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Employee Retention Tied to Career Development (#SHRMTalent)

I’m at the SHRM Talent Management Conference in Nashville this week. This morning I attended a session on improving employee retention by Linda Ginac at TalentGuard. Here are some thoughts on that topic…

Turnover is real

With average employee turnover by generation standing at 2 years (Millenials), 5 years (Gen X), and 7 years (Boomers), turnover is a real issue for organizations everywhere. According to a recent study, the average turnover in the US is 15% with just over 10% of that being voluntary/preventable.

So, what are you going to do about it?

[Related: Check out this employee retention video]

Each employee is more than their job title


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Forget HR Strategy: Get in the Trenches

This isn’t a call to completely forego the HR strategy that undergirds your long term success. However, it is a reminder that some of the things you’ll have to do to ultimately be successful include more than just making plans, developing schedules, and keeping to those guidelines. Sometimes you might actually have to jump in and help. Step away from the flowchart, roll up your sleeves, and get into the thick of things.

A vivid example

In college, I had an HR professor who spent years in the medical industry working as an HR manager. He had great stories, but one he told has stuck with me over the years. One day there was an accident and several people were brought into the hospital at once, overwhelming the staff. He happened to be walking by and saw the chaos, then he realized there was a puddle of blood in the floor from one of the injured patients.
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2014 SHRM Talent Management Conference

Next week I’ll be attending the SHRM Talent Management Conference in Nashville. It’s an event focusing on recruiting and talent, and I’m excited about attending and sharing some of the sessions I’ll be viewing.

If you’re going to be there and want to connect, hit me up via email and we can try to make it work.

As a preview, here are the sessions I’m planning to check out during the event.

Big Data: Your Best Bet In The War For Talent

Why: As our organization has grown it has become harder to source from some of the same pools that we’ve used repeatedly over the years. I’m hoping to learn more about using data to help find the next person I hire.

Quality of Attrition: Management’s Favorite Human Capital Metric

Why: We have a long-standing discussion at work about the difference between retention and turnover. For our purposes, retention is preventable, turnover is not. I’m hoping to learn more about attrition, what the market averages are, and how we can leverage that for better organizational metrics.

Beyond Performance Reviews: Influencing Performance Improvement

Why: Thanks to my buddy Chris Ponder, I’ve been getting more interested in the field of performance improvement lately. I’d like to look at ways we can take our paper (shudder) performance reviews to another level with more impact to the business.

Effectively Managing a Remote Workforce

Why: We have more people outside our local office and we’re adding new work sites regularly. It becomes difficult to make sure everyone feels included and engaged when they are not physically in the same workplace. I’m looking for ideas on how managers can lead those people as well as how to make sure we’re taking care of the remote staff adequately.

Strategic Talent Acquisition: The “Talent Advisor” Approach

Basically, how valuable would your leadership say your recruiting function is? Do they think it enhances the overall business by finding the right people at the right time? I think we do this pretty well, but I am always looking for ways to improve our service delivery on the recruiting side.

Well? Anything in there look interesting to you? What would you like me to share about?

HR Lands at #71 of the 100 Best Jobs

Recently the list of the 100 best jobs was published for this year, and HR was again on the list. This time it ranked number 71 out of 100. It’s always fun to look at these lists to see how they compare, because we all want to think we’re working in a field that others see as important and valuable. It’s difficult to do that in HR, because many people have never run across someone working in human resources that truly cared about their wellbeing and success.

human resources 71 top 100 jobsSo, what were some of the 70 jobs that beat it out?

Jobs that are (supposedly) better than HR

Accountant. (Even during tax time, this somehow managed to beat HR?)

Meeting planner. (I thought planning events was an HR function…)

Compliance officer. (Ditto-doesn’t HR do compliance? Also, how in the world is compliance better than human resources?!?)

Bill collector. (Wow. Calling people to harass them about money they owe is better? Really? Now we’re just getting ridiculous.)

How to get an HR job

From the article:

If Segal was hiring a new specialist, she says she would consider “someone who is smart, understands that HR is part of the management function, has business savvy and a keen analytical mind.” Like other areas of business, HR focuses on innovation and return on investment, she says. “HR needs creative, innovative thinkers to take us past the traditional paper processing and compliance focus to show our value and ROI in the global economy in new ways,” she says. In addition to having fresh ideas, Segal says you must demonstrate good writing skills, be able to work with financial data and have a solid understanding of your industry. “Being in HR in a startup tech company is not the same as being in HR in a bank or a manufacturing company or in the entertainment industry,” she says. “While there is some obvious overlap, if you want to be truly effective, be seen as more than a paper pusher and have a seat at the table, you need to show that you understand the business you’re in and how HR can support the bottom line.”

I agree with some of this for sure, but it’s also funny to see that some of these comments still don’t align with how a large portion of the HR population works and thinks even today. Many of those in this profession don’t put any stock in reviewing/analyzing financial data or even having a firm understanding of their industry. They are content to make policies, fight to keep fun out of the workplace, and collect a paycheck until they retire. It’s why blogs like this one have become so popular–because people like you realize that there is more to this profession than what we were told when we started. There’s certainly more to life (and HR) than what meets the eye.

More on breaking into HR, for those who are interested. Also, if you want to check it out, the US News article is here.

What are your thoughts? Is this job better or worse than the ranking they assigned? Why?

Preventing Conflict in the Workplace

If asked, many HR professionals would say that preventing conflict in the workplace is one of their key job duties. However, I’d like to step back from that well-known requirement and re-examine the need for civility at all costs. Let’s kick off with a quote:

It means caring a lot about not offending someone. Let’s be clear, to be civil is good. Civil behavior is a useful part of a healthy team. However, it can’t be the defining characteristic of the team. Great performance means tough conversations, which is why candor should always trump civility. Candor refers to interactions defined by honest, frank and, forthright exchanges. No sugar-coating, just professional and somewhat blunt conversation. Credit: Lynda.com

Recently I was evaluating some training for some of our supervisors, and I ran across this comment. I think within the realm of human resources management, this type of thinking is more critical than almost any other area of the business. Think about it: we’re supposed to facilitate civility in the workplace. We’re supposed to help eliminate friction, prevent hurt feelings, and ensure a sense of “peace in the family.”

Preventing conflict in the workplace? That’s our job

In fact, if you’re an in-the-trenches HR kind of person, you probably thought of an ongoing situation where you’re trying to facilitate civility as you read that last paragraph. It’s just what we do, right?

But maybe we shouldn’t?

Recently I wrote about the relationship between the Chief Executive Officer of an organization and the key HR leader. The thing that CEOs want most out of HR? Candor.

[Related: Here's what 76% of CEOs appreciate about HR]

Not only do CEOs want to share candidly with HR without fear of the information being used against them; they also want HR to speak candidly with them about problems and opportunities. The relationship is too critical to allow it to be hampered by the desire to pursue civility at all costs.

The next time you’re looking at a situation that requires you to choose between being open and honest (and possibly causing conflict at work) or trying to smooth things over to prevent any negative response, make sure you are not diminishing the message so much that it loses all value.

Group Feedback is Ineffective and Insulting

This just in: group feedback isn’t the best tool in your performance management toolbox…

I was running through some old emails the other day and found an example I had to share. Several years ago I was working as a high school wrestling referee. It was definitely a tough job, but I learned some good stuff from the experiences (not getting overwhelmed when someone’s screaming in your face is an amazing skill).

One of the quirks of the job was that you’d get an anonymous/random evaluation on your performance once or twice a year. I never once received any specific, personal feedback on how I was doing other than informally from my peers. However, occasionally, the reviewer would send out group feedback notes like the ones below…

Overall the officiating has been good. Your hustle and positioning has been generally good. There are some opportunities for improvement. Stalling is still a problem. We need to get more aggressive in calling stalling to eliminate that from the sport. With tournaments coming up at several places, remember that it is your responsibility to ensure the restricted areas of the mat are clearly marked. Also remember that only two people are allowed in the corner and they are supposed to be seated in the chairs. Over the next three weeks, I will be looking closely at how you have responded to my comments from previous evaluation and in determining who should be recommended for the post season. We have several candidates in you Association. This is your time to convince me that you are the one who deserves to be selected.

Let’s imagine for a moment that this was a performance evaluation provided to you and your team on your collective performance. How motivated and engaged would you feel if someone sent you this group feedback in an email along with twenty of your coworkers?

Yeah, I had that same reaction.

I just wanted to share as a little reminder that despite all we know about leadership and effective talent management, there are still managers that need help doing the job of managing people. Wow.

Government Contracting HR: Retaining Cleared Employees

For those of you who don’t work in the government contracting HR world, “cleared” employees are those who the government has granted a clearance to work with sensitive materials. This clearance is very important, and to get one the employee (and employer) have to agree to some specific requirements. Today I’d like to talk generally about a topic that I had experience with previously to give those outside this industry a view of how things are different. If there is sufficient interest I can talk more about some of the other specific requirements of working in HR for a government contractor in future content. You guys let me know…

Reporting employees to the government

One of the primary responsibilities on both the employee and the employer is this: if the person has anything in their life that might affect their judgement or capabilities, the government needs to know about it, because it could affect their clearance. The employee is supposed to supply the information to the employer, but there are times when the employer becomes aware of something that was not brought to their attention (that sometimes is worse, because the requirement for the employee to notify immediately is pretty serious).

Once the information is known, the initial facts are provided to the government representative and a chain of events is set in motion. Sometimes nothing happens, but sometimes it can cause the person to lose their clearance. And in a job where having a clearance is a requirement to do the essential functions, that means they are out of a job.

I illustrate this so we all understand how serious it is, as well as to explain why an employee might cover up this information initially to protect themselves and their family.

The number one rule in HR

If you think about everything you do, one of the most important rules that you have to live by is confidentiality. You have to keep things quiet, secure, locked away, etc. Yes, we need to share when the situation dictates it, but more often than not the conversations we have on a daily (hourly?) basis with our staff are locked away in our heads for nobody else to see or know.

Government contracting HR: The intersection

If an employee comes to you with a story about their spouse being laid off, what do you say? Suppose the employee returns a month later and tells you that they are being foreclosed on due to the job layoff. How do you respond?

This is tactical, hands-on HR. The “good” HR person is going to sit down with them, offer any advice/support they can, and generally be a comforting presence in this troubled time in the employee’s life. Maybe you have something positive to share. Maybe you offer them some flexible time in order to take care of things at home. Whatever the case, you acknowledge their dilemma and offer what support you can.

If you’re in the government contracting HR field, the next step is taking that conversation straight to your security professional and having them report that information to the government. And honestly? It stinks. Because if the government believes that this person is no longer trustworthy due to the personal/financial problems they are facing, they can pull the job out from under them in a moment’s notice.

For me, that was one of the hardest lessons to learn stepping into the government contracting HR world. This stuff has some unique twists and turns that make it harder than usual to handle those personal and emotional issues that come up in the average day to day life of all of us.

If I have to provide a lesson in all of this, it’s just a reminder that ensuring our employees are well in every sense of the word: emotionally, financially, physically, etc. should be a priority for us. Getting the best from our people doesn’t happen by accident; we have to work at it.

Have you ever worked in government contractor HR? Would you even be interested after hearing this example?

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