I was talking with some HR professionals last week, and the conversation of transparency came up. What happens if managers care so much about their employees that they help or prepare them to leave the company to pursue the next step in their careers? Is that a good thing, because you’ve successfully grown someone to the level that they are prepared for that? Or is it a problem, since you’re turning over otherwise solid workers that could be contributing to your bottom line? To frame the discussion, I shared the story below that I received from Allied Talent in one of their marketing emails.

Recruiting, engaging, and retaining entrepreneurial employees depends in large part on a manager’s ability to discuss and facilitate career development. However, recruiters, managers, and executives are often poorly-equipped to lead these conversations. Toby Murdock, the founder and CEO of Boulder-based content marketing company Kapost, set out to fix that. His goal: to make his company the best place in Colorado to launch and accelerate a career in high tech… Thanks to a compelling employee value proposition around career transformation, Toby has successfully recruited entrepreneurial employees into the company who might have otherwise been out of reach.

Once at your company, those entrepreneurial employees require high-trust 1:1 conversations with their manager. A paradox of The Alliance is that, as a manager, acknowledging that an employee might move to another company someday is a display of honesty that’s necessary in career conversations. It’ll also help you truly understand your employee’s values and aspirations. Building trust through honesty, and having a better handle on what your employee really wants, are key ingredients to improving employee retention — lengthening job tenures.

So, as you can see, there are pros and cons to this decision. On one hand, you need managers that aren’t afraid of losing people. I have worked for managers in the past that were so concerned about keeping me that they didn’t actually have my best interests in mind, which ended up driving me away instead of making me feel appreciated.

On the other hand, I can recall a manager from my past that was phenomenal about finding ways to help me grow and develop. One day she had a frank conversation with me about my future prospects, and she said that I might have to leave one day to get the growth opportunities that she couldn’t provide. That was a somewhat scary prospect for me at the time, because I felt like I had a lot to learn from her and didn’t want to consider leaving.

I’d say she was in the small minority of managers in terms of being able to have those kinds of conversations. Most do not have the capability or the emotional intelligence to be able to openly admit to their limitations and to discuss working at other organizations as potential career steps.

What is interesting is this: if I had left, I would have been a perfect prospect for a boomerang employee somewhere down the line. The kicker is that I would be even more valuable to the company with a larger reservoir of experience and skills to pull from. For clarification: in that specific instance, my boss ended up leaving due to health issues, and I was able to step into her position and continue my career development under the same roof.

So, should we celebrate?

People quit their jobs for a lot of reasons. If we take out the resignations that are due to poor management, culture mismatch, and so on, we are left with those employees that are truly leaving to advance their careers. The question that you need to ask yourself is how you should feel when they move on.

On one hand, this is helpful for your recruiters and others internally to see where the perceived limit is for employees in terms of development. If staff are consistently leaving around the 18-month mark, are they bored? Have they mastered “everything” in terms of their job duties? Are they topped out in terms of compensation? What is driving them to seek other employment?

You have a few ways you can approach this. First, we all know that we’re not going to keep employees forever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that Baby Boomers changed jobs on average nearly 12 times between age 18 and 48. (So much for the myth that they worked the same place “forever” and Millennials are job-hopping maniacs.) This means we only have a few years with each employee statistically, anyway. The way I saw this when I was in corporate HR was as an opportunity to make as much of an impact as possible in the lives of the employees while they were associated with the company. And if they left, especially to start their own business or for professional growth, I never held it against them.

The other way is to do like Kapost has done and actually brand yourself as the starting block for a great career in your industry. The company could have looked the other way or tried to hide this face of its culture, but instead it celebrates it and uses the collective success of its alumni as a benchmark for the impact it is making on the world. Pretty cool stuff, no?

Those Entrepreneurial Workers

There are tons of articles and experts talking about how companies need to hire entrepreneurial workers. I’ve had a hard time narrowing down the definition, but I think of it as those people who can take measured risks and bring innovative ideas to the table. It’s not a trait seen in every employee, but for those that have it, they can offer incredible value to their employers. I love telling the story about an employee years ago that suggested a new use for an existing product, ultimately driving more than $2 million in sales from that single idea. The person could have downplayed it or avoided sharing the idea, but because they did, they (and the company) benefited greatly.

I’ll say it again: if my employees left to start their own businesses, I was thrilled for them. Yes, they often left gaps. Think about it–those workers smart and hard-working enough to start and run their own business are probably valuable contributors to your organization in a variety of ways. It’s easy to get frustrated or bothered by this. My former boss, the CEO and founder of the company, was often upset when he would receive this kind of news. I would always cock my head to the side and say, “Yeah, those people that leave their employer to go start their own business and pursue their passion are crazy. Why did you do that again?” :-)

I’m reading a book right now called The 10% Entrepreneur that discusses how to diversify your career by getting involved in other companies, startups, etc. without all of the risk that entrepreneurship brings. It’s very interesting and worth a read if you are looking for a way to breathe some excitement back into your work without leaving your day job behind.

There is also a larger conversation about the future of work that is taking place. With the rise of nontraditional workers and work arrangements, I predict that we will see more of these entrepreneurial workers taking a leap than ever before. Instead of making it difficult on them, companies would be smart to offer them flexible working arrangements and options to stay on part-time while they build their business (assuming it’s in a non-competitive market). Just like it works with older workers, this is an option to continue getting valuable insights and productivity from these workers before they ultimately leave the firm. It also eases the transition and offers a way to get the new workers trained up over time.

So, at the end of the day, whether you celebrate your workers that leave or not, I will share a little tidbit with you: they will leave eventually. Whether they die, retire, resign, or get fired, your employees will not be there forever. Decide how you want to handle their departures and stick with it, because that aspect of your culture is one that employees never forget. If you terminate people immediately that give notice, don’t expect future employees to give notice. If you treat each person kindly and with compassion, despite the fact that they could be leaving you in the lurch, then people will respond in kind.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What kinds of reactions are common when people are leaving your organization? Do you think you could ever get to the point where you would celebrate those seeking career advancement opportunities? 

Wellness as an employee benefit has expanded in the last year or two to include more than just the physical aspect–it now wraps in financial, emotional, and other types of wellness as well. That’s a good thing, because 68% of workers rely on their workplace coverage for their families’ financial security, according to the Guardian Workplace Benefits Study

One topic that we don’t often think about, yet impacts our employees heavily, is personal finance.

According to this article from the Washington Post, approximately one-third of your employees are living paycheck-to-paycheck. In other words, without this week’s paycheck coming in, the employee and their family would be in an immediate financial crisis.

The first response for many leaders is, “Yeah, so what?” However, this can be an opportunity to impact the productivity and engagement of your staff, so there’s value in learning more about this issue.

Cost of Living Impacts

In retirement, Americans fear the rising cost of living. In fact, nearly half of Americans (47%) report being either “very concerned” (36%) or “terrified” (11%) that the rising cost of living will affect their retirement plans. This is according to a new study on Americans’ perceptions about inflation from Allianz Life. Furthermore, respondents claim they are either “very worried” (36%) or even “panicked” (11%) that they won’t be able to afford the lifestyle they want in retirement due to rising costs.

The study also found that:

  • Fifty-three percent of Americans report they would feel either “very worried” or “panicked” about paying for expenses if their income was frozen and they never received an increase in annual salary.
  • This concern is even greater among households with lower earnings – less than $50,000 per year – with  65% noting they are either “very worried” or “panicked”.
  • In retirement, nearly one-third of people worry they won’t be able to pay for the essentials because of the rising cost of living.

I can’t recall the author of the study, but I heard one last year that helped to ease my own anxiety about this issue in the workplace. The study looked at what predicted success in terms of long term savings in a company’s retirement plan. The results were shocking. The number one predictor of whether someone was going to save significant money in their 401k plan?

  • It wasn’t their expense ratio.
  • It wasn’t their fund selection.
  • It wasn’t the vendor they used.

The number one predictor of whether employees will actually have money in their plan when they are ready to retire is participation rate. If they contribute, they are going to be in better shape than their peers that spend their time looking for no-load funds or avoiding investing because of some concern about an impending market crash. That’s heartening, because the employee doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist or financial wizard to figure that out. Just. Get. Going!

Stress Impacts Productivity

We all know from experience—when you’re stressed, you can’t focus as keenly on the work you need to do. The American Psychology Association’s Stress in America survey showed that 76% of Americans cite money as a significant cause of stress.

  • How is Cameron supposed to focus on closing the sale when he’s worried about a debt collector calling him at work?
  • Do you think Isabel will be able to handle that new project after her spouse (the main breadwinner) passed away with no life insurance?
  • Will Joseph be able to work those extra hours when he’s already working a second job to try and pay his bills?

These are merely examples, but they are a very real picture of some of the situations that face our employees every day. Look around you—statistically one out of every three of those folks is one pay hiccup away from a financial meltdown.

It’s time to do something about it.

Keep in mind, this isn’t just a financial planning session with a retirement services provider. That interaction has its place in the overall financial puzzle, but what I’m talking about is more immediate help rather than support for a life stage that could be between 10 and 40 years away.

What You Can Do

For starters, you can begin providing resources beyond an EAP.

Yes, I know. Most of us like to be able to claim that we have an EAP while we secretly know that virtually none of our employees actually make use of the benefit. I’ve been there and understand. The data shows an average utilization of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) at just 5%

While employee assistance programs are fine to offer, they don’t do enough to engage and target the specific financial issues and stressors your people are facing. There are great resources available for helping to manage money. There may be a local financial planner that will visit with your staff, an educational training to help them understand how personal finance works, or a combination of remote and in-person resources to meet a variety of needs and preferences. I won’t endorse any particular provider here, but what you’re looking for mainly is someone with the heart of a teacher, not a salesperson.

Start training your managers and HR team to recognize signs of stress. A historically high-performing employee that suddenly has performance problems? That’s an opportunity to reach out. There’s no guarantee the change is driven by money issues, but if there’s a way to assist with the stressful situation and help the employee feel like he/she has support, that’s going to help solve the problem in the long run.

The Hidden Victims

I mentioned this in my previous article on the topic, and I think it’s worth bringing up here.

One issue that many don’t realize is that this affects people like our military pretty heavily. Having recurring or serious financial difficulties makes it more difficult for soldiers to maintain a security clearance (financial problems make you a target for foreign government intelligence). In fact, soldiers can be declared unfit for duty if they are unable to resolve the financial issues they have. Imagine losing your job due to a few poor financial mistakes, and you realize how serious this is.

This also applies to people working for government contractors. I used to manage HR for one of those firms, and many of our employees required a security clearance for their job. I can’t tell you how many times we had to turn down highly qualified candidates due to previous financial problems that could jeopardize their clearance status.

It’s one thing to lose out because you’re not the best candidate–it’s another thing entirely to find out that your foreclosure three years ago kept you from getting the job.

A Few Other Alarming Stats

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, here are a few other statistics that were shared at the Health and Benefits Leadership Conference last year:

  • .At all income levels, without continuing income, 50% of all households could survive only 131 days solely because of liquidating assets, including 401K balances.
  • On average, 30% of GenX retirees will run short of income.
  • Average 401K account balance is just $72,000.
  • For everyone under the age of 49 today, 18 years from now, your social security benefits will be reduced by 20%.
  • We have a $4.1 trillion deficit in personal savings for retirement and long-term care.
  • Personal savings rate was 12% in 1975 and was 5% in 2013.

Repositioning Retirement Benefits

Several years ago I attended the SHRM Annual Conference in Orlando, and my favorite session turned out to be one on retirement planning and 401ks. In the video below from the event, you can learn about one simple, yet profound, piece of information I picked up from that session.

Read more in my article 401k plans are NOT for suckers.

The Business Impact

As I said early on, this widespread issue impacts productivity and engagement. Removing the stressors can help to improve productivity, but there’s an additional benefit.

People naturally connect their circumstances with those who help them. If you make the effort to support the lives of your team members, they will mentally associate their improved situation with the efforts of the employer.

I have listened to stories from people whose employers offered help and supported them through tough financial times. The gratitude those employees feel after the fact is powerful stuff, and they can’t speak enough positive things about the companies they work for. Most of us would like for our staff to speak that highly of us as employers—the question is whether or not we’re willing to hold up our end of the deal.

You might have heard the phrase, “A man with a toothache cannot fall in love.” It’s a similar concept. When there is something especially painful or worrisome in your life, you just can’t devote your attention to other areas until that pain point is removed. Help your team remove that pain (financial or otherwise), and your organization will be better for it.

  • Does your organization have a financial wellness program? If so, what is involved?
  • What other stressors are found in the workplace that we could help employees with?

Among all of the opportunities that HR leaders have, I believe that one of the most valuable is puncturing the CEO bubble by acting in a strategic advisor capacity. As I wrote some time ago, 76% of CEOs value their relationship with HR. This is because we exist outside the normal flow of business to some extent. This role as a trusted advisor is one that can, and should, be highly strategic.

HR’s History

Does this list sound familiar?

  • No
  • We can’t do that
  • That would be risky
  • What if we get sued
  • We’ve never done it that way
  • I don’t think that will work

hr ceo advisor strategicThat is my perception of HR as it has historically been carried out. For a wide variety of reasons, the HR population has become the “no” police, preventing virtually any opportunity for creativity and innovation.

Instead of focusing on excuses or reasons you can’t make something happen, keep searching for ways to do it. Look for opportunities, not limitations. There are already enough people in the world who are ready and willing to tell you how something can’t be accomplished. Let’s work on cultivating more people that look for ways you can be successful.

We often see opportunities as binary, yes/no decisions. As an example: we can either change to a new insurance provider or we can stop providing insurance to our employees and let them all die of horrible diseases before the week is over with.

The point is the person offering these options knows that offering one really great option and one really poor option is going to force the manager to choose. However, the good manager will turn it back on the employee with a response of “none of the above.”

If you want to do it right, here’s the game plan: instead of settling for two less-than-ideal options, ask for more. Push the person to give you three, four, or five options; ask for at least one more viable idea to level the playing field. Ask why they settled on offering just two. Don’t let them get away with trying to push their own agenda if there is a better option still available.

Again, this illustration is centered around asking your staff to do more than the bare minimum. Don’t let them assume something can’t be done. Don’t let them get away with listing reasons/excuses for why something isn’t possible. Ask them to go further and look at “how we can” options, even if they are a bit far-fetched. You never know when one of those ideas could fit perfectly.

If you want to be seen as a trusted advisor, a connector, and a positive force for change, this is how you do it. You don’t accomplish that by saying “No” to everything that is proposed. There are good options that don’t involve the sudden demise of your entire company–you just need to tune your risk meter and get better at predicting the future.

Remember: look for answers to how we can, not why we can’t.

CEO Influence in Action

In one of my previous roles, I reported directly to the CEO of the organization. This was a two-way street in terms of value. I received up-to-date information on business pursuits and opportunities on the horizon, and I was able to offer insights, input, and advice around how to approach those areas.

There were times that my advice was received, processed, and not followed. That is painful for some to cope with, but it’s the nature of the game. That’s why the other person is the CEO–they get to call the shots.

However, there were plenty of times that the advice was heeded, and the business and people benefited from it. At least I knew I had an open ear and could get my side of the story heard.

Another company I worked in was not quite so… positive. The CEO was unplugged from the organization emotionally and mentally. The entire staff knew it, and it didn’t exactly lead to a culture that I would be proud of. I was a layer removed from the CEO but my boss was not of the strategic mindset. We were seen as a group of HR paper-pushers with a rubber stamp ready for any idea or innovation to arise so we could put a big, fat “NO” on it. The company was eventually acquired and the entire staff laid off, and all of the talent problems that the leadership had been ignoring became someone else’s problem.

Taking Advantage of the Situation

One of the hardest things about the close nature of this relationship is the eventual requirement to compete with your own interests. There are times that you will have to put forth ideas and concepts that are counter to your own needs. Being able to distance yourself as an objective party and provide inputs without becoming entangled in the emotional red tape is difficult, but necessary.

This is also where you can forge some of the strongest bonds with your company’s leadership. If everything is going fine, nobody is surprised when you have your stuff together. But when things are hard and times are lean or challenges arise, that is when you have the best opportunity to demonstrate your competency and level-headed approach. When everyone else is flailing about, you have to be the rock that others can cling to. Not physically–that would be weird. But you get the picture.

Litmus Test for Your CEO’s HR Outlook

I have a quick test you can use to determine your CEO’s outlook on the value of HR. Does he/she see you as an administrative burden or a necessary evil, or are you seen as a value-added strategic partner that is indispensable?

This isn’t foolproof, but I have seen it play out many times and it is fairly accurate. Do a quick calculation for me: look at your ratio of employees to HR pros. This tells you how valuable your leaders think HR is. Consider these two examples:

  • A friend recently contacted me and we were discussing her company’s HR structure. They budget for one HR pro per thousand employees. She spends all day doing paperwork and has not planned for future growth needs in more than two years.
  • Another friend caught me up on her company’s strategy in the midst of explosive growth. The company had a ratio of 1:40. The firm is doing better than ever and the HR team is continuously implementing new programs and targeting strategic opportunities for improving talent acquisition, leadership development, and more.

There isn’t a hard number, but hopefully these examples give you a better idea of where you stand. HR can be strategic or tactical, but strategy is where the true business value comes in.

While Very Personal, the Relationship is also Strategic

Some of the ways I have seen this HR advisory relationship/role play out beyond simple business transactions:

  • Informal coach: In terms of feedback, HR takes on the role of informal executive coach to the CEO. They will provide input on things that might not be at the forefront of the CEO’s thoughts and help them to get their message across in a way that is “comfortable” for the parties involved.
  • “Safe” performance improvement feedback: In cases where critical feedback might be necessary, the HR person might have to provide “safe” performance feedback to the executive. In this context, “safe” means direct, private, and confidential. The advice is provided directly to the CEO, it’s in a private location, and the feedback is confidential and will not be repeated.
  • Personal touch: The one that I’ve seen more of is what my friend likes to call “the office spouse.” I liken it to my relationship with my wife in that when we go somewhere, I look at her helplessly and say, “Who is that guy’s wife again?” and “What did you say happened to their son?” She has those minor details all memorized. Same relationship at work: the CEO expects the HR professional to have the staff information on a personal level close at hand, among other things. In addition, HR acts as a representative of the staff. The CEO can also ask (this ties back in with the two points above) how staff will receive/comprehend an announcement about upcoming changes, whether good or bad.

Not Just Problems: Offer Solutions, Too

“I don’t like going to HR meetings. They are always about problems, not solutions.”

I heard that comment at a SHRM conference once, and it’s stuck with me ever since. There is nothing quite like having to sit in front of your CEO and tell them about some problem that is coming at you like a freight train. There are two parts to doing this the right way that will help diminish the perception above.

#1-Offer solutions, too

It may sound simple, but when you come to the meeting with a problem, bring two or more solutions with you as well. Don’t feel helpless or powerless. You are the person with the most in-depth information about the issue so far, and it’s your responsibility to take that information and turn it into a potential resolution.

That saying we explored above? It’s a saying that I always repeat whenever I’m faced with a tough decision:

Tell me how we can, not why we can’t.

#2-Be proactive

So you’re sitting there thinking, “Huh, he must be talking to someone else. I don’t have any big problems that I have to share with our leadership at this point.”

No, I’m talking to you, too! You just have a different action. 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.

Then take the time to communicate what you’ve found in the way of solutions to current problems.

Pretty soon your managers will be saying, “I am looking forward to the next HR meeting to see what they have come up with this time.” Then ask for a raise. You deserve it. :-)

What are your thoughts on this relationship? Is it valued at your company? What has been your experience? 

One of the challenges for HR pros is not necessarily gathering data. We’re pretty good at that, since we have access to recruiting, benefits, and a host of other business practices. The hardest thing many people have trouble with is actually in the delivery. How can I share this data so others understand? What can I do to get people to pay attention to this critical business area? Why doesn’t this data get the same treatment as that coming from finance or marketing?

Today I’m going to share a short video with you that is going to change how you share data internally. It involves you crafting a story around the information to make it compelling. In the video I talk about a friend who, years ago, was writing some of the greatest content I had ever seen. I asked him why he was not using some of the concepts to make it more Google-friendly so that other people could find the content, and he protested that he was not simply “writing for Google’s sake.” I asked if he thought his content was helping people, and he agreed that it was. So I simply told him that if he wanted to reach more people and help more people, he could add in some small tweaks to his work to help the search engines pick up his content and deliver even more people to his site. Ultimately he would be helping many more individuals that way.

This is the same concept. If you can wrap your data and information in a story, you are going to reach and help more people. Enough talk, here’s the video.

If this was helpful for you, I have two other posts in my HR data series:

Do you tell stories when it comes to sharing data or interacting with others? Would you be interested in learning how to create stories that engage and educate others? 

Last week I had the chance to speak with a local HR leader. She was lamenting her company’s hideously awful HR module that was an add-on to the company accounting software. The firm paid plenty of money for the module, but it is ineffective, inefficient, and virtually useless. It looks like it was coded/developed in 1993, if that tells you anything. There are no reporting, searching, or other core capabilities that would make the system a valuable tool to help improve the HR team’s service delivery. So I told her to stick with Excel for a while longer until they can convince the CEO that they need real technology. A while back I wrote about a very similar topic: how consumer demands for technology are shaping what we and our employees want in our workplace technology.

Consumer Trends and HR Technology

When we asked global participants in our recent Employment Value Proposition survey whether their HR technology makes life easier by providing access to relevant information to help employees manage their career, the response was a dismal 13%. About one in 10 companies believes HR technology is truly making life easier for employees, and that is a problem, because employees have high expectations for the technology they use.

hcm technologyWhen it comes down to technology selection, there are a wide variety of inputs that help to drive the decision. Some of them are very specific, revolving around cultural or business-oriented requirements. Others are larger in scope, affecting virtually every company that is evaluating technology. The two global trends that are having the greatest impact on technology selection today are consumer-driven demands and personalized recommendations.

Consumer-Driven Technology Demands

The release of the first iPhone in 2007 was a leap forward in delivering a delightful user experience. Since then we’ve seen an increased number of companies focusing on usability as a key driver of selection decisions. The apps, video content, and social capabilities of the smartphone era have enabled users to be more productive. These tools enable users to achieve more in less time, helping them to fully realize the value of technology like never before.

And now those expectations extend to workplace technology as well. Your employees are accustomed to personal computing experiences that are intuitive, engaging, and user-friendly. They now expect their work environment to provide technology of the same quality and fidelity, whether mobile or desktop.

Personalized Recommendations

Users have become ac­customed to visiting Amazon and other online retailers for their shopping needs, and one thing these stores do very well is offering personalized recommendations based on browsing history, previous purchases, and other online activity. Bought a purse? They will offer you a similar one, or a complemen­tary item. Purchased a food item? The site can help give you recommendations based on what other similar us­ers liked.

This concept applies to talent technology in the form of guided experiences. Employees appreciate hav­ing a personalized experience with technology without it feeling too scripted or forced. The benefit here for business leaders is less time spent walking users through the software or tailoring it to each individual’s needs. It’s a win-win for both parties and helps to keep users engaged.

The Technology Outlook

When we look at satisfaction ratings for technology, whether learning, talent, or HR, we see a definite trend. Companies are not particularly happy with their existing technology. Just 19% of organizations say they are very satisfied with the quality of their overall technology environment, according to the 2015 Brandon Hall Group EVP study.

It’s time to look at your technology options not just as a means to an end, but as a method for engaging your workforce through multiple touchpoints on a regular basis. From the applicant tracking system, onboarding tools, and performance management platform to something as mundane as an address change, you have the opportunity to create a great experience for your employees with your technology.

Consider your existing HCM technology. Would you say it provides an engaging experience for employees? Why or why not?

Technology is everywhere in the workplace today, but one of the biggest problems for many companies is integrating the various systems they have. If you have a favorite performance management system and want that to feed into your company’s learning management system so you aren’t duplicating entries and potentially messing up data, good luck. That’s a big reason why so many organizations go with suite providers (companies that offer multiple modules–performance, compensation, learning, talent acquisition, etc.) I had the thought recently just how absurd this would be in the real world, and that was the foundation for this post.

hr technology integrationA human example of technology incompatibility

There are ten people sitting in a room working furiously. Nobody speaks to each other.

When a business problem arises, each person has a different solution, because each only has a piece of the overall story.

Oh, and each person has a different method/preference for interacting.

  • Bob only accepts conversations in batches between 2:00 and 3:00am on weekends so as not to interrupt other activities.
  • Anything you say to Mary will immediately overwrite what others have said to her on the same topic.
  • Charles only speaks a rare language that requires a $150/hr interpreter to translate.
  • 30% of what you tell Floyd is immediately forgotten and requires you to re-tell him again.
  • When you ask Carrie to look something up it takes her half an hour and what she finds is completely irrelevant.
  • Nobody ever interacts with Jamie and nobody is sure why he is there, but then again nobody has ever dared to ask.

There are consultants for hire whose sole job is to attempt to help each system to talk with one another. It takes forever and costs a lot of money, and even when it works you’re mostly disappointed.

————–

See how crazy this analogy is? We wouldn’t let this happen with people in the workplace, but with technology this is unfortunately an all-too-common story. We have all of these amazing technologies that help us to do things in more efficient ways than ever before, but the whole integration thing is holding us back.

I’d love to hear from some of you that have different technologies in the workplace that need to “talk” with each other. How were you able to solve the problem? Or do you just work around the issue instead of addressing it, because it is easier in the short term?

*Updated with additional info from several anonymous sources

I’m going to preface today’s discussion a bit. I have been a SHRM volunteer leader since 2009. I’ve been a long-time supporter of SHRM. I also have been a supporter of HRCI since 2009 when I became certified. I’ve watched the battle rage between these two organizations over the past two years and have refrained from commenting publicly. This is my opinion (as usual) and doesn’t mean I have stopped supporting either of these valuable organizations. My goal is to make HR better, and I think that each of these groups is trying to do the same in their own respective ways. 

Many of you may know me as the person who talks about HR certification more than anyone else on the Internet. Why do I do it? Because I believe in the value. No, not the value in the certification, but in the value of the commitment to long-term improvement.

SHRM vs HRCI Certification

PHR SPHR SHRM-SCP SHRM-CPI just answered a few questions last week and I wanted to cover the topic here because it’s a theme that I am seeing more and more often.

I am considering certification because I think I would like to move somewhat more toward the HR field.

I am wondering which certification is best (PHR or SHRM) and whether you think it would be beneficial to me in my quest toward a more focused HR career.

Also, this one:

I will be taking the SPHR in June 2016 : please answer my below questions

1. What all material I need to buy
2. i am confused – how could we use SHRM Study Material for SPHR certification – aren’t these two different institutions

For those of you who have been under a rock, SHRM stopped supporting the HRCI credentials (SPHR and PHR) back in 2014. Here’s what I wrote on the topic back then:

HRCI is not planning to discontinue providing PHR, SPHR, and GPHR exams to allow HR professionals to be certified. With SHRM moving away from those exams, it remains to be seen what the overall impact will be on the marketability over time for those of us with one of the “traditional” HR certifications.

My predictions offline at the time were fairly simple. I believed that HRCI was going to win in the short term and SHRM would win in the long term for a few reasons.

  • HRCI has an existing list of more than 100,000 certified HR pros it can market to and try to keep them recertifying.
  • SHRM is trying to turn a cruise ship, and that doesn’t happen overnight. I am still hearing, two years later, SHRM representatives talking about their certification’s value in an attempt to drive interest.
  • My key prediction at the time: SHRM’s influence at the chapter level would eventually turn the tide due to recertification credits and its stranglehold on the requirements for chapter leaders (requiring SHRM-CP/SCP training, for instance).

For those of you that didn’t know, SHRM pays its chapters for any SHRM members and SHRM-CP/SCP certified individuals. Those dollars, more than any marketing that HRCI can put out, will turn the tide in SHRM’s favor over time.

The Ongoing Battle

I think HRCI needs a bigger list to market to and must stop attacking SHRM at every opportunity. They also need to get their recertification people working harder/faster/smarter because from the feedback I’m hearing at different chapters around the country, SHRM is doing a better job at this.

HRCI has recently piloted its aPHR, which is for early career pros as a way to get more of them into the fold (building that list, as I mentioned). This is a close approximation to SHRM’s Assurance of Learning Certificate which has been around for quite a while and is close to being a standard for colleges across the US.

What I think is very strange is that in the past, HRCI didn’t officially “endorse” SHRM as its only learning/prep tool for the exam, but they did a good job of highlighting it on their website. People often thought that SHRM’s Learning System was the official study tool for the PHR and SPHR exams, which is false. Now that the marriage between the two is broken up, HRCI has promoted other study tools, which means my friends at HRCP have been as busy as can be in the fallout (good for them).

It feels like a race to the middle with each of them trying to outdo the other and the rest of us being caught in the middle, unsure of which direction to take. Don’t believe me? I’ve received a version of that question that started this post more than 30 times in the past year. Experience has shown me that if I receive a question a handful of times, there are more than 100 people interested in the same topic. This means there are thousands wondering the same thing.

What Does This Mean for HR Pros?

Last year SHRM used its “pathway” to allow those of us with current certifications to simply click a few buttons and get our SHRM certification. That was partly so SHRM could have some numbers to help it market its certification as the next big thing to HR pros and companies (update: SHRM announced early in December that it had 65,000 pathway participants, with more still completing the process in the final weeks). In a few years those of us with a SHRM cert will have to decide how we will continue. At the same time, we will have to do the same with our HRCI certifications and make the call if we continue or let it lapse.

For those of you making the decision to get certified, consider what I’ve written here. For what it’s worth, here is what I’ve been telling people for the past year:

For now I would continue to pursue the PHR/SPHR. It is recognized as a standard and could even net you more money. SHRM’s certification doesn’t yet hold enough value in the workplace for companies and HR pros to put much stock in it. That may very well change but for now it is unproven and untested. I’ve passed both the PHR and SPHR and the knowledge gained helped me to be better at what I do. I took the SHRM pathway in half an hour and got my SHRM-SCP with about as much effort as you’d put forth pulling the prize from the cereal box.

I received an anonymous comment from someone that is intimately familiar with the HR certification industry and the person had this to say:

One thing you might want to keep in mind regarding these two certifications, is that HRCI certifications are accredited and SHRM’s are not. From what I understand, SHRM is trying to get theirs accredited, but because they also develop the prep materials for the exams, they may not qualify.

Just another piece of the puzzle to consider.

A Few SHRM Positives

One of my friends is a SHRM volunteer leader and explained a few key points to me:

  • The accreditation process isn’t an overnight thing. It can take several years to get the initial stamp of approval. That’s good to know.
  • In addition, he took the SHRM exam since he is an instructor and has to teach classes on exam content. He said that it was much more reflective of the HR role of today than what he recalled the HRCI exam being several years back.
  • He also said that his state, and many others, will continue to offer SHRM and HRCI credits simultaneously for programs. This is good news for those of us holding dual certifications.

I’d love to hear from some of you about how you see this shift affecting you and the rest of the HR community.