Like a lot of you, Thanksgiving is a time for both thanks and family.

My family runs the gamut from senior citizens to Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. My wife and I have two children, a son who is Gen X and a Gen Y daughter, a daughter-in-law, and a new granddaughter. My niece who is a regular at our home along with her boyfriend, are both Gen X. Her mother — my sister — just retired. At the top of the food chain is my mother-in-law, who also recently retired from the school system.

Being in the Boomer generation myself, I love the interaction with both these groups. Our routine is always stimulating conversations which always turns into a spirited discussion. These discussions run the gamut of topics from politics to current events.

One of the topics that stirred the pot this year centered around careers, engagement, and overall talk of jobs. I drove this conversation when I mentioned a recently published post on TLNT that talked about the level of engagement within companies today. I listened intently, probed, and probed some more to try and get better insight into their thinking and the culture of their respective employers. I did not offer any opinion, but just tried to keep the thread of the conversation on track.

The players in my Thanksgiving discussion

To add some background analysis to my family, this is the makeup and the issues concerning them:

Later that evening, when everyone left, I checked my e-mail and found I had received two requesting job assistance.

Whew! What a day.

As the day began on Friday, I could not get these discussions out of my mind. This was just one family, and I am sure that this scene and these kinds of conversations were duplicated across America on Thanksgiving day.

My passion is reading white papers on all kinds of HR topics. Whenever I read these reports, I always try and put a face to the numbers. Who do I know that this white paper reflects? I find this makes for more relevance, as opposed to just digesting static data.

My background is human resources, and I have an extreme passion for it being done with what I call HR 3.0

Get me in any conversation and I stand up for my profession and the way that I think it should (and will) have to be practiced. If I encountered a discussion about this in my home, imagine what your workforce is going through? Everyone knows of someone with a situation like the members of my family. In this recession, no one is immune.

This is a microcosm of today’s workplace:

  1. Lowest level of engagement on record.
  2. Four different generations in the workplace trying to find their way.
  3. Different levels of career development, and much discussion about what’s next
  4. Many employees actively looking externally for new opportunities
  5. Passive candidates in your workforce being approached by your competitors
  6. A number of employees in your workplace who recently retired or are nearing retirement
  7. Internal recruiters struggling with passive recruitment.
  8. Managers trying to re-engage their workforce to get back on track

I thought this is akin to going to the doctor about a headache and then listing a litany of ailments such as bad knee, ankle, stomach pains, vision issues, back pain, etc. After hearing all of that, where would the doctor begin?

Everyone wants HR to ACT

As I did on Thanksgiving, I listened, used probing questions and I listened some more. Then I mentally made of picture of what I thought would be the top issues. This kept me in a thoughtful mood over the weekend.

I have always operated from the chain reaction theory. If you listen and get the top 1, 2 or 3 issues right, the vast majority of the others will fall into place.

HR, please listen, then listen some more and ACT. Everyone is looking for our leadership. If we can witness this at informal gatherings, you can just imagine what is going on inside your workplace.

Sam Walton (Wal-Mart Founder) once said,

The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys.”

Translation: listen to your employees, because they have the answers