There are few people in the HR industry who are as influential as Tim Sackett. The widely respected author of HR’s Guide to White People, Sackett is one of those influence the influencers kind of guys. Belligerent is his disdain for political correctness, Sackett is the epitome of the tough minded HR pro who is still willing to plan the company picnic.
The Sackett family has been in the HR business from its inception. Generation after generation, the Sacketts have plied their trade. Tim’s great, great, great, great grandfather Yul, was the 18th Century progenitor of the George Clooney character in Up In the Air.
It was London, 1792. The new cotton mill was established as a model for the fair treatment of workers. Its Utopian owner, the son of a wealthy merchant family, understood that the keys to real productivity involved shortening the work day to 14 hours, daily five minute bathroom breaks and the ability to have children chained with their parents at the looms.
Yul, a Scandinavian native, was hired as the mill’s first paymaster. He screened new workers for hygiene and bugs, tallied the deductions for purchases at the company store, delivered the pay envelopes and administered the punishments. Known throughout England as the exemplar of Best Practice, Yul’s counsel was sought at the leading companies of the age.
One day, during a meeting with the mill owner, Yul put forward a radical new idea. “Beating our wayward employees, while personally enjoyable, doesn’t really seem to be doing much for productivity. Why don’t we simply have them removed from the premises and never speak to them again. It would be like putting your problems in a trash sack and having them hauled away.”
“A trash sack,” the owner replied with a glint in his eye. “That’s brilliant. Got a problem, sack it. It’s so simple. I should have thought of it.”
“Oh, it was your idea, sir.” replied Yul in an HR tradition that persists to current times.
And from that day on, he was known as Yul Sackit. The surname was franco-fied to Sackett when the family migrated to the United States some years later.
As you might imagine, generations of service to organizations as professional paymasters and behavior optimizers guaranteed that the Sackett clan remained on the edge of poverty. In the days of the land rush, the family took a covered wagon and headed west. When the head of the clan saw that they’d reached Wyoming, they parked the wagon a build the homestead. It was then that they discovered that the offer for 40 acres applied to the state of Wyoming, not the town of Wyoming, MI.
As a young man, Tim was constantly confused about the question of whether he was from Wyoming or from Michigan. So, he began his post high-school education at the University of Wyoming. Quickly discovering that the open prairie was a bad place to be in HR (unless you like restaurant chains), young Mr Sackett returned to Michigan.
The rest is, as they say, history. Sackett’s trajectory from confused adolescence to HR Rainmaker took less than a decade once he finally got to work. (He took a six year sabbatical between undergraduate school and grad school to walk back from Wyoming to Michigan.) Now firmly into his 40s, Sackett is starting to imagine changing the face of HR.
With his own personal industry transforming Mr. Potato Head kit (he calls it the Sack-kit), Tim sits in his office envisioning a new nose, different eyes, altered lips and approaches to facial hair for the world of HR. He routinely clarifies his vision of the industry’s new face in his periodic rants at the legendary Tim Sackett Project.
One of the ironic keys to having a broad industry influence is not caring what other people think of you. Tim’s bio on Fistful of Talent makes it abundantly clear that your opinion of him simply doesn’t matter:
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy! After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!
You can see the signs of Sackett’s influence everywhere you look. That framed and autographed photo behind the local HR Vp’s desk? It’s Sackett. Most intro HR text books are being revised to include the Sackett story. Next year’s SHRM conference will feature a Sackett Pavilion.
It’s rare that I get the opportunity to document the influence of the self proclaimed most powerful man in HR. You really need to keep your eyes on Sackett. One day soon, you’ll be changing all of your documentation to eliminate the phrase Human Resources Department to replace it with Sackett Department.