Why I’m Blogging for FOT – The Cynical Girl Isn’t So Cynical

Hello, my name is Laurie Ruettimann and I am a failed HR Lady. It’s been five years, three months and six days since I worked in HR.

At one point in my life, I thought I was an invincible talent management practitioner who could also participate in strategic talent reviews and while simultaneously coaching an employee to achieve improved performance.

Turns out I was just a fraud in a sensible cardigan and a nice pair of slacks.

I spent 12 years trying to make friends and influence people in the HR industry. Then I spent five more burning my old career to the ground.

Now I travel to conferences and talk to Human Resources professionals about their careers. I stand on stages across the world and speak straight from my heart: the modern HR department sits at the very busy and important intersection of work, money, power and politics.

  • There is one corporate function that is responsible for attracting and retaining talented people.
  • There is one area of a company that understands the connection between labor, engagement and profitability.
  • And there is one group that operates on the ground and understands the implications of political rhetoric on the workforce.

That same group manages the complexities of legislation without interrupting the employment experience, by the way.

It’s your HR department! Hooray!

Except it’s not.

When I speak to HR professionals in the trenches, I don’t hear anything about work, money, power and politics.

What do I hear about?

Wellness. Wellness is the new team building. You can organize a kick-ass party around Diabetic Foot Week and give out pamphlets to make it fun. If you remove the soda pop from your

vending machines and bring in a tray of fresh fruits and vegetables, it also counts as an employee engagement exercise!

Performance Management. I wish that HR professionals could use a sick, tricked out mobile device and help employees align individual goals with departmental objectives. I wish all of those efforts could tie into strategic workforce initiatives. Instead, HR struggles with the basics. How do you maintain the shape of the bell curve and recognize performance while simultaneously explaining to your employees why Johnny scored a 3.2 and Judy scored a 3.5? And how do you really, truly correlate those scores to an ever-shrinking merit budget? Good luck with that, yo.

Putting Out Fires. That still happens, whatever the hell that means. Actually, I know exactly what that means. Employee disagreements. Payroll upload failures. Someone pooped on the bathroom floor instead of the toilet. If HR doesn’t manage these issues, who will?

Frankly, the future of HR might seem more rote and depressing as ever. But I am an optimist. I keep working in Human Resources because I believe it’s the single most important area of company where one employee can make a difference.

And that employee is you.

There is more to your career than mediating employee disagreements and cleaning up mystery poop. If you get to work on putting out those fires — but you keep the concepts of work, money, power and politics in the back of your mind — you can get the right people in the right jobs, impact the economy and create positive change in the world.

I believe it. That’s why I still love Human Resources. And that is exactly why I am blogging for Fistful of Talent.


FOT Background Check

Laurie Ruettimann
Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader and an influential speaker, writer and marketing advisor. Her work has appeared in many mainstream print publications and major news media outlets. You can find her on twitter at @Lruettimann.


  1. Hey Laurie,

    Always good to see your work, yo. You’ve done okay for a cat lady.

    I’m pretty sure you didn’t intend your list to be exhaustive (although it did include poop), but here are some of the things I more frequently *wish* I heard my HR brethren talking about. (No, I’m not saying none do, just that I wish it were more frequent):
    * Talent Acquisition – creating systems to proactively source, magnetically attract, and systematically select the best talent for the culture (first) and individual roles (second, but still critical). Especially in my sales effectiveness arena, hiring is still a mess in many companies. And many of the HR folks I encounter don’t seem to have a handle to how to source of select top sales talent, especially. Which would be okay if the folks in Sales were doing any better, but typically, they’re not, either.
    * Training the knowledge, skills and behaviors that will give people the necessary capabilities to achieve KPIs and company objectives. And stop the event-based training that never transfers and is lost in days without reinforcement and follow-up. It’s a waste of time and money.
    * Leadership Development – training not only for frontline roles where the real work gets done, but also the frontline managers who should be guiding that work – especially through leadership, coaching and performance management skills – the things that are required so managers/leaders can do their *own* Performance Management. Especially important to include how to lead people, run meetings, manage change, and execute initiatives more effectively. Poor execution is rampant – there is a reason this is FranklinCovey’s fastest-growing practice (4 Disciplines of Execution).
    * Employee Engagement & Retention – although the top three, done well, will go a long way toward this, HR must be the conduit of information between company leaders and their people, and management practices must support engagement and create an environment where there is at least a good chance for it.
    * Succession Planning – one of the most overlooked practices, in a time when we were supposed to be in a war for talent. I suppose the slowed economy and massive downsizings have temporarily staved off the war, to some degree, but as a gaggle of Boomer talent starts to fade out, if we’re not smarter about this, there will be a lot of people in roles that are one-size-too-big, learning by trial and error, at the expense of clients, employees and shareholders.

    I’ll stop there. I’m starting to bore myself and when I started, I was just going to say hello. Looking forward to your future FOT posts on work, money, power and politics. Well, of course, not to mention the workplace flatulence and poop.


    P.S. Does the Wellness thing means that we can stop the ice cream socials and have fruit and nuts instead? MK

  2. GenerationXpert says:

    Is “WellnessIsForSuckers.com” taken? 😉

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