true friendships with them.
  • I didn’t get to go to #SHRM18. It was ultimately my decision, but looking back, definitely one I regret even though it seemed like the right choice at the time.
  • We went to Des Moines to see Hamilton. It was life changing and I don’t care how cliche that sounds. I want to see it over and over.
  • My wife got pneumonia and was out of work for three weeks. The whole family passed around mystery viruses for a good week during that time.
  • My grandma was given a month to live. We drove to Missouri to see her while she was still well enough to see us and we could still talk. It was a beautiful visit. She died less than a week after we got back. We went back for her funeral. She was 92, but when you lose one of the most amazing pillars of your life, it doesn’t matter how old she is. I think of her daily and I always will.
  • Won my primary election. In a big way. On to the general election in November!
  • Accepted a job offer. It was easy to accept. I had a really positive feeling about it during the whole interview process and can’t wait to start in a few weeks.

And that’s my last four months in a nutshell. Is it all HR related? Nope. But it’s human related and that’s what matters to me.

My Five Year Woriversary

Five years (and one day) ago, I walked into the doors of a medium-sized credit union as the newest person of their HR team. And, oooh, boy. What. A. Ride.

I wasn’t looking for work when I applied to work where I’m at right now. I had s job. It paid the bills. I was good at it. It was comfortable. And part of that job was finding people to do customer service people for the call centers of that medium-sized credit union.

They were so obsessive about what they wanted in candidates and it was killing me. The candidates needed to really get what it meant to go above and beyond with customers and how to really get to know them, but it was totally cool if they didn’t have any experience.

The whole role, I kept hearing about the “culture” at this credit union and I had no idea what that meant because where I was working didn’t know what that really meant either. And whether it was fate or luck or pure randomness, one night I got an Indeed alert that they’d posted a job in their HR department. I thought about it for 12 seconds, updates my severely neglected resume, and applied.

I got a call on my birthday to schedule a phone interview and that whole culture thing started making itself incredibly evident during the entire interview process and I REALLY WANTED TO WORK THERE.

And here I am five years later.

I’ve learned a lot. My leader asked last Friday about some of my best moments here. At the very top of the list was being on stage in front of the entire (now large-sized) company when someone from my team got to announce that we were rolling out a six week paid parental leave. And it’s also anytime a leader calls me ready to offer a job to someone I’ve told them they’re gonna love or another leader wants to tell me that they’ve been working with one of their employees on something and they can see it start to click. Those are the best. Those are my jam. Those are why I <3 HR so much.

This company, the people I work with and the people that lead me have been incredible guides for the past five years in my growth every day, both professionally and personally. I feel like I got a pretty good deal with this job!

Here’s to five more!

This is 40.

I actually don’t care that it’s 40. It could be 372 and the only thing I’d care about was the fact that I was catching up to Methuselah as the oldest person EVER, if we’re pretending that story is exactly accurate.

My birthday was this past weekend. I’ve always been super nerdy about knowing who I share a birthday with for some reason. Probably in case we ever ran into each other on March 18th and wanted to have celebratory beers. Seems logical to me. This year, I looked again to see if there was anyone super exciting to add to my bday bud list and actually realized these folks have some great reminders for me.

Lady Gaga: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” And “You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way.”

Queen Latifah: “You almost have to step outside yourself and look at you as if you were someone else you really care about and really want to protect. Would you let someone take advantage of that person? Would you let someone use that person you really care about? Or would you speak up for them? If it was someone else you care about, you’d say something. I know you would.” (from her book Put on Your Crown.)

Grover Cleveland: “A cause worth fighting for is worth fighting for to the end.” and his supposed last words of “I have tried so hard to do the right.” (Not gonna lie. I don’t even think about Grover Cleveland and Googled the crap out of this one, but the guy had some quotes that really hit home!)

Kat Cole: I’ll wait right now while you do your research on who she is and then follow her on Twitter. While you’re doing that, I’m going to try to decide which of her ONE MILLION awesome quotes I want to leave you with.

These are two of my favorites: “Focus on things that are small enough to change, but big enough to matter” and “Have empathy, gratitude and respect for every position in the company”. There’s one more quote that has been stuck in my head almost every day since I listened to her speak for the second time at the 2017 SHRM Conference, but it’s actually a quote from her mom: “Don’t forget where you came from, but don’t you dare let it solely define you.”

Here’s to 40 and here’s to being 100% authentic to myself, not giving up the fight for what’s right for myself and those around me and continuing to learn more and move forward every single day.

What I Learned from the Super Bowl 52 Halftime Show: Part 1

Hold on. This isn’t about the quality of Justin Timberlake’s dance moves during the snippet of “SexyBack” (yeah!) or how the show would have been SO much better with an N*SYNC reunion. Give me a couple of paragraphs worth of time to explain this.

One night, in a bout of typical insomnia, I noticed one of the local Minnesota news stations asking for people to sign up to work during the Super Bowl Halftime Show since it was hosted in Minneapolis. Because it was 3am and I was lacking sleep, I signed up. I assumed there would be 6,000,727 other people that did the same.

Two days later, I got an email congratulating me for being selected as a Field Team Member for the Halftime Show. I had no idea what that meant or what I’d be doing, but OKAY LET’S DO THIS. That was in early December.

We had our orientation in mid-January at a church that was being used as a hub for a lot of training, located right in the middle of the chaos that was being built up in downtown Minneapolis during that time. Roads were closed. It was cold. Parking garages were taken over by weird equipment. There were gigantic tents built in empty parking lots. I was whiny and told my wife, who I was leaving at home with our three year old and two week old, that if orientation was dumb, I wasn’t going to do it.

This is what it looked like while we waited. It’s pretty top secret:

After about 400 people checked in to this optional orientation, we started by watching the Lady Gaga Super Bowl Halftime show. It’s worth sharing.

Then we’re introduced to a guy named Cap Spence. Bookmark this link to read about him sometime. I wish everyone could work for a Cap Spence at some point in their life. He has stories and, man, does he have stories.

For 1.5 hours, Cap made sure we were clear about our expectations in being a Field Team Member. We would be putting together the stage for the halftime show. AWESOME. We would not be watching any football of any kind during the Super Bowl, nor would we be standing around watching a Justin Timberlake concert. We especially would not be playing “grab ass” with JT. Cap’s words, not mine.

I wanted to live tweet the whole thing. I decided it’d probably be a bad idea to do that once Cap told us all we “need to quit nursing at the digital nipple” and be completely present in rehearsals. Made sense to me.

What did I learn from the Staging Supervisor for the past 17 Super Bowl Halftime shows?

I learned I had to trust that he knew what he was doing. There were 21 carts full of stage parts that were going to need to be put together in less than six minutes and he was going to show 500 volunteers with zero experience how to do it with six rehearsals. Completely out of my control.

I needed to only focus on my job for those six rehearsals and trust that everyone else was doing the same thing. It worked for Lady Gaga in 2017, for Katy Perry and Left Shark in 2015 and for Prince and his amazing stage in 2007. Somehow, it’ll just work.

On the train ride home, I unequivocally knew it was going to be awesome.

Photo by me.

Phone Interviews: You Called, I Can’t Hear a Thing

Hello, hello, baby. You called, I can’t hear a thing.
I have got no service in the club, you see, see
Wha-Wha-What did you say?
Oh, you’re breaking up on me
Sorry, I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy.

– Lady Gaga

My first gig in HR was as a recruiter/staffing consultant/placement specialist (or whatever title they wanted us to use at any given day) for a smaller temporary staffing agency. There was no training. I don’t think I even shadowed anyone prior to jumping on the phone and doing my first phone interview. I started out just interviewing candidates to fill data entry or basic reception positions. I’d never done either, so it was really a trial by error situation. But then that was my gig, all day, every day.

In my world, here are the things that have helped me not only become successful when it comes to recruiting, making recommendations to hiring leaders and getting some pretty amazing people started in their career:

  1. KNOW YOUR HIRING MANAGER. Get to know them. If you think you’re going to get the hiring right for someone without having some really in depth conversations, you’re wrong and you’re just causing yourself more work. Even if you’ve hired for the manager one million times before, you still need to check in with them. You need to know what’s working and what’s not working for their team. It’ll help. I swear.
  2. LISTEN. Seems easy, right? But we have the distractions of open offices, emails coming in, to-do lists growing, etc. and that’s fine for you to deal with on your time. Not the candidate’s time.
  3. ENGAGE. That means don’t treat your standard list of questions like a checklist. I’m sure you’ve asked the same questions for the same position for years on end if you have that one role that you’re always recruiting for. I don’t care. That candidate has never interviewed with you, so don’t take it out on them. They’re talking to you with the idea that this could be an amazing opportunity for them. And it’s one for you, too – you could be getting the ball rolling for hiring someone fantastic.
  4. ASK. As much as the questions you’re asking are probably somewhat canned, so are the answers you’re going to get. Nobody’s fault! It’s your job to go past those canned questions with words like “why?”, “tell me more”, and “what did you learn from that?”.
  5. LEARN. You can learn SO much when interviewing someone for any position. It might be something you’ll never even need to think about again, I get that. But in your role as an HR person, that should be far from the truth. I like to make the candidate the expert in whatever work it is they do and I’ve learned so much. And really, the more I learn from a candidate, the more I want them to move on to the next round and the more I’ve increased my knowledge of something else, which is always a good thing.

This stuff is all Interviewing 102. Interviewing 101 should be where you learn all that legal stuff, okay? And we all need constant reminders of both of those when it comes to interviewing. If we don’t have them, we end up doing the same thing over and over and that’s rarely the right thing to do.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Back from #PaidFamilyLeave

I started a paid family leave on January 3rd, when my wife and I welcomed Baby Ellis, as his big brother calls him, into the world. I just made the transition back to office life from my six week stint at a stay at home mom.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have an employer who introduced six weeks of paid parental leave as a benefit for all employees last year around this time. The intention was to provide our employees with time to spend bonding with the newest member(s) of their family without worrying about the amount of vacation/sick time they had stored up or what they’d do if they didn’t have a paycheck coming in. When you remove those kinds of stressors, it creates a healthier environment at home for all that good stuff to happen.

When our three year old was born in November 2014, we didn’t have that benefit. Not a lot of companies did. I used two weeks of sick time to be there during his birth, our hospital stay and about 1.5 weeks of being at home. My wife had an emergency C-section after 44 hours of labor and ended up needing a blood transfusion while she was in the hospital.

And then she struggled with postpartum depression, along with 15% of women that give birth, as she adjusted to being alone with a newborn seven days after major surgery with complications. That’s a brutal thing we ask parents to do and yet, as a country, that’s what we expect them to do.

I’m not saying anything could have made her PPD not happen three years ago. Those things happen. But what would have made a world of difference to our family is knowing that I could be there to support our transition of adding another human to our family.

Parents and children deserve the right to start off their lives together with as much support as they can get. We need to keep talking about it. If it doesn’t apply to you directly, I guarantee it will impact someone you work with. And you know it’s easier to work with someone that’s not stressed out all the time, right?

Keep talking. Keep telling your stories. Encourage your non-HR friends to start the conversation, too. This isn’t a controversial topic, you guys. We can all work on making this happen together.

Photo by Amy at Amy Wurdock Photography.

I’m Sorry I Didn’t Watch Your Video

I’m not considering myself an old dog right now because I do enjoy new tricks. Except SnapChat. I just don’t get it, you guys. And the filters freak out my toddler. That’s my caveat to this post.

I consume a lot of social media. It’s my screen time – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. It fits my attention span of “hey, squirrel!” and I can pick it up and put it down when life needs my attention. I love it. I feel informed on what I want to be informed and learn more long the way. It works for me.

Here’s what doesn’t work for me: videos. I know they’re an up and coming trend, so I might have to get out my bifocals and succumb to the pressure. I get that. And I will.

I want to watch your video because you clearly have something of great value to share. I can see from the comments that people are getting a lot out of what they’ve heard! And I’m jelly. It feels awkward watching a video midway through the day at work or trying to keep the volume down low enough to not disturb my sleeping wife/toddler/infant, so I don’t. Here’s my idea:

Subtitles and/or a transcript of your video.

I know. It’s probably extra work. Someone had to type up everything. But once they do, I think your volume of exposure is going to increase. I really do.

With actual text, people can accurately quote you more to the masses. They can forward the link to your video knowing that there are multiple ways people can receive your message. We’re constantly seeing studies that people learn and retain in all different ways. And overall, now what you’re saying just became so much more accessible to so many more people.

I bookmark your videos and intend to watch them. In case I’m not able to grab the time to watch them, please consider this my apology for not watching it. I promise it’s not personal.

Photo by Peter Lewicki

Starting Strong with Phone Interviews for Candidates

Love ’em or hate ’em, whether you’re a hiring for a job or looking for one, you’re bound to run in to a phone interview one of these days. It’s a introductory chat, kind of like those conversations you have at your friends’ barbecue with someone you don’t know – could be awkward and painful or it could be an opportunity to meet your new BFF.

For my talent acquisition/recruiting friends: your post is coming. Sometimes these phone interviews get incredibly routine and I get that. Regardless of how mundane they might feel, you’ve got a big responsibility to get these things right!

For my jobseeker friends: the rest of this is for you. If you want an invitation to meet someone in person, you gotta nail this phone interview.

Things You Should Do (especially if the phone interview is with me):

  • Be ready. When you schedule it, make sure you’re actually available at that time. And please make sure that you’re somewhere with solid phone reception where there aren’t going to be a lot of distractions.
  • Do your research. Refresh your memory on the actual job you applied for and do a little bit of homework about the company. An answer of “not too much” when the recruiter asks you what you know about the company or the job is 9 million percent not cool.
  • Understand your own experience and how it matches the role. Does the position ask for someone with customer service experience and you’ve worked in childcare your whole life? That is some serious customer service experience. Paranoid parents are not exactly peaches and I know this because I am one.
  • Get off your ass. Sit up. Stand up. Walk around. Those theories about walking meetings being more productive apply to phone interviews. You’ll sound better and project yourself clearer.
  • You better ask some questions, man, and you better put some thought into it. You always have questions. Don’t ask about the job description unless you have something very specific you want details on. This is a chance for you to engage the person on the other end of the phone. This is where you get to interview them to make sure they’re the right company for you.

Things You Should Not Do (especially if the phone interview is with me):

  • Don’t act surprised when the phone rings. You should already be prepared for the call and expecting it five minutes before it’s scheduled. You wouldn’t run into an in-person interview at the very last minute (I would hope), so treat this the same way.
  • Don’t act like the phone interview is a formality. In a way, it is. I’ll give you that. But it’s really likely that the person interviewing you has a strong relationship with the hiring manager and isn’t going to risk that by sending through someone that isn’t really engaged during this first talk regardless of how perfect your resume might look. We’re normally hiring for more than just a list of skills on a piece of paper.
  • Don’t oversell yourself. Confidence is rad. It’s encouraged, but you gotta be realistic. By stretching your actual skills in an unrealistic fashion, you’re not only wasting your time and the interviewer’s time, you’re going to fall hard on your face if you get hired and that’s not gonna feel good.
  • Don’t forget your manners. Thanks for the call. I appreciate your time. It was great to talk to you. I hope we can talk again soon. Those things set you apart. They indicate you’re a decent human. We like to hire decent humans.

I love conducting phone interviews. I really love awesome phone interviews. When I wrap up a phone interview I really loved, I immediately hang up the phone and call the hiring manager to let them know THIS IS THE ONE. And I want That One to be you!

Have other tips for phone interviewees? Have a phone interview coming up and want to chat through it? Comment below or shoot me an email! I’d be glad to chat.

Photo Credit: Wesley Quinn

What else can I get for you?

First things first, here’s your formal introduction to Ellis Berry. Born on January 3rd at 2:49pm. He weighed 9 lbs 14 oz and 21 inches long at birth. I can confidently say we’re all in love over here.

We experienced a lot of really amazing care from everyone during our hospital stay – nurses, doctors, acupuncturists, nursing assistants, room cleaning folks, you name it. It’s been exactly what we’ve needed to get through these last few emotion-filled days.

What I’ve noticed is that we were constantly asked, “What else can I get for you?” by these folks. And they mean it. It’s not a yes or no question, because we’re all “fine” and don’t need any other help because we don’t want to put anybody out or be a burden or all those other things we tell ourselves because we don’t want to ask for help. And it’s because these people who work at this hospital are working in a culture where they really want to help.

It’s pushed me to realize there is zero reason why I shouldn’t do that every day as an HR professional and as a leader. Think about the millions of applicable ways you can fit that question into your world.

Here are a couple from mine:

  • Employee has a question about X benefit. You answer exactly what they ask. But benefits are tricky sometimes. You ask them what other questions they have about it. You just opened a door that will all you to make them confident on something that impacts their lives. With one extra question.
  • As a leader, you try to meet with your employees regularly, right? Maybe it tends to be just a bunch of status or project updates or maybe it’s a difficult conversation for one or both of you. Before that meeting is over, what if you said, “What else do you need from me?” after every single meeting? (To be fair, I’m stealing this example from a couple of incredible leaders I’ve had.) That builds a partnership and a piece of support that encourages your employee to feel comfortable asking you for help.

In both examples, you will build trust. You’ll be able to better help the next person. You can begin to identify areas of improvement in what you, your team or your company does. You’ll be able to keep open lines of communication and foster so much more collaboration.

As long as you’re genuine and authentic in asking, I don’t know how you could possibly go wrong with asking just one more question.

2017 in Review

I’ve been reflecting so much on the past year. I’m usually in the camp that moves forward at 12:01am on January 1 because, hey, that stuff is in the past. This year was different for all sorts of reasons, some personal and others professional. There were amazing things, many amazing things.

There were some not great, heartbreaking, absolutely crushing things. I breezed my way through some things. I limped through others. And there were even some that I pretended didn’t even happen because it was easier that way. Or maybe I clicked the like button on Facebook when someone I knew was leading a march for justice of any kind or I clicked on the sad face when someone was assaulted or murdered because of their color or gender or beliefs. That’s not me. And if it is, I want and need to change that.

2017 had some things that definitely fell into the Giant Thumbs Up category.

  1. I stood up in front of 500+ of our employees during our annual meeting and got to see the reaction on their faces when we announced two amazing new benefits: six weeks of paid parental leave and a paid day off on your birthday. I have a fear of public speaking. For real. But I liked it a lot. Challenge accepted and won. I’m ready for more.
  2. We finally, on our last attempt at creating a human that would have been mostly covered by insurance, managed to conceive our soon-to-be baby boy. There were strings upon strings of follies that we ran into during this round of insemination, so it wasn’t too shocking that it worked. I’ve decided that Science + Prayer = Miracle. I can’t wait to meet him.
  3. I went to #SHRM17 and because more involved in social media surrounding HR life. It’s been slow going for me to find relationships with people in my field for many years. I managed to find this crew of folks that know and understand what a day in the life of my job often is has been phenomenal when it comes to expanding my knowledge in HR. I still have infinitely more to learn about this world and it’s easier to do it when you surround yourself with others you connect with and believe in.
  4. I read more. After I graduated with my BA in 2016, I vowed to read more and I did. True crime may very well still be my favorite, but I’m also a sucker for a good memoir, the occasional self help book and a sprinkling of chick lit. YES, I ADMITTED TO THAT. You can find something in everything you read that will open your eyes to someone else’s world.

2018 will undoubtedly come with its own mountain of challenges. One is scheduled to be here on January 3rd and will be a challenge for 18 more years. The rest, I’m as ready as I can be for them, whatever that might look like. I’m with each of you in any way you need it.

Happy New Year, friends. Let’s take ’18 and own it.

Sneak peak of Challenge J Berry:

Less creepy alien picture coming soon.