This HR Carnival is focused on those getting into HR. The HR Carnival is a great opportunity to harness the brains of multiple people for a common purpose. This one is no different. For this edition, I asked each person to contribute an article that touches on some of the key skills, insights, and abilities for the new HR pro.
I realize that many of us are beyond those initial shaky steps in the profession, but I also think we need to do what we can to reach back and help the next generation of HR professionals however we can. With that in mind, let’s jump into the day’s content.
Six of HR’s best blogs sound off
- The team from changeboard blog threw out the top 10 career tips from HRDs around the world. Let’s tap into the brilliance offered here, shall we?
- Melissa at HR reMix brings us the best advice for a new HR pro. (Hint: it’s never really about HR!)
- Shauna the incorrigible HR Minion tells us you can never be too much of anything. Absolutely love this and couldn’t agree more.
- Mark at Inflexion Advisors offers up the power of 7 simple questions.
- Naomi Bloom shares with us the model of a modern HR leader. Do you fit the mold?
- Amit from Young HR Manager asks the eternal question: can HR have friends at work? Wow. This one really hit me hard. I have plenty of friends at work of varying degrees, but I always have the vague thought in the back of my mind that I might have to be the one to end that on the company’s behalf one day.
As for myself, I’d love to kick in the Ultimate Guide to Entry Level HR Jobs. Lots of good info there and hopefully it continues to help the next generation entering the HR/recruiting workforce by answering questions, providing helpful guidance, and eliminating the ambiguity surrounding the profession.
What about you? Any additional words of wisdom to share?
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that HRevolution 2013 is coming. The agenda is out. We have some great things planned. But some of you still don’t understand what the whole thing is about.
I’ll admit–it’s slightly unnerving. We promote this thing as a participatory event. It’s not just another opportunity to sit at the back of a room, hear a speaker blab for an hour, and collect your HRCI recertification credits.
We want people to talk, share, converse, and interact with the rest of the participants. If you’ve attended previously, I want to challenge you to bring someone with you. We’ll call it the HRev Buddy System. It’s your job to help them understand the format, content, and event at a high level.
For those of you who haven’t been, this is your chance to jump in. If this recent post spoke to you at all, then HRevolution is an event that you would enjoy. It isn’t the everyday HR seminar. It’s so much more. We’d love to welcome you to the family, even if we don’t always agree on everything (hint: if we both agree on everything, then one of us is redundant!).
Plus you get fun sessions like HR Improv, point/counterpoint with people who aren’t afraid to share their ideas, and more.
Vegas housing is crazy. Many of us share rooms (though certainly not necessary), so if that’s a sticking point, let me know and we can discuss options. We don’t want little things like room or travel costs to get in the way of “in the trenches” HR pros attending this unique event.
Me: So I have this great position that you are perfect for. The pay is solid, benefits are outstanding, and we think you’re the right guy for the job.
Anonymous candidate: Sounds great! Where is the job located? I’d definitely be interested.
Me: It’s actually in [remote location near a small Army base].
Candidate: Oh, well, I don’t know that I want to move out that far. There’s really nothing to do out there, and it doesn’t appeal to me.
Me: Oh, okay. Well, you know how to reach me if you change your mind. [hangs up wondering when this train of rejections is going to end]
In case you can’t tell from the above exchange, I thought today would be an opportune time to look at rural recruiting. It’s something I’ve had a bit of experience with (and will have more of in the near future), and it’s an area of recruiting that can be incredibly frustrating.
I spoke with a SHRM chapter earlier this year in a rural area, and the local companies basically share the same talent pool. Bob the employee might work for Company A for a few years, move to Company B for the variety, and end up at Company A again after that. With a small pool of candidates, filling each job is a monumental task.
Here’s a short list of common problems with rural recruiting, just to get you thinking:
- Limited size of talent pool
- Stronger than normal “that’s how we’ve always done it” syndrome
- Difficult to sell for relocating new staff
- More often blue collar-type work
- More employee relations issues due to the fact that employees know it’s hard to replace them
What’s the answer to the rural recruiting challenge?
Here are a handful of actions to consider. Not all will work, but as difficult as it is there is no reason not to try some or all of them! And please, by all means, add some of your own suggestions and comments below.
- Work with your staff to recruit/refer good candidates. If you don’t have an employee referral program, start one.
- Seek out candidates who are more interested in small town life vs. that of a big city. Plenty of us prefer that, but you need to ensure you’re targeting that by asking good interview questions.
- Develop retention tools that encourage your workforce to remain with your company, whether it’s professional development opportunities, family outreach, etc.
- If your organization is large enough with multiple locations, develop a good job rotation program where key players get to experience all areas and locations of the business, thus providing a built in pipeline of future talent.
- Take number 3 above even further by connecting with a local daycare to subsidize employee childcare costs, offering sabbaticals or other unusual benefits, or helping employees to reach lifelong goals. I once worked with a company with a lady who wanted to ride a hot air balloon before she died. After a particularly good year, the company rented a hot air balloon and operator and let the woman have a paid day off to enjoy the experience. The more care you put into these custom benefits/perks, the more successful they will be!
- This one is long term. Seriously. But if future growth and success is the plan, then it makes sense to explore this option fully. Work to team with the local chamber of commerce or business-centric organization. Find out what your small town lacks (according to the candidates who reject the job due to the location) and see if you can fix those. Here’s a great local example. Huntsville is not a huge city by any means, but we have people wanting to relocate here from other places. Companies kept hearing that we didn’t have a good enough downtown area for family, recreation, etc., so now the local Chamber has started helping to develop the area to suit those needs. It’s already impacted the area, and there’s no telling how many people will now consider the city based on its new facets.
In many instances, I hear a variation of this from my recruiting brethren facing these challenges:
Forget social recruiting or talent communities. I just want someone to come to work sober.
I’d love to hear from someone with rural recruiting experience. What has worked for you when recruiting in rural areas? What are your tips?
I know, many of you are thinking, “Happy workers? I just want them to come to work and be productive!” Don’t worry, I think today’s discussion will be helpful for you as well.
I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to determine how to make our people happier. Sometimes that comes in the form of removing obstacles, but it can also come in the form of ensuring that they know what they’re getting. Equity theory is a tool that plays into that. For instance, helping to educate employees on how your benefits or work environment transcend the market average can help them to feel better/happier, despite there being no real change made. A large part of this is simply how well you communicate things.
To keep the conversation targeted today, we’re going to look exclusively at the benefits realm. Even if that’s not your idea of fun, stick with me and we’ll see if we can learn something new.
What the data says
I received a news piece recently that focused on several topics surrounding employee satisfaction and happy workers, but one in particular caught my eye.
1 in 3 (31%) employees report that they do not believe their benefits are better than those offered at competitor companies
And as far as which benefits are most important to the employees surveyed, here’s the list:
- 76% – medical plan/coverage
- 72% – holidays/vacation/sick time
- 62% – 401K/retirement/pension
- 60% – dental plan/coverage
- 27% – employee development/training
- 26% – wellness programs e.g., health screening programs, exercise/physical fitness programs, or health insurance education
- 26% – employee discounts e.g., commuter subsidies, gym membership discount, discounts on company products/services
- 23% – tuition reimbursement
- 21% – office perks e.g., free food and drink, casual dress, or a pet friendly office
In case you didn’t realize it already, your employer thinks it’s your job to 1) help people understand their benefits and 2) provide benefits that your employees care about. If you don’t know what your people want, definitely take some time to learn more about that.
That 31% of people who think benefits are better at other companies? That’s your target audience for these kinds of communications. How you communicate your response is key, because you want to avoid being condescending, but you also want to give solid information that allows them to judge the situation with all the facts at hand.
This year I have a goal (not just a “that would be nice if…” but an actual performance-related metric!) relating to employee benefits. It’s my objective to do a better job of communicating our offerings, sharing some of the market averages, and educating our employees on how to make use of what we do provide.
- Lifetime financial planning articles and lunch-and-learns
- What disability coverage is, how it’s used, and how it impacts their family
- What are the key impacts of the PPACA for individuals and how to prepare
- How and why to use the employee assistance program
These are a few ideas, but you can see how they’re oriented: education. The better I can teach our people, the better equipped they will be to make sound decisions regarding the benefits we offer. It’s not cash wrapped in bacon, but it will do in a pinch.
Have you ever stopped to find out how your people feel about the benefits they receive? Do you offer any different/unusual benefits to your employees that might differentiate you from other employers?
I recently had a conversation with a friend about some of our employees. The employees are high school students working as summer interns, and the things they do are pretty wacky by our standards.
- One spends all her lunch-with-the-boss-as-a-new-hire time texting on her phone. No eye contact.
- One wears shorts so short you don’t even know if there’s anything under the blouse.
- One keeps posting Facebook photos and messages about how great it is to work there, even though they are doing no work due to the Facebook use.
One key thing I had to do quickly was establish something: this isn’t a generational issue. It’s an age/maturity issue. These “kids” have never been taught or told what is acceptable, for the most part, so they are relying on what they know.
I’ll be speaking at HRevolution and possibly some other events this fall, and at least two of them will be focused on how to get past the generation/age thing and look at what really matters in the workplace. I’m looking forward to bringing the conversation to where it needs to be instead of the “You know those crazy Gen Y kids and their lousy work ethic” conversation/commiseration that seems to be all too common.
Any other crazy stories about young/inexperienced employees you’d like to share? Come on, it’s Friday! :-)
Recently I heard a story on the How to Do Everything podcast that I thoroughly enjoyed. The hosts of the show have a funny award they present occasionally to businesses and people for having unique or interesting restrooms. On this particular episode, they interviewed a convenience store manager about his restrooms. The unique quality?
The restrooms were cleaned numerous times a day enthusiastically and completely. It might sound like such a simple thing, but if you’ve ever experienced a restroom in need of some cleanliness, you know how special this small touch can make customers feel.
The thing that struck me was the intense pride in the voice of the manager. He was excited about providing a healthy and hospitable location to his customers, whether it be friendly service at the counter or a fanatically clean restroom.
Making the transition
That leads me to the topic for today. In the past few years that I’ve worked at my current employer, I have made numerous attempts to qualify and quantify a characteristic that influences the workplace: pride.
The majority of our staff are incredibly proud to work at Pinnacle, but I can’t figure out the exact root cause.
- Maybe it’s because of the leadership team.
- Maybe it’s because we’re serving the military through our products/services.
- Maybe it’s because we’re performing solid, ethical work.
Whatever the case, it’s evident that they are incredibly proud to say they work here. That comes in handy numerous ways. I tell every new hire that we are too small to have a public relations/marketing team, so each person has to be trusted to represent us well in whatever they pursue at work or at home. When I meet an employee’s spouse or family for the first time, one of the first reactions is how much they appreciate the work environment, because that contributes to our employees being happier at home.
This video I shot several years ago captures this conversation well. It focuses on how each person should look to tie their daily work into the ultimate goals of the organization and how that can impact the business in a far greater way than if each person is unable to understand the bigger picture.
What about you?
Let’s look at two key questions to wrap up for today.
- Are your people proud of what they do and where they work?
- Do each and every one of your people understand where they tie into the business’ overall goals and direction?
If you can’t answer “yes” to both of those, then it sounds like you have some homework to do. :-)
Some of these people have never had a good experience with an HR person. They are wary and a little cynical of the whole idea. A few of them have been burned and won’t be quick to trust someone.
I’ve had a variation of that conversation with three people in the past week. I don’t know why it’s suddenly become a hot topic, but I definitely understand where the sentiment comes from. For many people the whole idea of HR is a “no” function.
No, you can’t do this. No, you can’t do that. No, that would make us liable. No, we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. No, let’s try to avoid that conflict. No, let’s just put in a policy.
Really? Who goes into a career looking forward to being a master of disappointment and let-downs?
When I’m not reading fiction and other fun stuff, I like picking up books focused on service. Customer service, stewardship, etc.
Speaking of which, the book Stewardship is phenomenal. Some of the things I’m talking about today are discussed there in more detail, so feel free to check that out if you’re looking for some ideas on how to serve others well.
If I had to boil what I do down to two words, those would be partnership and service. Probably not what most would expect, but they are mine nonetheless. What I do for my staff is partner with them in any way possible—career planning, compensation review, handling benefits for their family, etc. And the back end of that is serving them as well as I am able. This isn’t about me—it’s a reminder for everyone of what this position has the potential to be.
If you are spending your time saying “no” to everything that is asked and looking for ways to reduce freedom within the organization (how many of us would put it in those terms?), then it’s time to shape up. Make a change. Look for ways to partner with your people as a trusted, valuable resource. Find out how you can best serve each person to enable them to do their jobs better.
Beware the but
One final comment for today. Some of us are quick to say, “I do serve my employees well, but… [blah blah blah].” Beware the “but.” If you believe strongly enough in something, there are no exceptions, special rules, or alternatives.
It will be different, strange, and possibly even painful the first few times you remove the “but” from your vocabulary and move forward with your plan. But in the end, it will be worth it in the respect you earn.