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How in the h*ll

How in the h*ll did I get here?

To define here, let's start with understanding how, why, and who I am.  I am Damon Hayes-Milligan, and I am an HR Professional.  WHOA.  Did you see how quickly I proclaimed to be an "HR Professional"?  I earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in human resources management in 2004 from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO).  UCO is a fabulous state school, and it was affordable.  I was able to work my way into an internship with a local hospital where I was given the opportunity to learn as much as I could about as little as I possibly could.  In other words, I worked a typical internship where you complete many tedious tasks and achieve little.  That said, I did work on a project to realign the job descriptions with the proper job family.  The AMAZING part of the internship had nothing to do with my HR knowledge or skillset; instead, it dealt with crisis management.  You see, the year of my internship, the hospital was participating in a city-wide emergency drill.  People were sent to the hospital for treatment of injury from a tornado.

Danger Will Robinson

The disaster experience did more for me than a job description alignment because it gave me the opportunity to free-think and deal with issues on the fly.  Sitting at the desk, flipping through resumes (no offense to my recruiter friends) was not a statement piece for my resume.  And yet, I make no mention of the disaster exercise on my resume. 

The disaster exercise gave me the ability to think through complex and complicated situations while keeping the human element of human resources in check.  Note: If you aren't thinking of people in your people first strategy then, dude, you're wrong.  Having gained a stronger foundation to care for folks, at a fundamental level (shootout to Maslow), gives people during times of need the ability to feel vulnerable and accept help.  Case in point.  I was the project manager for a former company during hurricane Katrina.  Our organization had an office in New Orleans.  After the hurricane, we lost touch with nearly all of our employees.  The company, realizing that we were at a loss, decided to bring me down to manage the search and recovery program.  Living for a short period in Houston while I diligently created programs of recovery and assistance, gave me pause.  For the first time in my adult life, I could tune out the intolerable news of the day.  I was not focused on the politics of the hurricane, nor did I care that the president came to visit.  All I focused on was the survival of 600+ coworkers.  By the time I left Houston, I had found all but 30 employees.

I share the example because it is critical for us, as individuals to know how the h*ll did we get here.  Later, I worked a disaster for a different company a few years later where I employed several of the same techniques that I applied for the hurricane.  This time, the storm was a tornado, and my office was in the heart of the only level one trauma center in the state.  The moment when you receive notification that the hospital is on lockdown because "children are inbound" is heartbreaking, and devastating.  Sadly, few children made it to the hospital that night.  The recovery program that I managed was on how to cut the tape between the different business segments, get our employees the help they needed, and get them back to their old self.

Practice makes perfect. 

WOW, was that a hard phrase to understand at the time.  In my years as an HR Professional (dangit, I did it again), I have been through three - that's right, THREE reductions in force.  As a side-note, I turned 40 in July, and I earned my HR degree in 2004.  At the time of the first reduction, my partner and I had new-born twin boys.  The boys were born in May, and my reduction happened around Christmas the same year.  I was resilient and pressed on.  If being a father of twins wasn't going to kill me, then neither was a reduction in force.  Ultimately the thing that kills any parent is the lack of sleep, but I digress.

I went into HR consulting for a fantastic PEO that has their corporate office in the metro area.  Here I found a different voice for being that HR Professional, ACK!  I was able to refine my communication skills, work with owners of the small and medium-sized business, and grow as a professional.  Notice, this time there is no 'HR' in front of professional.  Crafting your vocabulary to define your understanding of the business that you work in, is EVERYTHING.  Let's pause for a moment and understand what I am saying.  To be a partner to a business, you must speak their language.  Take your understanding of HR but meld it with the standard vernacular of the business in which you are working.  Only after learning how what to speak, and when to say things will you become a real professional; a business professional who happens to work in HR.

The more things change, the less they do.

But really.  Evolution should challenge our thoughts, dreams, and aspirations.  If you aren't growing and changing, then you are stuck.  And why would you want to stay stuck?  We either evolve, or we don't.  Which type of HR Professional are you?  Note.  This time I did say "HR Professional" with no additional note or asterisks.  From my vantage point, and by no means do I have the cheap seats; there are a significant number of HR Professionals (you know you are), that would instead accept the status quo.  While I am no disruptor to the field of human resources (and besides, when I think of disruptor, I tend to think of a Romulan weapon, before a professional definition), I do believe that we either change or that we evolve ourselves to a different career.

Act three.

For the 'seasoned' HR professional, you know what it takes to be a leader.  Or do you?  Look there is nothing wrong with admitting that you need help.  H*ll (I am trying to be consistent in not using the actual word, so work with me), there are times in my career that I should have and could have asked for help.  But I did not.  I was stubborn, and yet I still found a path toward success.  Of course, what is the definition of success?  I can guarantee that my definition is different than yours, but that should be okay.  My dreams and hopes should be different from yours.  For starters.  I am passionate about a lifetime of learning and development.  I am currently working on a Ph.D. in Organizational Development and Change.  I have started an HR Consulting practice that has a focus on helping the small and medium-sized business grow and develop.  I also love coaching folks that are looking to improve their whole self.  The road is never-ending and should be enduring.


'The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself' (Wear Sunscreen).  Truer words have never been so easily spoken.  We shouldn't try to compare ourselves to others, but dang - it is hard to stop this practice.  Sometimes we allow the successes of others to be the driving factor in what forces us to change.  The reality, we should change because we want to.  We should want to be better than the person we woke up as but we should have the foundational need to improve ourselves.  The reality is that many of us in our profession will wake up, morning after morning, with no desire to create change for ourselves or others.  When you find yourself in this practice and frame of mind then it's time to ask the question 'why'?  If all you take away from this blog is change is good 'mmkay,' then please accept that as my truth.  Your truth is what you hold dear.  Don't allow for others to dictate your path, or, disrespect your journey.

About Damon Hayes-Milligan and Better Call HR:

Mr. Hayes-Milligan has worked in the field of Human Resources since graduating with his Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2004. He has worked in several different areas of Human Resources but always returns to his passion for helping leaders create real and lasting development plans. He also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems, also from the University of Central Oklahoma as well as a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University. Currently, he is working on his Ph.D. in Organizational Development and Change.

Damon has been a speaker for the Oklahoma State HR Council as well as a presenter for various SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) chapters around the state. His topics have ranged from Generational Diversity to Discrimination in the Workplace. Most recently, he served as the Co-Chair of the 2017 Oklahoma State HR Conference in Norman.

Better Call HR is a boutique organization with a passion and eye for small business. Our years of professional experience in the field of Human Resources Management will help ensure our strategy is aligned with yours. Our approach consists of creating a customized human capital strategy and aligning it with your strategic plan. We do this by growing your organization from an organic standpoint that combines proven business results, HR acumen, and strategy with your desire to rule the world. Our approach may not be for everyone, but it is for those with a desire to understand the human element in your personal success stories.

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