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Analytics Driven by Business Accountability

Analytics in the business world serve many purposes, and a survey by the American Management Association uncovered the top five reasons business leaders say analytical skills are necessary today.

Which of the following create the greatest need for analytical skills in your organization?

  1. Accountability for results 67.0%
  2. Competitive environment 61.6%
  3. Complexity of business environment 52.6%
  4. Increase in customer data 51.3%
  5. Risk management 50.7%

business analytical skillsI found the results intriguing, because while we say we need accountability first and foremost within our organizations, many leaders often do a poor job of actually communicating that need. Oh, they’ll tell people they need to be accountable, but when it comes down to time to measure performance, they’ll think about things that don’t really tie into accountability for results. Having analytics to drive those sorts of decisions will be a positive overall; however, it will also mean that leaders and managers can no longer rely on other unimportant “measures” of performance.

  • Bob has been in the office for fifty or sixty hours a week for the past few months. He must be doing a good job. [Is it possible that he's just horrible at managing his time/workload?]
  • I know she doesn’t write well, but Mary responds to emails 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She’s really dedicated. [If she's not sending out the right message, maybe "number of emails sent" isn't a good measure of her performance?]

In some positions, it’s relatively easy to measure outcomes (sales, for example); however, in others it’s more difficult. For instance, how do you tell your administrative assistant to be “nicer?” Can you quantify that? How do you get an engineer to work “harder?” Those subjective measures are a pain for managers to enforce and a pain for employees to have to ascertain. You need to give them some actual targets to strive for that they understand.

ROWE me, baby

I had a discussion recently with some friends about the ROWE (results only work environment) movement, and it was quite an interesting conversation. A ROWE is a workplace where you work when, where, and how you want, as long as you meet your business objectives/goals. It sounds nice, and I love the idea, but it’s not necessarily easy. The key to making this work is holding each person accountable not for how many hours they log in the office, how long their butt is in the chair, or how long they are logged into their work computer; it’s about the results they accomplish. Again, it sounds like an excellent idea, but managers quickly become anxious at the thought of removing some of the traditional barriers and measurements for employees, even though in the long run the focus is to get employees to focus on the one thing that actually matters: results! This conversation keeps leading me back to accountability, and I’d like to share a few resources with you on that front in case you, like those who answered this survey, are interested in moving toward a culture of accountability.

4 accountability examples, ideas, and suggestions

  1. How many times have you heard a leader in real life or fiction demand: “I don’t care how you do it. Just get it done!” Many times, organization charts and job descriptions push people to perform a set of tasks. This mindset leads people to believe that if they perform their functions they’ve done what they’re supposed to do, whether or not the result was achieved. Effective leaders operate on the premise that their people must focus on achieving results. They lead and inspire them to pursue results by creating an environment that motivates them to ask, “What else can I do?” over and over until the results are achieved. They manage their people so that their “job” is to achieve results. Each person’s daily activities must be in alignment with the targeted results.
  2. In the book Turn the Ship Around, we learn about David Marquet and his attempt to remove the leader/follower model from the operation of the submarine he commanded. When he first took command of the ship, nobody was held accountable for anything, which correlated with the ship’s poor performance record. He began taking steps to give people accountability and oversight of their own areas, freeing him up to be a commanding officer instead of a 24/7 manager of minute details. It’s a great book if you are interested in seeing how other leadership/management approaches work.
  3. Several years ago I wrote about asking better questions to get better results. It’s still one of the most popular pieces, and for good reason. People are hungry for ways to help drive accountability within their organizations, and simply asking different questions is an easy way to start moving into that sort of mindset. More here: Asking Questions at Work.
  4. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton often talk about the data that drives great companies and great teams. After researching extensively, they developed a model that described how the best managers led their teams. The key elements? Goal setting, trust, communication, recognition, and accountability. So not only is it something that helps on a personal level, it also helps managers to get the most out of their teams! More of this found in The Orange Revolution.

 Wrapping up

Back to the study, I would be interested to hear your feedback on some of these items. Do you see any of these five areas playing a part in a need for analytical skills within your organization? Why or why not? What drives accountability in your organization? Is that driver toward an accountable workforce actually getting results?

What’s Up at Brandon Hall Group?

So it’s been a few months since I started working at Brandon Hall Group, and some of you have been asking me what I’ve been up to. Today I’ll talk a bit about what kind of work I’m doing and some of the things we have going on that are noteworthy.

What I dojames bond hr analyst

So I’m an HR analyst.

If you’re in the trenches, that probably doesn’t really mean a lot.

I’d like for you to think I’m the HR version of James Bond, but in reality there’s a lot more computing than handguns in this field.

My daily work is involved in doing research and capturing best practices and concepts to share with the clients of Brandon Hall Group. Some of the items are shard out publicly in blogs and other formats, but a good bit of it is reserved for members.

Over the past few months I’ve been helping with our awards case studies, and we’re gearing up for our 20th awards ceremony, which is pretty amazing. There’s more to share (probably in a future blog post), but I wanted to take a moment to look at two of the big upcoming items that I’ll be supporting at BHG–the 20th annual Excellence Awards Program and the first annual Excellence Conference. Plus we have a big announcement coming soon that is going to rock the world of talent research–I’m pumped about that one!

The conference

I’ll be in beautiful Fort Lauderdale January 28-30 to kick off the first ever HCM Excellence Conference. We’re working on the agenda, sponsors, etc. and it’s going to be a killer event. My friend and coworker, Trish McFarlane, will be working with me to present an “unconference” session during the event, so that’s certainly going to be fun. We’re also pulling in award winners (see details below on the awards) to lead sessions on how to do that “HR thing” well.

For more information on the HCM Excellence Conference, click here.

The awards

What hits me about these awards as a practitioner is that so many of you out there are doing some innovative things, whether in learning and development, performance coaching, leadership development, mentoring, or other areas. I’d encourage you to check out the awards to see if anything you’ve worked on recently might be a candidate for one of the awards we give. I’d love to have some of you participate!

Here’s the marketing copy:

Brandon Hall Group’s Excellence Awards Program, now entering its 20th year, is the most prestigious awards program in the industry.  Often times called the “Academy Awards” by Learning, Talent and Business Executives, the program was one of the first of its kind in the learning industry, which was pioneered in 1994.

The Excellence in Technology Awards Program receives applications from leading organizations within Human Capital Management from around the world and recognizes the ‘best of the best.’    You can select from forty-nine categories within Human Capital Management technologies.

Winners Receive

  • Recognition at Brandon Hall Group’s Annual Excellence Conference
  • Discounted Excellence Conference Pass Rates
  • One plaque per winning entry
  • A digital logo that you may use in any way you wish
  • A Brandon Hall Group issued press release announcing the winners
  • Live online announcement event and inclusion in promotional mailings
  • Recognition on Brandon Hall Group’s web site
  • Recognition on Brandon Hall Group’s social communities – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Entries may be included in Brandon Hall Group’s blogs
  • Feedback and scoring on your entry at the request of the organization
  • Entries may be included in Brandon Hall Group’s publications when appropriate and with approval
  • Opportunities to be highlighted in industry webinars

More details of the entering process are located on our website here: http://go.brandonhall.com/excellence_in_technology

The entry deadline is September 12th, so if you think your company has what it takes, I’d definitely encourage you to get involved. If you have further questions about applying please reach out to awards@brandonhall.com or join the upcoming webinar on August 6th at 1:00 pm EST:  http://go.brandonhall.com/technology-trends-and-excellence-awards

Thanks for sticking with me. Talk with you soon!

Managing Change Doesn’t Happen by Accident

I can still remember sitting at home watching a movie as part of my change management class. The movie?

change managementLean On Me, featuring Morgan Freeman.

Freeman plays the character of the “turnaround principal” of a failing school. His job was to step into the school and reverse the negative trends that were plaguing the students and teachers. He wasn’t always nice and friendly, but he got the job done and in the end, people respected him and the work he accomplished. Check out this short clip for a glimpse of his management style:

Thinking about change management is something I do fairly often. Most of what we do in the HR profession revolves around initiating, communicating, and managing change. That’s probably why I was so surprised when I looked at the results of the Brandon Hall Group 2014 Talent Management Systems Study.

According to the data 23% of respondents did not create any type of change management plan to assist with implementing a new talent management system. Wow. In this Brandon Hall Group blog I write about some of the ways to approach change management with a “people” focus as well as some essential elements of a good change plan. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the topic!

The Goal of Human Resource Management

goal of hr management

With over 800 posts in the archives, I know some of you have missed some good stuff over the years. I’m going to test out publishing some of these regularly to breathe some new life into the content and give you guys a chance to check them out. Enjoy!

AKA How HR management facilitates corporate and staff goals

In my time in the HR profession, I have had the pleasure of working with some leaders that taught me the importance of solid HR and how that looks in the day-to-day running of the business. Supporting leadership, managers, and employees is the primary goal for me as a human resource professional, though the “how” of that support can vary greatly by situation.

The most basic goal my performance is rated on? Helping the organization solve its problems through better people practices. 

Recently I wrote about HR bringing solutions vs problems. I had some good feedback on the topic, so I wanted to offer a few examples of how to put some of the ideas into action. Here’s a refresh:

It’s time to be proactive. Start looking for ways you can cut costs, streamline your functions, save time for managers, etc. Look for some solutions to age-old problems, not just new ones. Not sure where to start? Ask some of your managers what their biggest pain points are with regard to the HR or recruiting processes. Ask your senior leaders what their biggest concerns are at a corporate level. Then take that information and use it.

Want to know the fastest, easiest way to prove the value of the HR department? Solve a problem that plagues the management team. Yes, it seems simple, but it is often overlooked because HR tends to exist in its own little “bubble” and never takes the time to actually find out what the business needs are from the HR function.

Let’s look at a few ways to find these underlying issues and consider ways to solve them.

Problem #1 Recruiting Time

Situation: The manager comes to you complaining that the length of the recruiting process is forcing her to be less productive and is straining her team. She wants to have more candidates to pick from and she wants them hired faster to reduce the amount of pressure placed on her and her staff while they are shorthanded.

Potential Solutions:

  • Look at the recruiting process. Where do the longest wait times take place? Is it when the job is posted? Is it when you are waiting on the manager to schedule interviews? Figure it out and work to reduce the time needed for those specific steps.
  • Coach the hiring manager (and the hiring team) on how to be better interviewers. Better selection means less chance of turnover and having to go through the interview process all over again.
  • Define the ballpark cost of a bad hire for your organization. Then share that information with the hiring manager as a solid reason not to rush through the process.

Problem #2 Performance Management Process

Situation: one of the senior leadership team approaches you with the idea that you should stop using the current paper-based performance management process due to the burden it places on managers and staff and the lack of clear return on the time invested in the process. He thinks you should be able to talk normally and not have to sign a piece of paper to make it “official.”

Potential Solutions:

  • If you have previous lawsuits that utilized the performance management process as a piece of evidence, pull that information together. Oftentimes when managers go through the motions (giving everyone a “meets expectations” rating even when they don’t, for instance), that blows up in their face when it’s time to go to court. Show how that could have been used to defend the company’s point of view if handled correctly.
  • Find some of the statistics on organizational success as it ties to flowing goals from the corporate level to an individual level. For instance, one of my previous corporate goals was “Deliver On Time, Every Time.” In my own role, that could be distilled into responding to employee requests within 48 hours, getting all reporting (EEO-1, VETS-100, etc.) turned in 2-3 weeks early, or something else entirely. I’ve seen statistics that show companies who do this sort of flow-down process are more likely to be successful/profitable–find those numbers and use them to back up your suggestions.
  • A good middle ground solution would be keeping the process, but making it leaner and more flexible. What if you reduce a four-page form to only a page while keeping the critical elements intact? What if you find a performance management system that saves your staff time and effort and eliminates the need for paper forms?

Problem #3 New Hire Orientation

Situation: You are seeing a steady climb in the turnover of staff with less than 6 months of experience on the job. With at least a general idea of the amount of money the turnover is costing the organization, you decide that you need to research the issue and come up with a few potential ideas to solve the problem, then brief your management team to get some guidance. In your research, you find out that some of the policies that were highlighted in the orientation session are not being followed by some managers.

Potential Solutions:

  • You take the information about managers skipping orientation sessions back to the leadership team with the suggestion to sit and explain the issue and the cost of the turnover with the managers who are not following the rules.
  • Furthermore, you find out that some of the managers are not even completing an orientation for their staff due to the time constraints. You decide that it’s time for a short training session for all managers on the cost of a good orientation session versus the decreased time to full productivity when someone has the full picture to work from.
  • You learn that even though the rest of the managers are providing an orientation session, they are not deviating from the “script” on a corporate level, which means they are not adequately preparing the employee for what to expect at the team level. You make the call to work with a few of those managers to develop department-wide orientation conversation topics to help customize the sessions for what people really need to know–where to go for help, what the team culture is like, how people communicate, what the dynamics are among the teammates, etc.

These kinds of problem solving activities are what you need to carry out if you want to be seen as a partner to the business. Like other critical skills for HR pros, understanding how to facilitate the goals of the business via better people practices should be something you seek to improve regularly.

And these examples are easier because they are closely tied to HR functions. What if you heard about a problem with product quality or external customer service? How would you use people practices to influence those areas? It’s a big task, but human resource management (if done well) is an exciting and innovative field to be in!

What problems have you solved? What was the response from your “customer” (staff, management, leadership, etc.)?

Love What You Do, Even If Others Don’t

I need to get something off my chest. It has been on my mind for a while now, and I feel like it’s time to come clean.

mountain maniaI love running hills.

Yeah, I know. You might question my sanity and wonder about the safety of my family. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I couldn’t let that stand between us any more…

Okay, so let’s take a little step back toward serious for a moment. The point of today’s post is that you need to love what you do, even if others might not understand how or why. I have several examples of how this has played out in my own life, a second opinion from a noted economist and another HR expert, and a solid conviction that this is the right way to go. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Learn to love what others hate

The way I have put it for years is this: learn to love what others hate. Now, I’m not saying you need to all of the sudden fall in love with [insert evil vegetable here] or [that weird guy nobody can stand at work]. I’m saying that you can be great–truly great–by learning to love the things that others won’t do. It’s one of the easiest ways to stand out, make a name for yourself, and/or be seen as an expert.

godzillaOne of the silliest examples is when I started a previous job. There was a monstrosity of a fax machine that the HR department used, but it was finicky and fairly old. My first few days on the job, I realized how much everyone truly hated that fax machine. So I spent a few hours and programmed in all of the internal and regularly-used external numbers in, saving everyone a little hassle.

You’d think I had killed Godzilla with my bare hands. The staff in the department was a little over the top appreciative, and I was sitting there in my first “real” HR job trying to figure out what just happened. Because if I could repeat it, I knew it would mean good things for my career long-term.

Back to running for a second

I’ve recounted some of my running tales here and here in the past. It’s one of the activities I truly enjoy. This year I have set a few personal records (PR’s, for those who like acronyms), and it’s because I really started working on a few things that other people hate–hills, speedwork, eating smarter, etc. In fact, I not only did them, but I really started to enjoy them. It became a game…

  • How much could I improve over last time?
  • Could I set a new record today?
  • Let’s try a new vegetable/fruit this week.

You get the picture. I’ll never be world class, but I can be competitive for my age group. And it doesn’t happen by doing what everyone else does–you have to be willing to do the things the others won’t. That’s when you really get results.

The running analogy might not fit with everyone, but here’s where it matters:

  • What if I applied that at work?
  • What if I was constantly trying to improve my skills and abilities in the workplace to better serve the people around me?
  • What would the result be?

Learn to love what others hate. 

More Freakonomics

Another enjoyment of mine is listening to podcasts. Fun fact: I never listen to the radio in the car. However, I will occasionally listen to an interesting podcast to keep my mind occupied on long trips.

A few weeks ago I heard this and knew I had to write a post about it. Steve Levitt, author and economist, talks about loving what you do. Here’s the transcript:

LEVITT: I think fun is so much more important than people realize. And I’ve seen it in academics. When I interview young professors and try and decide if we should hire them. I’ve evolved over time to one basic rule, if I think they love economics and its fun for them I am in favor of hiring them. No matter how talented they seem otherwise if it seems like a job or effort or work then I don’t want to hire them.

DUBNER: Persuade me that they won’t just be nice to have around because they love fun, but that having fun at what you do makes you better, or different in some way that is positive.

LEVITT: Enjoying what you do, loving what you do is such a completely unfair advantage to anyone you are competing with who does it for a job. People who love it they go to bed at night thinking about the solutions. They wake up in the middle of the night, and they jot down ideas, they work weekends. It turns out that effort is a huge component of success in almost everything. We know that from practice and whatnot. And people who love things work and work and work at it.  Because it’s not work — its fun. And so my strongest advice to young people trying to figure out what they want to do, is I always tell them: try to figure out what you love, especially something you love that other people don’t love. Everyone want to be rock star or everyone wants to be in the movies, but that’s terrible you don’t want to compete head on. Find some…if  you love ants, go study ants. Because no one else loves ants and you’ll have a big advantage over the people who are just studying ants because they can’t think of what else to do. Source

I underlined the pieces that were specifically powerful for me. The big takeaway: find out what you love that others don’t, then go do that well.

People who are passionate about a topic have a massive competitive advantage over those that are not. You can’t outwork someone who’s passionate about what they do.

Closing thoughts

When I first got into HR, I had someone tell me, “Wow, you really have a passion for this stuff. Don’t worry, that will die down soon enough.”

At that moment, I promised myself that I would never let that passion die. It’s expected. It’s common. And it’s something I’m unwilling to budge on. That is one of the underlying motivations that drives this blog year after year–the commitment to not only being excited about what I do, but also to help others continue to be excited as well. HR isn’t something many people would want to do. But it’s something we can be great at.

In the past few weeks I was on a NextChat with the team at SHRM talking about what it takes for students to get into HR. Here’s a piece of advice from a friend of mine during the discussion that I wholeheartedly endorse. I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments–do you think what he says is true? What about the comments from Steve Levitt above?

 

Eleven Signs You Need to Get Out of HR

With over 800 posts in the archives, I know some of you have missed some good stuff over the years. I’m going to test out publishing some of these regularly to breathe some new life into the content and give you guys a chance to check them out. Enjoy!

We’ve all seen them. They drag their crusty, misshapen forms around, spreading despair and agony in their wake. No, I’m not talking about trolls, I’m talking about HR people! We’ve all worked with them before, but some might look at you and think that you fit the bill. Here are a handful of signs you might be turning into one of them!

  1. You secretly cheer when it’s time to put an employee on a performance improvement plan
  2. You have immense pride in the fact that your department has resisted that newfangled “Human Resources” title and still proclaims itself “Personnel”
  3. You love creating new policies
  4. When an interviewee asks you why you like working there, you give them a blank stare
  5. In order to save money on healthcare benefits you tell your employees to Google their symptoms
    Keep reading…

Big Data for Small Business

Last week a friend called me for some help. He’s working on some 401k reporting requirements, and the data the provider needs from him is fairly detailed. In prior years, we could have pulled some quick reports from the accounting system and gotten everything plugged in after some love sessions with a keyboard. However, the newly implemented accounting/recordkeeping system seems to think that actually running reports and gathering data insights is a “nice to have” versus a “must have.”

This got me thinking pretty hard about the importance of test driving new solutions before settling on a provider. If the selection team had been aware of the flaws in the system, including glaring ones where people can’t get data reporting that they really need, then they might have chosen another tool entirely.

As it turns out, there is limited reporting functionality, but it’s so incredibly complex that only one person is able to accomplish the task, and that’s only after an hour or more of trial and error. Yeah, not very efficient.

The economist says

If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know that I like the Freakonomics podcast. I’m an economics nut, and I always thought if/when I got my master’s degree that I might like to teach economics as an adjunct professor. Yeah, livin’ the dream! :-)

Anyway, in a recent show, the two economists were talking about making business better, big data, etc. One of them, Steve Levitt, consults with different organizations to solve business problems. He mentioned that until he actually got into the businesses, he never realized that the problem of big data, analytics, and actually getting actionable information out of existing data would be driven (or limited by) the IT infrastructure.

That comment, combined with the experiences above, are probably a reality for many of you out there. Thinking back, I used Excel as my HRIS for some organizations, because we were too small to need anything else. That didn’t really allow for analysis or anything fancy–it was just a recordkeeping system.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPayroll runs the show

Now there are providers out there that offer services to small companies to help them transition away from spreadsheets to a cloud-based system for HR needs, but many companies, especially smaller ones, wouldn’t want to have an HR system and a payroll system. That decision is usually driven by payroll, since that’s a critical business task. For many smaller organizations, keeping the HR records straight isn’t considered that critical. There are a few reasons for that:

  • HR is usually carried out by a non-HR person in really small organizations
  • Even when the company has an HR person as they grow, the compliance requirements still aren’t too difficult
  • Payroll is more important than virtually every other internal business activity (don’t believe it? Try not doing it once and see what happens…)

Big data, little data

A few years ago I worked for a company with about 600 employees, all located within 100 miles of the corporate headquarters. The company had a problem with turnover. Majorly. We weren’t food service or anything like that, and yet we had approximately 50% turnover year after year for as far back as I could find records. So I decided to try to get some insights into what was going on. I snagged the data from the past five years, dumped it into a spreadsheet, and started manipulating the information.

Within a few hours I had some great insights that pointed toward the problems, and I crafted a few potential solutions to help ease or even solve the problems we were facing.

When I presented my findings, I was told, “You didn’t have time to worry about things like that. Go process your 25 terminations and 15 new hires and leave this alone.”

In my example, we had the data and the potential solutions, but we lacked the one thing needed for action: leadership support.

Closing thoughts

I don’ t know that we broke any new ground here today, but I’ll leave you with a few takeaways from my perspective:

  1. If you’re looking at a system any time soon, run it through the paces that you’ll have to in your daily work. It’s important to know now the limits before you’re in the thick of things and trying to do something the system simply can’t.
  2. If you’re watching all this “big data” talk and thinking that it’s for larger organizations, it can certainly be implemented, even if on a smaller scale, at organizations with fewer people.
  3. Get the support of your leaders early. I think one of my mistakes was presenting the data without creating a need for solution first.
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