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Unconventional HR Advice: Love Your People

love your employeesLast week I was listening to a business owner talk about how he leads his company. He talked through several areas he thought were pertinent, but one statement he made really stuck out.

You have to love your people.
-Zack Penney

As I think back over my time as an HR professional, the times that I felt like I was making the most difference in the lives of my staff was when I held a very similar mindset. We have to care for these people, because if you don’t someone else will. It’s no different than marriage, kids, friends, etc. We all want someone to value and care about us. If we don’t get it from our immediate surroundings then we tend to look elsewhere for it.

Not only that, but when it’s time to make decisions that affect the people that work with you, it’s going to help you to frame those decisions. I know that just because you care that can’t drive everything you do, but doing something negative with care, respect, and concern for the person on the other end of the transaction will soften the experience and make it easier to digest.

And if you’re reading this and thinking, “There’s no way I could really care for these people I’m working with,” then it might be time to find somewhere else where that is a possibility.

As you go through your day today, ask yourself:

  • Do I really care for these people?
  • Do they know it?
  • If I have to deliver bad news, how does that care and concern factor into the discussion/decision?

What say you? Is this a worthwhile aspiration or a silly waste of time? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

The Real Reason People Hate HR

First, read this from the Ask a Manager blog:

HR won’t let us hold people accountable for performance

I just read your column about accountability and got aggravated because one of my long-standing frustrations as a manager at the large, government affiliated nonprofit where I work has been a lack of commitment to accountability. In my department, I try and, I think, mostly succeed at following your advice about talking explicitly about expectations, giving feedback, etc. – but then I come up against a lack of ability to ensure that actions have consequences – good or bad – at the institutional level.

For example, every employee is evaluated using the same performance appraisal template, which asks questions like whether the person is “courteous,” then spits out a score. If you have a score of at least 60 out of 100, you keep truckin’ along. The problem is that everyone on my staff is responsible for making 25 teapots a year. If someone shows up sober most of the time and doesn’t swear at anyone, but they only make 21 teapots, my hands are tied. On the other end of the spectrum, everyone gets the same salary increase, so those people making 42 teapots don’t see any tangible reward for going above and beyond.

So I was excited when we got new leadership this year that requested a plan for providing rewards and consequences for meeting or failing to meet the 25 teapot goal. I’m happy with the plan I developed and it was endorsed by our leadership. Then it went to HR and fell into a black hole. For months, I have been following up and told they were reviewing the plan and would get back to me. Finally, I ambushed the person I’ve been trying to talk to and she told me that the problem they’re hung up on is the consequences for failing to reach goals. Essentially, if someone fails to meet the 25 teapot goal (and this is after I have met with everyone regularly throughout the year about their progress and provided them with as much guidance and support as I’m able), I want to give them six months to improve their performance or be let go. HR asserts that the proposal “changes the terms of employment.” I don’ t understand this because the job is “teapot maker” and the job description explicitly states they’re responsible for making 25 teapots a year.

Instead of just tearing my hair out, though, I want to try to move this thing forward. I see a glimmer of opportunity because the HR director hasn’t outright told me it’s impossible. I’d rather the next step not be whining to the boss – in part because HR doesn’t seem very impressed that our top leadership wants this to happen. How do I proceed?

And now for the (quite appropriate) response:

Alison@Ask a Manager: Your HR department sucks, and your organization’s management sucks for allowing HR to suck (although it sounds like that might be changing with your new leadership). And really — “changes the terms of employment”? Have these HR people ever held a job outside this organization and seen that, in fact, you can indeed hold people to performance standards?

I’d talk to your new leadership directly if you can — the ones who want this to change. Tell them you’re having trouble getting HR to move forward with it, say you feel hamstrung in taking action on low performers, and ask for advice in getting HR to move on it. [Source]

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Please don’t do this

HR has to stop doing, and allowing, things like this. It seems like it’s a weekly occurrence where someone writes to Alison (Alison Green is the superstar behind Ask a Manager) with a problem that is being caused by someone in human resources.

Look, I get it. HR is like any profession—we’re going to have people that just aren’t great at this stuff. But my sincere hope with this post is to help some of you guys see the AWFUL people practices that some organizations use and help you avoid them. For goodness sake, please steer clear of anything resembling this madness.

It’s no wonder that so many leaders, managers, and staff don’t respect HR when things like this are occurring.

Should HR Be Managing Contingent Workers?

managing contingent workersOne of the best conversations I had last week was about how technology is changing to allow internal HR/recruiting leaders to also take over the management of contingent workers: free agents, temps, etc. But, if you’ve spent some time in HR, you probably know that this is something that we just don’t do. But why?

Good question.

Sometimes the barrier to technological improvement isn’t technology-related at all.

That thought occurred to me during a discussion with the provider, PeopleFluent, that has built a robust recruiting solution that also allows management of contingent workers. In other words, if you’re trying to bring in free agents, contractors, or other non-traditional workers, you can do that within the recruiting tools instead of having an entirely separate process.

The provider has had adoption issues and doesn’t have a significant number of clients (at least in the US) that are seeking to implement this portion of the recruiting system. The problem, as many HR pros will tell you, is that we don’t always want to be in charge of the contingent workers. Here’s why…
Keep reading…

The Culture Engine (Book Review)

The Culture Engine by Chris Edmonds

culture engine book reviewOne of the topics I love to discuss is culture. I think it’s a powerful, yet underutilized, tool for driving business performance. I recently read The Culture Engine (on Amazon here) and wanted to share a few insights that particularly spoke to me.

Highlights

  • What is the cost of high performing, low fit employees? When you think about your workforce, you know that some people can really get the job done, but they might not fit with the core values of your organization. In other words, they can do the “what,” but they miss the mark on the “how.” Figuring out how to actually put a cost on retaining those folks is the first step in getting rid of them. Companies are reluctant to drop high performing staff, but if they are damaging the culture, driving higher team turnover, or having other negative results, it’s important to define and measure those sorts of impacts against the “positive” inputs.
  • Stop the “don’t” messages. Instead of solely talking about what NOT to do, give your staff values and targets to aspire to. This is something I’ve said for years, but this is great validation for that concept. If you only talk about the bottom, minimally acceptable standards, how do you expect to help staff reach higher goals?
  • Define your values in behavioral terms. Yeah, you have values like “integrity” and “customers first” on your list of values, but what do they really mean? Take the time to list examples (real ones are better!) and the actual behaviors that you want to see. As with the previous bullet point, the more you can define what you DO want to see, the more likely you’ll actually see it.

Conclusion

If you also are interested in culture, values, and how those can drive actual business results, then I think this is a book you’ll enjoy. You can get your copy here.  If you’re not quite convinced that culture is a tool that organizations can use to increase revenues and become more competitive, then this might also be a good opportunity for you to learn about how some companies are doing just that with measurable results. It’s a great book!

Restaurant Career Paths: The Journey Upward

This post brought to you by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The content and opinions expressed below are that of upstartHR.

One of the areas we have focused on in previous weeks is how careers in the restaurant industry are more substantial than what they might appear on the surface. Today we’re going to look at career tracks specifically.

Here are a few of the key statistics from the infographic below.

  • Your first job in the restaurant industry is only the beginning. The industry offers mobility, as more than 9 out of 10 restaurant employees 35 or older have advanced to a higher-paying job in the industry. 71% of those between 18 and 24 have also advanced to higher paying positions in the restaurant industry.
  • Restaurant owners and operators climb the ladder to success as well. 55% of owners and operators worked in the industry as wait staff, 59% as a chef or cook and 84% as a restaurant manager.
  • Most staff in the industry also see it as an industry of opportunity. A majority of waitstaff, bartenders, bus persons, chefs/cooks, shift/crew supervisors, managers and operations employees believe the restaurant industry offers opportunity for advancement.

Of all of these, my favorite is the second. Owners are typically seen as the top of the “food chain” (awful pun, but it’s true!) for the industry. But more often than not those owners are not strangers to the restaurant world–they are former employees!

That’s a powerful message for those working in the field, because it not only helps the owners to understand the roles of employees better, but it also gives employees a vision for what the future could look like for them if they aspire to achieve the same level of success.

In the infographic titled This Way to the American Dream below, you can see some of the ways the career path discucssion has played out for employees in the industry. What’s the most striking statistic you see?

Infographic-3_zpse900b110

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#HRevolution and the HR Technology Space

This week I saw quite a few people at the HR Technology Conference. And by “quite a few” I really mean bajillions. This thing is huge.

So, naturally, I took a moment to think about how many of those great people I have met as a direct result not only of this blog, but also of the HRevolution event. That was pretty amazing to ponder. And to those of you who mentioned reading the blog, I thank you profusely for that support. I want to know that people are getting value from this platform!

Why I write

I don’t write and share here as a one-way channel to throw my thoughts at you. I often publish insights from others in the space, link out to things I think you should know about, and try to create conversations around critical topics for HR professionals. I’m more interested in that than sitting here and blabbing about how you should run your business/department/whatever.

You’ll notice that I almost always include questions that I fully expect you to answer (even if only to yourself), because that’s where the real value comes from. It’s not just reading one more blog post to check off the to-do for today, but it’s asking yourself questions such as “is this working?” or “how can I look at that problem differently?”

HRevolution’s purpose

The event that Trish and I created five years ago is a direct extension of those same desires to connect people, drive conversations that aren’t happening elsewhere, and create some enthusiasm about what we do (this might not be fun every day, but overall it’s amazing to be a part of this profession!).

As I told a few people this week, we have a few tickets left. We have amazing sponsors (thank you, Mercer, Symbolist, and Small Improvements!) that are helping to make the event happen. If you’ve wondered about HRevolution in the past or if you have some of these same desires as a provider, practitioner, or leader, then this is your chance to take a stand.

Thanks for everything you do to support this endeavor to make HR better, one professional at a time. This is a community effort, and I couldn’t do it without you.

—Ben

Do This Before You Consider An HR Technology Solution

One of the recurring conversations I had during the first day of the HR Technology Conference revolved around using HR technology tools to solve business problems. The issue with that, says Michael Rochelle, Chief Strategy Officer at Brandon Hall Group, is this:

HR is a buffet of broken processes.

Applying technology to a misaligned strategy, poor tool selection, or inefficient process isn’t going to magically solve anyone’s problems—in fact, it’s just as likely to make it worse.

When we recently did research on talent management systems, more 27% of companies were actively considering switching to a new system or provider. Consider for a moment how many of those companies might actually have the right solution, but they don’t have the right processes in place to support it. Or the opposite could very well be true: the company doesn’t have the right processes or technology in place and needs to make a change to one or both.

How do you make sure that you’re in alignment?

Click here to read the rest of the article on the Brandon Hall Group Blog

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