The local Best Place to Work event was held recently, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the companies that everyone see as attractive to work for. For example, Google is often discussed as a company with a great culture. In many of the “top ten best practices for business” articles, you’ll find a mention of Google and other similar companies. Everyone seems to adore the scooters, free lunches, and other perks that come with being an employee of these types of organizations.
But do you know what most of those “best place to work” lists don’t mention?
Somehow, despite all the amazing products and services that come out of Google, people seem to forget that there is a lot of work and effort represented in those tools. People actually sit down, think up solutions, write code, have meetings, etc. They work.
That’s one thing I sometimes find interesting. When people talk about wanting to work at XYZ company, they say that from examining the culture, benefits, etc. There’s never a clear insight into the actual taskings, action items, etc.
Creating a great place to work
I ran across a great article a while back where the person being interviewed (he works at one of those “best place to work” establishments, by the way) threw out this answer (emphasis mine).
What advice do you have for peers as they seek to fill the skills gap and foster job growth at their organizations?
In terms of filling the skills gap, it’s about creating a workplace where special people want to show up and do great work. The only way to win the talent war we are currently in is to start with great people to begin with. This means you have to have a culture where people want to show up and volunteer their best. After that, it’s about taking the time to really invest in people so that we can close whatever gaps are present. We need to hire people who have the capability and then invest in that capability so that they can follow through and deliver. Source
Notice he didn’t say “create a culture where people have fun and play table tennis all day.” He wants a workplace culture where employees want to show up and work their tails off to serve customers, accomplish goals, and meet deadlines.
Sometimes I wonder if we should be higher on those “best place to work” lists, but then I think about this side topic and realize that no matter what, we try to create a place where people actually like coming to the office. It’s worked well for us so far, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Yesterday I attended day one of the Alabama SHRM Conference. The pre-con session on employee leave management was an interesting one for me, and I quickly saw three key areas where many companies can trip up if managers are not properly prepared. Just a word of warning–none of them are a quick fix. They require training, patience, and more training.
HR’s not the center of the employee leave management universe
With the managers on the front lines with regard to employee communication, your organization can be in trouble before you ever know what hit you. It’s critical to train managers on what Family Medical Leave Act requirements are and how those should be routed to you or the appropriate person for employee leave management purposes. You should also cover the other key legal areas (Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.) so they know to come to you whenever one of these potentially sticky areas presents itself.
If you assume managers will know what to do, you’re kidding yourself.
Handling the “favorite” child
Another discussion I had today was around ADA accommodations for employees who request them. I think we understand the implications of offering accommodations, and some managers even seem to have a grasp on that side of the equation. I think one of the challenges that spins out of that is how the other employees see the accommodation.
Maybe someone gets an office on the first floor because they can’t climb stairs. Maybe they get a nicer chair because they have back issues. Whatever the case, it’s important to head off any commentary from the unaffected employees if it crops up.
All the work put in to provide accommodations and assist the employee can be undone by insensitive comments from other peers. I’d hope that nobody would say anything, but I’ve been around long enough to know it’s always a possibility. Situations where people think someone else is getting a benefit they don’t have, even when it’s related to employee leave management, tend to cloud peoples’ judgement at times.
Changing the mindset
Picture yourself as a supervisor with an employee on intermittent FMLA status. That’s a pretty typical employee leave management situation. When it comes time to rate employee performance, how are you going to keep the leave separate from the actual performance on the job? If I was in that situation, I admit that it would be a difficult proposition.
I think supervisors need support and encouragement to continue focusing on the work accomplishments and getting people back up to full productivity, not looking at what is not getting done due to someone being on leave for some protected status.
It would be very difficult not to, in some corner of your mind, consider the employees on FMLA as slackers compared to the rest of the staff. In this example you can substitute USERRA or ADA just as easily. I think it’s important to get it out there and off the table as soon as possible when discussing with managers.
“I know Katy’s leave is making it tough on you guys to get your deliverables completed on time, but let’s focus on the positive side of things and work to get her back up to speed as quickly and safely as possible. She’s a good worker and wants to get back to work full speed as soon as she can.”
Simple, easy, but probably a rare conversation.
Again, these are only a few of the key areas that I’ve seen can become issues if not dealt with early in the process. Have you seen these play out well (or not so well) in your own organization? Care to share any best practices around employee leave management?
Business communication writing skills are incredibly powerful and effective, if used correctly. I’ve talked previously about my communication style at the office (Better Communication at Work). I think that only scratched the surface of my thoughts about the importance of written communication in the workplace, and I’d like to delve deeper into that today.
Over the course of the past several years, I’ve used persuasive writing on numerous occasions to encourage candidates to accept job offers, defuse tetchy situations, encourage managers, etc. It’s one of the tools that I use quite often in both my HR and recruiting roles, and it’s one that I would argue is critical for sustained success. Let’s backtrack and set a foundation for business communication writing skills:
Persuasive writing, also known as creative writing or an argument, is a piece of writing in which the writer uses words to convince the reader of his/her view regarding an issue. Persuasive writing sometimes involves convincing the reader to perform an action, or it may simply consist of an argument(s) convincing the reader of the writer’s point of view. Persuasive writing is one of the most used writing types in the world. via Wikipedia
How to use persuasive writing at work
Here are ten quick ways you might need to use some persuasive writing in the workplace. Over time, you can build your business communication writing skills through each of these scenarios. If you have more, please share in the comments below!
Converting a candidate to a hire
Getting a manager to see your point of view
Influencing a policy change
Getting your manager to give you a raise
Helping your staff to step up to your expectations
Increasing your initial offer acceptance rate
Making new hires excited about their first day of work
Reducing resistance to change initiatives
Encouraging meetings to flow smoother/faster
Negotiating with vendors for increased services or reduced costs
Essential elements of business communication writing skills
Now that you have an idea of how to use persuasive writing, what are the key elements to making it work?
Passion-You need to believe in what you’re sharing, or others won’t want to believe it, either.
Perspective-Write from the reader’s perspective. Understand what their ideal outcome is and try to align with that if at all possible. This is the most important of all. If you can do this well and understand your reader’s needs, fears, etc. as well as they do, you’ll have amazing success with these techniques.
Explain-This is not the time to take the “I’m an expert, just trust me” stance. Instead, try to explain the situation as simply as possible.
Emotions-Try to appeal to emotions, but try to stay away from fear if you can. Fear is a powerful emotion, but too many pushes on that button yield decreasing and unpredictable results.
Logic-Use logic as well. Using all logic or all emotion in your writing will eliminage a large portion of your audience. Tying the two together with facts will help to reach the largest number of people.
Business communication writing skills exercises
This is where the rubber meets the road. Let’s look at a few examples. Feel free to write your responses below or somewhere private. Just think through the elements I mentioned and how you can incorporate them to influence the outcome in the direction you choose.
Getting a raise: You’ve been going above and beyond your normal workload for several months, and it’s resulted in some key wins for your organization. You have the data to back up how you specifically contributed to the bottom line. You’ve decided to write a short exploratory email to you manager to discuss a raise in preparation for a face-to-face meeting. What do you write in order to sway the decision in your favor?
Influencing a policy change: Your leadership team has been discussing a key policy change that will require all staff to be at work for “core hours” from 8am to 3pm Monday through Friday. You believe that there is a better way to ensure full coverage for customer issues while not forcing every staff member to physically be in the building for that period of time. You have indicated that you would like to challenge the policy change, and the leadership team requested a response in writing. What do you write in order to explain the significance of the change’s long-term impacts to the organization?
Reducing change resistance: Your organization has decided to change insurance providers in order to save money. There are no immediate benefits to the employees, and many are happy with the current provider. The leadership team has tasked you with explaining the change to all staff. What do you write in your company-wide message to minimize negative responses and encourage support for the change initiative?
I hope I’ve convinced you that persuasive writing, if done correctly, can be an amazing skill to develop and hone. I’ve seen great success with it, and I try to get better every single day through practice and learning from my mistakes. Building business communication writing skills takes time and effort, but it’s wroth it in the long run!
I’d love to hear from some of you who have used this technique in your own career. How did it work out for you?
Let’s start off with a story. And just as a heads up, it’s not necessarily a happy one.
Since 2009, Interaction Associates, a consulting firm based in Boston that advises on human resources and company leadership, has run a survey that measures how much employees trust the leaders who run their businesses. As of this year, the percentage of respondents who said they see their bosses as collaborative and trustworthy is at an all-time low.
On the broad questions, only 27% of respondents said they have a “high level of trust in management and the organization.” That’s down from 39% three years ago. When asked whether their organization has effective leadership, only 31% said yes, down from 50% in 2009. On the question of whether they see their organization as highly collaborative, only 32% said yes, down from 41% in 2009. Source
Okay. Stop for a second. Digest those numbers for a second.
Now take a look around the office. Odds are at least two out of every ten employees feels like they have some reason to mistrust the organization’s leadership. Ouch.
So what does that say for employee engagement? I think we both know where that’s going to fall. Another interesting survey takes the conversation further into engagement territory.
65% of workers would choose a better boss over a raise (Source)
Let’s ignore the “raise” comment and focus just on the numbers. Two-thirds of employees want a different boss. They not only want a different one, they want a better one.
It’s difficult to quantify that desire, but I think it’s something we as HR professionals need to be thinking about. People leave managers, not companies. Here are six solid HR tips for you to pass on to your managers.
One of the greatest ways to get some great content at an affordable price (with regard to both travel and registration fees) is at a state-level HR conference. I’m attending the 2013 Alabama SHRM State Conference, and I can’t wait to see some phenomenal speakers, meet some fantastic people, and take copious notes on ways to improve the HR function for my employer.
If you’re looking for me on Wednesday, May 15th, I’ll be busy! This will be my 3rd state conference to attend in Alabama, and I am looking forward to yet another well-run event that hums with excitement.
What I’m looking forward to at the 2013 Alabama SHRM State Conference
I’m still in the early stages of evaluating what sessions I’m planning to attend, but here are a few that look appealing to me:
Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change-Who in the HR industry couldn’t use some tips in this area? Looking for some tips to respond to a few challenges I’m currently facing.
Creating a Healthy Employee Marriage by Developing an Engagement Culture-I know the presenter and think this will be an intriguing session. I already work for a phenomenal company with a great culture, but maybe I can pick up some ideas that have worked for other companies as well.
The 9 Faces of HR-This sounds like a very interesting session, and I know the speaker here as well. I’m excited to see the illustrious Kris Dunn on stage, no matter what the topic!
I’m also working with our great state council and providing a Twitter 101 session in order to help everyone understand the tool better and how they can use it to spread the word about events, news, and other valuable information.
Anyone else planning to attend the 2013 Alabama SHRM State Conference? It should be fun!
I’ve struggled with this for a long time, but knowing when to hire an employee is a key skill to have. We’ve been growing steadily in recent months, and the pressure has continued to increase. In just a few short weeks, I’ll have my first employee (part time, but better than nothing!) to help keep things moving in the right direction. I can’t wait! Today I want to talk a little about when to make the decision to hire someone else.
I’m going to assume that your company, like mine, is trying to stay lean and competitive, so adding people on a whim is not going to fly in this case. Here are a few of the pieces of the puzzle that had to be in place for me to support the need for more help in building a new HR department.
3 tips for when to hire an employee
You have to be working hard. It might seem silly or simplistic so say that out loud, but many people are just going through the motions and not giving it everything they have. Your manager needs to see you giving it everything you’ve got or there will be no leverage or data to back up your claim for more people. Here’s how that worked for me-In the past two months I’ve been recruiting pretty much nonstop. I’ve been taking care of a minimum amount of HR duties to keep things moving, but some things are just having to fall through the cracks. I’m keeping my manager in the loop to make sure we are targeting the same priorities, and he is very aware of what is and is not getting done. As that list of “not done” items starts reaching critical mass, it becomes an imperative statement on when to hire an employee.
You have to know what you want. This was (and still is) the hardest for me. Do you want a seasoned professional to come in and take over a piece of the HR workload? Do you want an admin to come in, help with the data and paper shuffle, and grow into a specialty area over time? What specific tasks are you willing to give up?For a few weeks now I have been building a profile for the “perfect” candidate. I wanted them to be entry-level, have few preconceived notions about HR, and be a solid culture fit hire. I want them to take over some specific areas of the HR function so I can focus on some other key areas.
Hire what you need and don’t get sidetracked. This one is tough for many people, and the hiring team definitely fell into this trap until we pulled ourselves back out. If you’re hiring for someone to handle benefits, don’t disqualify someone because they aren’t chatty and personable. If you’re hiring someone to take over your recruiting, pay more attention to their physical and verbal cues than you do to their college degree. You’re selecting someone for a specific role, and you will never find the person with 100% of the qualifications, experience, etc. that you want. That’s why you make up a fake profile for the perfect candidate and start bouncing applicants off that standard. It helps you to see which areas are critical and which are just “nice to have.” Hire for what you need, and don’t get sidetracked halfway through the process by a flashy candidate who might be a great hire but a poor fit for the tasks, team, or culture.
You’ll notice I didn’t talk about an HR to employee ratio at all within the context of this article. I know those ratios are all over the map and don’t necessarily measure the right thing anyway. I wanted to focus on what to look for if you are trying to decide when to hire an employee.
For those of you who have had to determine when to hire an employee, what
Just a quick post today. I’m reading a book and I ran across a section where the author is discussing the differences between two phrases that seem pretty similar but have very different meanings.
What’s keeping you up at night?
What gets you up in the morning?
The idea is that focusing on what keeps you awake at night might seem innocuous, but it focuses on fears. What are you afraid of? What’s scaring you? The question assumes that the recipient has worries and fears that they want to share.
On the other hand, focusing on what gets you up in the morning has a very different connotation. It’s targeting the inspirational, motivational pieces of what you are doing.
The next time you start to ask someone what is keeping them awake at night, flip the mental switch and ask about what gets them up in the morning. I guarantee the discussion will be more positive, and the person on the other end of the question will enjoy the experience more as well.
Subtle change, major difference. Phrasing matters.
While we’re on the topic, what gets you up in the morning? I’d love to hear your thoughts!