My good friend Alison Green over at Ask a Manager passed me this question she received because it’s HR-centric. I think many of you will get value from what could have been just another private email conversation, so I’m sharing the question and response here. If anyone else has comments PLEASE add them below, because we’re all better when we help each other, right?
Dear Alison,
I’m currently in my final year of high school and strongly considering pursuing an HR designation in post-secondary. Reading through your blog, I am very often reminded that HR exists primarily for the company (preventing lawsuits, attracting and retaining talent, etc.) and issues that employees have are resolved with the company’s best interests in mind. As such, I can understand why HR can sometimes gain a reputation for being useless (even if I do find it somewhat discouraging).
That being said, I would like to ask you for your input on what an effective HR manager should be like in terms of going above and beyond to support employees when the job description may not ask for it.
I’m thinking especially on how you would advise someone on the HR side to handle a situation where, for example, a department manager is out of control (but not doing anything illegal) and because of nepotism, is safe from consequences or intervention? If HR’s hands are tied, how could HR still go on to assist the employee even though the root cause isn’t solved?
How can HR still be supportive to employees in situations where the company calls for neutrality (or even to side with the company when it is ethically at fault)? And vice-versa?
I think overall I am just experiencing a sense of helplessness when I read stories with negative experiences with HR. On one hand, I can understand that there may be certain legal and logical restrictions to what an HR rep can do that sometimes the employee can’t see. On the other hand, I don’t want to be someone who just throws her hands up and says, “There is nothing I can do for you.” and adheres to the bare minimum requirements.
Is this something that will get better once I have more experience? Am I just being too emotional or naive about my job expectations? If so, any input on helping me recalibrate?
-J

Thank you for being very clear about your questions and concerns, J.

HR does exist to protect the company, and this is still prevalent thinking in many organizations. However, it’s also true that many forward-thinking firms are offloading these compliance-related functions to legal and are focusing more on how to improve employee performance, create better working environments, drive worker engagement, etc.

5 characteristics of a great HR manager Continue reading

Note: If you’re looking for a good app to access We’re Only Human and other podcasts, I personally use Stitcher on my Android device. 

Did you know that your employees aren’t innovative or creative enough?

That’s the latest from a research study performed by University of Phoenix on workplace innovation. In an interesting mix of data, the organization asked employees to identify whether their employers were innovative or not, and hiring managers were asked to identify the level of innovation exhibited by employees. The results were intriguing, and I covered some of the key topics of the research in a recent podcast interview with Ruth Veloria, Executive Dean of the School of Business at University of Phoenix.  Continue reading

According to Deloitte, more than 80% of learning is informal in nature, yet many companies are still unsure how to harness this critical mass of activities to improve performance, minimize risk and deliver organizational value.

Consider this: if you have a toddler, that child can probably pick up your phone, unlock it and open their favorite app. But it’s likely that you haven’t formally created content or delivered a course to the child on how to accomplish this task. It is one of the many learned behaviors that are picked up informally. While simplistic, this example highlights the fact that not much has changed about how people learn new concepts. The difference is that we now have technologies in place to help track, curate and analyze the impact of those learning activities.

Value and Risk: It’s All About Perspective

Discussions around informal learning typically branch off in a few directions. The conversation either turns to the incredible risk associated with “handing over the keys” to the employees to curate and manage their own content or focuses on the supposed anarchy that will reign if learning resources aren’t governed by a single, cohesive L&D team. But there’s another story–one that tempers some of the fear by pointing out the value and opportunities presented by adopting a more informal approach to learning.

Click here to continue reading and to register if you’d like to catch the webinar!

What does engagement mean to you and your company?

That’s a question I’m trying to answer with a new research study. I’m partnering with my friend Jason Lauritsen to examine the ins and outs of engagement in a very hands-on manner. Instead of just looking at the theory, we’re digging into the specific practices that YOU think drive the highest engagement in your workplace.

The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete, and I’ll be randomly selecting two participants to receive Amazon Gift cards from the people who take the survey through this URL in the next 72 hours. You must enter your email address at the end of the survey in order to be eligible to win. Ready, set, go!

Click here to begin the survey.

In case you’re curious, yes, I’ll be writing on these results in the coming weeks to help you understand how and why they matter. I’m also presenting at a few conferences in the next few months and will be weaving the results into those events as well. Your responses do matter!

Employee referrals are not a new topic in the HR and recruiting space. But the truth is that many companies phone it in when it comes to referrals, often leaving them with lackluster results. It takes a little time, effort, and intention to get a referral program into good shape, and the benefits are far-reaching.

Hiring A Players with Referrals

Data from one study shows that referrals are the best source for finding quality hires. Another expert says that referrals should be one of the top metrics that talent acquisition leaders focus on. And our own data at Lighthouse Research says that more than 80% of companies believe that referrals are important for measuring sourcing performance. Yet more than four out of ten employers are measuring nothing or only anecdotal information when it comes to referrals as a source of hire.

Referrals as a Talent Channel

You don’t create a great place to work. You defend it. -CEO of a firm with multiple “Best Places to Work” credits

Let’s face it. Many employees have not had the opportunity to work at a company with a great culture. But when they find one they inevitably become protective of the culture. This is a great tool for ensuring a strong referral program without having to constantly weed out poor performers and poor fits. It’s been said that A players hire A players, but B players hire C players, and companies of all sizes, industries, and geographies are trying to find those critical A players to remain competitive.

The right referral program needs to not only prioritize referrals as a source of hire, but it also needs strong technological underpinnings to help manage the volume and variety of referrals. Systems like MintMesh and others provide that functionality and help companies to get a grasp on what is typically operated as a “shoot from the hip” type of program. From an analytics perspective, being able to track quality of hire, time to fill, and other metrics and tie them back to the referral source is an incredibly valuable practice. Gathering the right data to support your referral practices is going to generate higher quality hires, ensuring those A players end up at your organization, not at the competition.

Using Referrals to Improve Diversity

Diversity has become an HR buzzword, thrown around in meetings and leveraged for positive PR, but what does diversity really mean?

Legally, diversity refers to the age, socioeconomic background, gender, race and ethnicity differences in your workforce. However, the concept of a diverse workforce encompasses more than that, capturing more nuanced elements such as religious and political views, social status, personality, communication styles, and cultural values.

Diversity sourcing, by extension, is a dedicated effort to attract, engage, and hire a diverse slate of candidates. An interesting twist on the diversity sourcing discussion is in referral practices. Anecdotally, it’s often believed that referral hiring will diminish diversity, encouraging people to refer their friends and colleagues that are just like them. In reality, diversity sourcing can be vastly improved with solid, intentional referral practices.

While virtually all companies say they encourage diversity, and the evidence for diversity as a business performance enhancement is clear, the question remains – how can we source and recruit a diverse workforce? There are three keys to success:

  1. Building a Diversity-Driven Culture-Having the best diversity programs possible won’t matter if your culture doesn’t support it. Diversity begins and ends with your company culture. It should be part of who you are as a company.
  2. Expanding Your Diversity Definition: In a conversation last month with the head of human resources for a U.S.-based construction firm, the leader said that the biggest challenge was filling a key technical role with diverse candidates, because the company had come to see the value in not just diversity of gender or skin color, but in diversity of thought. Candidates that entered the role from diverse backgrounds performed better, connected more thoroughly with their customers and peers, and lasted longer than more traditional candidates.
  3. Employee Referrals: Current employees are living, breathing advertisers for your company. Their testimonies about your organization provide an authentic initiative for potential hires. Missing out on their referrals could be the difference in being a market leader or a laggard. And as mentioned above, this allows your company to target more diverse hires in a way that traditional job postings and advertising just can’t.

Referral Benefits for SMBs

While referrals can help any company, I see the benefits to small and mid-sized businesses as being some of the most valuable.

Referrals are the most powerful tool in recruiting. A provocative statement, sure, but also proven to be true. Recruitment is the lifeline of all organizations and referral programs can deliver top talent to your door at a fraction of the cost of traditional recruiting. According to Dr. John Sullivan, if 50% of your company’s hires aren’t coming from referrals, then you need to get proactive with your referral program.

This is even more true for small and mid-size businesses. With tight recruiting budgets, limited organizational agility, and a need for highly engaged workers from day one, the SMB market can benefit from referrals by reducing costs, lowering time to fill, and ensuring long-term retention and engagement.

Cost

Costs for traditional recruiting sources far exceed those of referrals.Traditional recruiting can cost anywhere from $4,000 to well over $18,000 per hire, but recruiting with a referral program costs closer to $1,000.

Even offering financial incentives to employees for referrals is still a small price to pay for creating an army of talent scouts. Offering a $1000 bonus would still keep the referral hire cost far below that of other methods.

Other cost savings associated with hiring referrals include lower spending on advertising, job boards, and agency fees. Meritage Talent Solutions founder Kara Yarnot found that the typical agency charges a fee of 20 percent of a hire’s first-year salary, equaling $20,000 for a single $100,000 hire. If we’re comparing that to the referral program cost per hire data above, your organization could have hired 20 people for the same cost of one hire through an agency.

Referrals save costs and benefit the bottom line.

Speed

In today’s fast paced workplace, speed is crucial. Referrals can significantly increase hiring speed over traditional recruiting methods. Referrals are the fastest method to hire with an average of 29 days for referrals. Compare that with 39 days for job boards, and 45 days for career sites, on average.

This is due in part to the fact that you have a broader network when you’re prioritizing referrals. Your employees know the company better than anyone and with the rise of social media, employees have networks of contacts at their fingertips ready to tell their peers and friends about openings at your organization.

To get a sense of the size of this potential network, consider this: Pew Research estimates the average person has more than 600 social connections. If your business has just 100 employees, that’s a potential 60,000 people that can learn about your openings with a good referral program.

Not only do referrals start faster–they also onboard faster. A key part of onboarding, beyond understanding the workplace policies and requirements, is assimilating into the social fabric of the organization. By having a social connection already in the firm, the referral can onboard faster. This equates to higher productivity and performance from day one, which is critical for SMBs that don’t have extensive resources to train and develop competencies in new hires.

Referrals are faster to hire, start working quicker and out perform non-referrals.

Retention and Engagement

One third of new hires quit their job after about six months and 32 percent of employers say they expect employees to be job hoppers. This demonstrates the “revolving door” attitude employees have towards companies, but referral programs can increase job loyalty.

Referral programs are proven to decrease turnover and increase retention. 46% of referral hires are retained after one year as opposed to 33% for non-referrals. With referrals producing 25% more profit than their peers, this is doubly valuable for employers.

As mentioned in a recent blog, great companies are made up of great people, and referrals are the best source for bringing those great people to your front door.

[Email subscribers click through to listen to the episode]

Sourcing isn’t a new activity in the talent acquisition world. There have always been hard to fill jobs, but we’re seeing more of this kind of issue than ever before. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder study puts the cost of open positions at nearly $800,000 annually, tallying up costs that ultimately hurt business performance. Organizational leaders say these are the top problems caused by jobs they can’t fill:

  • Productivity loss: 45 percent
  • Higher employee turnover: 40 percent
  • Lower morale: 39 percent
  • Lower quality work: 37 percent
  • Inability to grow business: 29 percent
  • Revenue loss: 26 percent

In addition, our Lighthouse Research study of talent acquisition priorities pegs sourcing as a top area that business leaders plan to focus on in the coming year (just 1% behind onboarding, which was the highest priority).

In this episode of We’re Only Human, host Ben Eubanks is joined by the amazing Madeline Laurano, co-founder of Aptitude Research and co-host of Research on the Rocks, another HR Happy Hour network show. She and Ben discuss some of the key aspects of sourcing, such as employment branding, recruitment marketing, and technology’s role in the process. Madeline shares some great insights in this episode, and she stumps me at the end with a question that shouldn’t have been that hard to answer!

In addition, they examine the impact of AI, machines, and algorithms on the sourcing world, breaking down some of the hype and illuminating an amazing competition that pits recruiters against robots to see who is the best at sourcing great candidates. Not to spoil the surprise, but the real story here exemplifies that to get the best results, we need humans and machines working together. Get all this and more in the latest episode of We’re Only Human on the HR Happy Hour podcast network.

*Please note, if you like the show topic and want more in-depth discussion of sourcing and recruiting in a future episode, please feel free to comment below or email me!

Check out our other episodes in the We’re Only Human podcast archive.

global employment lawsDid you know, in some countries it is illegal to email employees after normal work hours? This is just one example of the interesting global employment laws that can catch an unsuspecting employer at an inopportune time. For instance, several years ago I was sending some workers to Saudi Arabia, and we found out at the last minute that we had to abide by the “Saudization” requirement, which forced us to hire local workers to support the contract, even if they were not qualified to do the work on the project. It pays to understand the requirements of the country you are working in.

My company Lighthouse Research has partnered with Papaya Global for our 2017 Global HR Practices study, and we asked companies about their level of risk and confidence in their existing resources. One of the preliminary findings of our study highlighted that 70% of companies are at-risk due to limited understanding of local compliance requirements. Additionally, nearly three-fourths of companies manage the complexities of their global workforce in-house, creating a vulnerability to potential problems if they are unaware of local customs, requirements, and regulations.

Did You Know? Global Employment Law Differences

It has been said that companies based in the United States have it “easy.” In terms of labor laws, there are relatively few that govern how businesses operate. Take the common “employment at will” doctrine for example. In essence, companies can terminate workers at any time and for any reason as long as it’s not explicitly based on a discriminatory reason. In other countries, work contracts, workers’ councils, unique benefits requirements, and strict termination rules that define the employment relationship are common.

  • Other countries however, commonly rely on actual employment contracts to hire workers. Because workers are tied to contracts, terminations often become complicated. For instance, in Dutch employment law, the statutory period of notice for an employee is one calendar month.
  • During one research interview, an international human resource management leader at a German company took some time to explain her challenges with the local workers’ councils. In her story, the company was trying to gather data through an employee survey, but the workers’ council would not allow the HR team to share the information with the consulting partner to analyze and interpret the data, creating a stalemate.
  • Other challenging areas include benefits and leave. For instance, employers must pay Chinese workers 300% of the value of any unused vacation days at the end of the year
  • Brazil requires employers to offer employees thirty calendar days of paid leave after twelve months of service.

It’s clear that without some awareness of the requirements for global employment, companies can often make costly missteps, but there are ways to minimize the risk associated with global employment. Want to learn more? Check out the rest of the blog at Papaya Global to learn how to get educated before it’s too late.