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Ten Minutes with Mark Stelzner - Industry Expert

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Be part of the conversation! Mark Stelzner, founder of Inflexion Advisors and the not-for-profit Job Angels explains why HR professionals must talk the language of finance and how to harness the power of Twitter.

In addition to being the founder of Inflexion Advisors, you've branded yourself as a disruptive HR consultant. Tell me about your career path and why you've given yourself that moniker.

My journey has included for-profits and non-profits, Fortune 50 organizations and start-ups, global enterprises and local entities. Regardless of whether I was an HR practitioner, consultant, strategist or technologist, the one common thread throughout has been the absolute necessity for change. Although I still don't know what I want to do when I "grow up", my 16+ years in this industry has taught me one very important lesson. Namely, people do not want to be pandered to by advisors who care more about billable hours than solving their client's problems. Thus, several of my clients have referred to me as "disruptive" because I'm not afraid to tell them what they need to hear over what they want to hear.

In a recent blog post you wrote that it would behoove HR to continue to increase its financial literacy. What exactly should an HR professional understand about finance?

HR should understand everything it possibly can about finance, from reading a quarterly statement on earnings to understanding how it can drive (or potentially cost) business unit revenue. Finance is the language of business and anything which increases literacy helps to ensure that nothing is lost in translation. HR's job is not to make you feel good; HR's job is to care for the biggest expense line item (employees) and make sure that the organization sees a positive return on that investment. If you expect to live in the ecosystem of business, you will be severely handicapped by a lack of knowledge and wherewithal in the area of finance. Moreover, if you can't speak to the financial impact of an organization's most expensive asset, you're not really part of the conversation.

Many organizations are experiencing layoffs and other cost-cutting measures such as furloughs and wage freezes. What should they be looking at now to strengthen and invigorate the workforce? What role does leadership development play in these turbulent times?

Candor and clarity of purpose are your most important attributes in times of duress. If you don't explain what's happening, why it is happening, what you expect of people and where you're headed directionally, you will fail. Programs designed to sugarcoat reality or extend the battle cry toward overworked (and often underpaid) resources will fall on deaf ears. Treat your employees like adults and start setting attainable objectives that can be used to slowly rebuild confidence.

You founded JobAngels, a rapidly-growing non-profit movement dedicated to helping people get back to work, one person at a time. Where did the inspiration come from and can you share a time when your career received a boost from a "guardian angel"? Rumor has it that my corn flakes whispered the idea, but I can tell you that they haven't spoken to me in years! The inspiration for JobAngels was as simple as this - job losses were awful, people were getting hurt and I thought that we could start turning the tide if each of us decided to help just one person find a job. It's really that basic, and any success we've had to date can be attributed to the tens of thousands of individuals who decided that the actions of one person can make a difference.

For example, there was a woman in Ohio whose dream was to work for The Ohio State University. She had tried to apply for a wide variety of jobs over the course of ten years and had never secured an interview. Then a posting came available that was her dream job and she found an "angel" who was the director of HR at another university. That person reviewed her resume, helped her look at her cover letter, helped with her positioning, did some mock interviewing and - drum roll please -  the woman got an interview within 48 hours and within a week she was hired. A fresh set of eyes and fresh perspective on her background, her positioning and the way in which she communicated turned over ten years of failure within the course of ten days. Job searching is fairly lonely and having a sympathetic ear to talk through your strategy or how you're trying to obtain your desired outcome is where a lot of people see value.

When I look back at my career, I can think of dozens of examples of "guardian angels" who selflessly elected to pause and take a moment to offer their advice and guidance.  I once worked for a CEO who hugged, and as strange as it is for me to say, there are times when that simple act of comfort was enough to get you through some difficult situations. (Readers, please feel free to tease me about this example or I'll be concerned that you're too jaded to harass.)

It's been written that Job Angels started with a simple tweet. How can job seekers use social media platforms like Twitter to improve their job search?

One thing that people must realize is that Twitter is one of the most fascinating search engines in the world.  You can literally eavesdrop on millions of conversations, and that ability offers unparalleled opportunities for job seekers and entrepreneurs alike.  Job seekers can find job postings, network with recruiters, get a sense of the brand/brand equity of their target employer and attempt to build a personal relationship that supersedes the typical job board. Sure it's imperfect, but anything worth while takes hard work and focus, so if job seekers are willing to invest time to learn and leverage social media, I guarantee it will pay dividends.