Next Concept HR Magazine
Blog Home All Blogs
Next Concept HR Magazine focused on What's Next for what matters most to HR. Insightful and timely, it covers best practice trends and presents new ideas and concepts to keep readers up-to-date with the latest in our field. Voices from our nationwide community contribute to a wide range of topics. Articles include valuable practice resources, news and views to provide training, legal and legislative developments, info on quality service providers, and opportunities to form career-long networks and partnerships.


Search all posts for:   


Top tags: hr  NCHRA  HR Management  Human Resources  leadership  HR Leadership  employee  employee engagement  Employee retention  management  WORKPLACE  company culture  HR West 2017  recruiting  HR West 2018  hiring  HR West 2016  blog  employee wellness  HR Tech  HR West  HR West 2019  Workforce  Engagement  human resources management  culture  effective leadership  HR West Speaker  communication  Karen Rodriguez 

Connect with Others at HR West!

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, February 25, 2016

By Karen Rodriguez

HR West is right around the corner! Many HR professionals will attend with the goal of connecting with peers and getting their message across. Whether networking with a group, conducting a small session or presenting a keynote address, your communication skills play a large part in how well you deliver your message and connect with others.

Eye contact is essential.

People have a hard time trusting someone who doesn’t look them straight in the eyes. While making eye contact can be difficult with one-on-one conversations, it’s even more difficult when networking with a group or presenting to an audience.

Anyone who has taken a public speaking class has likely been told to “scan the room.” The idea is to make eye contact with as many people as possible to get your message across. However, we’ve seen this method increase anxiety and make you appear less genuine.

When speaking to a group at dinner or during a training session, the best approach is to look at one person at a time for a complete thought, “One person: One thought.”

Each thought should last around five to seven seconds. That’s long enough to make a connection but not too long that it turns into a creepy stare. Following this approach will:

1.       Decrease your stress level. Looking at one person for a full thought simulates a one-on-one conversation. For that thought, everyone else will disappear and you will automatically calm down.

2.       Reduce “ums” and “uhs.” When you make eye contact, you are less likely to use filler words. As a result, you will sound more knowledgeable and credible.

3.       Help you avoid distractions. As you focus on one person, the audience member texting in the back of the room, the people walking in late, and the banter of a group across the room won’t distract you.

4.       Create connections. Not only does eye contact keep your audience’s attention, it demonstrates that nothing is more important to you than them in that moment. When you show your commitment to your audience, they will feel connected.

Focus on your audience and they will give you their attention. And, only speak when you make eye contact. The best communicators focus more on others and less on themselves.

For more communication skills tips, check out The Chat.  
There's still time to register for HR West 2016 - March 7-9, 2016 at the Oakland Convention Center in Oakland, California. 

About the Author

Karen Rodriguez is a passionate marketer, designer, and communicator. With over 15 years of experience, Karen Rodriguez currently manages Exec|Comm’s global brand including their online presence, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events. She recently launched the firm’s blog, The Chat, and lunch & learn series, The Learning Exchange. Additionally, she manages the delivery and expansion of Exec|Comm’s open-enrollment seminars in Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, and San Jose. Karen holds a BFA from Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City.  She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.

Tags:  communi  communication  Exec-Comm  HR  HR conference  HR education  HR Leadership  HR West 2016  human resources management  interpersonal communication  Karen Rodriguez  NCHRA 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

How to Strike up a Conversation at a Conference

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Contributed by Karen RodriguezExec|Comm Partner

Many of us attend conferences for professional development. We’d like to expand our job knowledge and bring the outside in. But, it’s also a great time to step outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. Here are a few tips on how to be ready to strike up a conversation at your next event (HR West is right around the corner!):


Study the headlines. Before heading to the conference, scan the headlines or consider what is new and interesting in your industry and note a few potential topics to discuss.


Maintain eye contact. When introducing yourself, smile and look into the person’s eyes as you speak your name and they say theirs. As the conversation continues, keep your focus on the person you are talking with. Don’t scan the room looking for friends or others to meet.


Gesture openly. Avoid crossing your arms or clutching your drink with both hands as you talk. Instead, try and keep your hands apart and your arms relaxed. Gesturing makes you appear natural and approachable.


Ask a few questions. Sometimes you’ll need to jumpstart their side of the conversation. Try asking an open-ended question like “What were you hoping to learn while you’re here?” If their answer is short, build on the information they’ve just shared.


Find a connection. As they’re answering your questions, find an element to pick up on. You’re listening for something to keep the conversation going. Find common ground and the conversation will continue without effort.


Speak slowly and pause. Keep the dialogue moving at a casual pace. If you talk too quickly, the listener will strain to keep up or may interpret your speedy delivery as a sign of nervousness.


Disengage politely. After a few minutes, it’s perfectly fine to close the conversation. Exchange contact information, if you’d like. Ask them to join you on a trip to the buffett. Or, simply smile, tell them you enjoyed chatting and move on.


We hope you meet lots of interesting people at HR West 2016. Just start with “hello” and go from there.


Have other tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Karen Rodriguez joined Exec|Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009. As the manager of the Exec|Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She recently introduced the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched their quarterly lunch and learn series, The Learning Exchange.  Additionally, she manages their open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.

Tags:  HR communication  HR conference  HR Education  HR Management  HR West 2016  Human Resources  human resources management  NCHRA 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Does Your Organization Have a Language Strategy?

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, January 20, 2016

By Lorelei Carobolante, President G2nd Systems
HR West 2016 Speaker

What happens when leaders of global organizations don’t pay enough attention to language and workplace communication skills when hiring, training, assessing, promoting and relocating employees? As organizations are discovering, having English proficiency requirements are important but aren’t enough. To develop both native and nonnative English speakers, language and intercultural effectiveness cannot be underestimated or left to chance.

As organizations increasingly develop internationally, every organization must be able to leverage talent, expertise, creativity, and relationships from multiple geographical areas, cultures, and languages.

Ignoring the influence of English and cultural differences leads to miscommunication, lost sales, missed goals, conflict, friction, and loss of team collaboration across country borders and cultures. Organizational competitiveness and employee engagement can suffer as a result.

Leaders often aren’t aware of their vulnerability because language proficiency, perceptions of accents and cultural challenges often go unrecognized. In fact, many leaders and teams have language and cultural blind areas. Some fail to recognize the subtle yet crucial differences between native and nonnative English speakers, especially when everyone seems to speak a proficient level of the same language, for example, English.

A 2013 study by the British Council estimated that nonnative English speakers outnumber native speakers by a ratio of 4:1 worldwide, projecting it to continue growing. Yet, native and nonnative English speakers from different countries and cultures use English differently, often without realizing it. Native English speakers intuitively integrate their culture into the language (through idioms, local expressions and cultural presumptions) while nonnative English speakers use English as a culturally-neutral communication tool.

When I first read George Bernard Shaw's statement, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place," I thought of how different versions of English are used in workplace contexts. Imagine a meeting with native English speakers from the UK and US, and four nonnative speakers from primarily nonnative English speaking countries/cultures. All meeting participants have advanced levels of English proficiency. After initial discussion, the native US English speaker asks the native UK English speaker, "Should we table this phase of the project?" The two colleagues do not recognize that the same idiomatic expression has the opposite meaning in the US and UK (e.g., US English version: postpone indefinitely; UK English version: prioritize the phase). And, since furniture [table] isn't part of the discussion, the nonnative English speakers may be confused or ignore the question if the native speakers don't clarify it. In this simple example, could the meeting end with an illusion that the communication has taken place?

Today's workplaces are often linguistically and culturally diverse. In spite of the reality of global connectivity, few organizations have an explicit language strategy that is designed for measuring and improving communication for nonnative and native English speakers, developing talent, and fostering both local and international employee engagement.

With attention to a language and cultural strategy, leaders in any organization can acquire and grow the talent needed to compete both globally and locally. Smart leaders align their strategy with their overarching priorities. They recognize that nonnative and native English speakers use English differently, and turn language vulnerability into competitive workplace communication strengths.

What’s in a Language Strategy?
In a September 2014 Harvard Business Review article, authors Tsedal Neeley and Robert S. Kaplan urge leaders to implement an effective language strategy (

Language is a vital link in any global talent management strategy. Even if the company doesn’t adopt a common language (a lingua franca) such as English, you need to be able to evaluate language proficiency and workplace communication effectiveness if you want to grow and develop the best people, ameliorate the gaps between native and nonnative language speakers, and strengthen performance.

There are four areas suggested by the authors as significant for both HR and senior managers, which seem to be relevant for years to come:

1.  Hiring and Training
Be aware of language blind areas. A high degree of fluency – either in a common global language, such as English, or the local one – can influence assessment of a candidate’s skills, growth potential, knowledge of markets, employee engagement and team performance. Don’t be fooled.

To be sure you are hiring the best people – and not just the more fluent ones – be prepared to accept some language limitations, use fair and valid assessments, and provide training. If proficiency and speech clarity is fairly and reliably measured, you can always improve language communication skills through professional development courses and coaching, either individually, in groups, and online.

2.  Assessing Talent Accurately
Language agility does not necessarily equal high performance. Use of 360 degree feedback methods will reveal a lot about workplace performance. Otherwise, it’s too easy to confuse fluency in English (or another language) with what appears to be high level management and client or customer relations skills.

Without an effective, inclusive language strategy in place, managers tend to perceive performance issues as deficits rather than simple lack of language proficiency, speech clarity and associated skills. They can inadvertently undermine an individual’s and team's performance. Language issues can cause talented and engaged professionals to underperform and even withdraw.

Nonnative English speakers, when overlooked by native speakers, experience a substantial loss of power, confidence, credibility and status. This can be avoided by a language strategy that includes addressing levels of language proficiency, accent clarity and intercultural communication across nonnative and native speakers.

3.  Intercultural Training
Language training is important, but language proficiency does not equal intercultural communication effectiveness. Many problems are caused by lack of cultural understanding or perceptions of accents. Most organizations are globally diverse, with a mix of cultures and divergent norms, expectations, and practices.

Intercultural communication training should be embedded inside of language development courses as well as throughout the entire organization. Senior leaders and other professionals need to model expectations of intercultural fluency, and not just HR staff. Managers need to adapt management styles to effectively and inclusively communicate across multiple cultures simultaneously.

4. Managing Intercultural Communication
A language strategy must also include developing and implementing standards for communication across the entire organization. A lot of time is wasted when individuals aren’t conscious of potential misunderstanding when they speak in meetings, write emails, participate in calls, and apply directives.

Managers can improve meetings by acting as facilitators and clarifying multicultural language issues, such as avoiding or facilitating idiomatic or local expressions to foster understanding for all participants. They can encourage nonnative and native English speakers to participate more collaboratively, ensuring a diversity of ideas and strengthening engagement.

In today’s global organizations, no matter the industry, the size, or country of origin, no one is immune to language and cultural challenges. With a language strategy in place, you and your organization will be prepared to avoid the vulnerabilities and strengthen your competitiveness and sustainability.

Your organization may already provide language testing, assessments, training and cultural diversity programs, but do they align with a comprehensive global language strategy that leverages the benefits of diversity and inclusion to develop language as a source of competitiveness?

About the Author

Lorelei Carobolante, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, President & CEO, G2nd Systems
Presenting at HR West - March 7, 2016 1:50-3:05pm Session Block


Register for HR West 2016
Enter the #GoHRWest Sweepstakes





Tags:  Employee Communication  G2nd Systems  HR  HR conference  HR education  HR West 2016  Intercultural Communications  Lorelei Carobolante  NCHRA 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

11 Reasons to Attend HR West 2016

Posted By Amy S. Powers, Friday, January 8, 2016


HR WEST 2016 - HR in the most innovative place on earth! March 7-9, 2016Why should you attend HR West 2016? Here's our count down to the #1 reason, but we're sure you will agree that these are all amazing reasons to be at the Oakland Convention Center - March 7-9, 2016!

Credits. Credits. Credits! Earn up to 15.75 recertification credits, 12 of which likely qualify for Strategic.

10. Keynote Monika Fahlbusch has worked for Salesforce, Old Navy and PeopleSoft. If anyone knows about the employee experience, it’s her!

9. Hotel. Conference. Parking - all under one roof! Book your room today.

8. Everyone wants to peer into the future and Emcee Leah Hunter is “the Future Hunter.”

7. TEDx Presenter/Princeton Professor, John Danner is leading an exclusive full-day session and you won’t find this opportunity elsewhere.

6. Speed dating isn’t your thing, but speed networking? Now, there’s a great concept.

5. Now is the time to transform your workplace (if not now…when?)...Keynote Eva Sage-Gavin tells you how!

4. You love a good debate and Keynote Jeffrey Pfeffer is calling B.S. on the current state of leadership.

3. Winning makes you happy and the #GoHRWest Sweepstakes has great prizes!

2. Classical music soothes the soul! Keynote Kai Kight will play his violin for us!

1. 80+ concurrent sessions for just $863 - unparalleled education you can afford!

Register Today!

Prices (valid thru 2/10) – NCHRA Members: $863 / General: $1,030
For all the details, visit 

Already Registered? Enter #GoHRWest Sweepstakes and win a free hotel stay!

#HRWest2016 #GoHRWest

Tags:  Conference  Go HR West Sweepstakes  HR  HR Education  HR Re-certification  HR West 2016  Human resources  NCHRA 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)