Below is an interview with Chris Ferdinandi, a human resource professional based in Boston, Massachusetts. Chris works at EMC Corporation, a global Fortune 500 technology organization. Besides his day job, Chris blogs at RenegadeHR.net and tweets at @ChrisFerdinandi.
I asked Chris a few questions about his job and we had a great conversation. Because I worked internally in human resources for many years and now work as an outside consultant, the first thing I wanted to know were what issues Chris, as an inside guy, wrestles with.
Chris: The interesting thing about HR is that you end up having two sets of clients – the business and the employees. One of the things I find so fascinating is matching those two pieces of the puzzle. I create strategic career management resources. We are a technology company so there is a business need for our employees to constantly upgrade their skills. Our employees have an innate need for career management; they don’t like sitting still and are curious about learning new things.
We have 15,000 people globally and they work in small teams or by themselves. There is a huge body of institutional knowledge but employees don’t always have the opportunity to interact with one another or get to meet one another. I try to figure out ways to bridge those gaps. I also provide tools to people who are insanely busy and may not have time to take training.
Judy: One of my roles is acting as “The Dragon Lady,” giving out career and business advice, on the LinkedIn group, Women-in-business. The last question I answered was about how to encourage Chinese workers to share information. Do you have strategies you can share?
Chris: I contact people and ask to interview them using web cams – I have video chats with people all over the globe. I edit those conversations down to anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes in length. Some of the conversations are focused on things like how to develop yourself if you don’t have a lot of time or how to build your network if you work by yourself. I ask managers for the names of strong performers and I ask people if they wouldn’t mind talking about their career success. I frame the interview as recognition and that often helps overcome people’s hesitation at sharing information.
Judy: Great idea.
I have been thinking about leaving a legacy lately because I am on my local school board and at every board retreat the superintendent asks us what legacy we want to leave from our term on the board. What legacy do you want to leave at your company?
Chris: As long as I am helping people in some way, shape or form, I am happy. I like to create tools and resources that last a long time and help people do whatever they want to do better.
One of the things I have been thinking a lot about recently is that there is a tendency in Human Resources to want to get buy in from key stakeholders and make your case before launching a new idea. One of the things that’s helped me do cool things in my job is the “ask for forgiveness not permission” mantra. My boss has been fundamental in encouraging this thinking. It makes it really easy for me to execute ideas and helps keep the scope small. This allows ideas to evolve naturally.
For example, Fast Company has a really cool video series called 30-Second MBA and I thought it would be fun to do something similar internally. That’s how the video interview series I do got started. I began noticing trends in the videos around what it takes to be successful at my organization – things like networking and learning in small chunks of time every day. We ended up taking all of those interviews and creating short, practical PDF guides for people – real advice from real employees.
I sometimes think about the fact that earlier in my career I had to have a big plan and get buy in. I love what I do and how I do it now.
Judy: It sounds like your job is a perfect fit for you. You and I are two of the lucky ones.
I am curious … do you love your job? If so, what makes it wonderful? If not, what is missing? Let me know by posting a comment below.
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