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Eleven Signs You Need to Get Out of HR

With over 800 posts in the archives, I know some of you have missed some good stuff over the years. I’m going to test out publishing some of these regularly to breathe some new life into the content and give you guys a chance to check them out. Enjoy!

We’ve all seen them. They drag their crusty, misshapen forms around, spreading despair and agony in their wake. No, I’m not talking about trolls, I’m talking about HR people! We’ve all worked with them before, but some might look at you and think that you fit the bill. Here are a handful of signs you might be turning into one of them!

  1. You secretly cheer when it’s time to put an employee on a performance improvement plan
  2. You have immense pride in the fact that your department has resisted that newfangled “Human Resources” title and still proclaims itself “Personnel”
  3. You love creating new policies
  4. When an interviewee asks you why you like working there, you give them a blank stare
  5. In order to save money on healthcare benefits you tell your employees to Google their symptoms
    Keep reading…

Big Data for Small Business

Last week a friend called me for some help. He’s working on some 401k reporting requirements, and the data the provider needs from him is fairly detailed. In prior years, we could have pulled some quick reports from the accounting system and gotten everything plugged in after some love sessions with a keyboard. However, the newly implemented accounting/recordkeeping system seems to think that actually running reports and gathering data insights is a “nice to have” versus a “must have.”

This got me thinking pretty hard about the importance of test driving new solutions before settling on a provider. If the selection team had been aware of the flaws in the system, including glaring ones where people can’t get data reporting that they really need, then they might have chosen another tool entirely.

As it turns out, there is limited reporting functionality, but it’s so incredibly complex that only one person is able to accomplish the task, and that’s only after an hour or more of trial and error. Yeah, not very efficient.

The economist says

If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know that I like the Freakonomics podcast. I’m an economics nut, and I always thought if/when I got my master’s degree that I might like to teach economics as an adjunct professor. Yeah, livin’ the dream! :-)

Anyway, in a recent show, the two economists were talking about making business better, big data, etc. One of them, Steve Levitt, consults with different organizations to solve business problems. He mentioned that until he actually got into the businesses, he never realized that the problem of big data, analytics, and actually getting actionable information out of existing data would be driven (or limited by) the IT infrastructure.

That comment, combined with the experiences above, are probably a reality for many of you out there. Thinking back, I used Excel as my HRIS for some organizations, because we were too small to need anything else. That didn’t really allow for analysis or anything fancy–it was just a recordkeeping system.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPayroll runs the show

Now there are providers out there that offer services to small companies to help them transition away from spreadsheets to a cloud-based system for HR needs, but many companies, especially smaller ones, wouldn’t want to have an HR system and a payroll system. That decision is usually driven by payroll, since that’s a critical business task. For many smaller organizations, keeping the HR records straight isn’t considered that critical. There are a few reasons for that:

  • HR is usually carried out by a non-HR person in really small organizations
  • Even when the company has an HR person as they grow, the compliance requirements still aren’t too difficult
  • Payroll is more important than virtually every other internal business activity (don’t believe it? Try not doing it once and see what happens…)

Big data, little data

A few years ago I worked for a company with about 600 employees, all located within 100 miles of the corporate headquarters. The company had a problem with turnover. Majorly. We weren’t food service or anything like that, and yet we had approximately 50% turnover year after year for as far back as I could find records. So I decided to try to get some insights into what was going on. I snagged the data from the past five years, dumped it into a spreadsheet, and started manipulating the information.

Within a few hours I had some great insights that pointed toward the problems, and I crafted a few potential solutions to help ease or even solve the problems we were facing.

When I presented my findings, I was told, “You didn’t have time to worry about things like that. Go process your 25 terminations and 15 new hires and leave this alone.”

In my example, we had the data and the potential solutions, but we lacked the one thing needed for action: leadership support.

Closing thoughts

I don’ t know that we broke any new ground here today, but I’ll leave you with a few takeaways from my perspective:

  1. If you’re looking at a system any time soon, run it through the paces that you’ll have to in your daily work. It’s important to know now the limits before you’re in the thick of things and trying to do something the system simply can’t.
  2. If you’re watching all this “big data” talk and thinking that it’s for larger organizations, it can certainly be implemented, even if on a smaller scale, at organizations with fewer people.
  3. Get the support of your leaders early. I think one of my mistakes was presenting the data without creating a need for solution first.

Republic Wireless: I’m a Convert

Today I’m doing the raving fan thing and bragging on my new cell provider. I love these guys and have been recommending them to people around me for weeks!

I just passed one month with Republic Wireless, and I’m definitely a convert. When I left Pinnacle to join the Brandon Hall Group recently I had to transition to a new phone. My wife was with Verizon and I was with T-Mobile for work, and I knew two things:

  1. T-Mobile coverage is awful where I live
  2. Verizon is entirely republic wireless logotoo expensive

So I started looking at other providers and found Republic Wireless.

The company offers an amazing price (my plan is $25/mo), unlimited talk/text/data, and the service is pretty darn good where I live/work. Win-win-win!

How it works

  • Republic uses the Sprint network to provide cell coverage, but you never actually interact with Sprint. It’s seamless.
  • The phones Republic offers are hybrid phones: they can use wifi for texts and calls. That allows them to keep costs down.
  • No contracts or bait and switch pricing. The phone is yours.
  • They have 4 simple to understand plans. No tricky options or other gimmicks.
  • You buy a phone. You pick a plan. You smile as you cut off your gigantic cell phone bill.

My favorite features

  • The Moto X is an excellent phone. Easily the best phone I’ve ever owned.
  • Change plans up to twice a month with no penalties. For instance, while at the SHRM conference in Orlando I was able to upgrade to the 4G plan to ensure I had the best/fastest service possible. Now that I’m home I changed it back to my regular 3G plan. I’ll be charged the 4G rate only for the days I had the service active.
  • Wifi calling! I work a few days a week from a small office near my home. Signal is spotty in the building, but I’ve held calls on wifi up to 30 minutes without issue.
  • My wife has the less expensive Moto G and likes it. She is more of a casual user, so we settled on that one and dropped her old $100 a month plan for the $25 Republic option.

As I said, I’m a convert and would encourage you to check them out if you are paying an arm and a leg for your cell service. Any questions? :-)

Using Culture to Drive Policy Decisions

Decision making isn’t always a process of identifying and communicating facts. There’s often an underlying foundation of history, preferences, and other elements that add a layer to the decision making process. Recently I talked about how even something as seemingly simple as a policy decision can be affected by the organization’s culture.

culture policy decisionThe corporate culture influences the determination from the initial consideration through to the final steps of implementation. Over at the Brandon Hall Group blog, we’ll look at some of those underlying factors and how you can leverage them to make policy decisions stick.

Check out Culture Drives Policy Implementation at Human Resources Today to learn more

HRCI Speaks Out, Certified Professionals Respond

With the back and forth in the HR certification world in the past few weeks, it’s been quite a strain on the certified HR professionals trying to determine what will happen to their hard-earned certifications in the coming months and years. Bottom line: we’re worried about what is going to happen to the credentials that we have built over the course of our HR careers.

Last night I attended the HRCI Connect event where the leadership of the HR Certification Institute stood up and shared their side of the story and their vision for the future. They also had an “open mic” portion to allow participants to ask questions about the path ahead. Below are some of my comments from the event.

What was the theme of the night?

What is HRCI’s angle on this whole SHRM/HRCI battle?

The biggest question on everyone’s lips

Are HRCI exams competency based?

What’s going to happen to my PHR/SPHR?

Will HRCI give credits for SHRM events?

I’ll be in touch with the HRCI folks going forward, so if there are any other questions I can help to answer, please let me know! I’m in this with you guys as well, so I definitely want to know the answers!

How to Get Employees to Believe in Your Mission #SHRM14

Yesterday I had the opportunity to check out a session by Chester Elton on Building a Culture of Belief to Drive Results. It’s a great topic, and it pulled from the concepts in All In, a book I reviewed a while back. Check out the short video below and some of the tweets from the session. Great stuff!

Increasing Benefit Value at No Cost (#SHRM14)

Before I jump in, I realize that there is some cost associated with everything. My love of economics doesn’t allow me to get away with the idea of a “free lunch” without mentioning that; however, I’m talking about increasing the perceived value without increasing the direct cost of the various options offered. Hang with me, there’s good stuff to share. 

My first SHRM 2014 session focused on benefit communication best practices and was presented by Mary Shafer at ADP. Here are nine tips, ideas, and concepts for improving your benefits communication.

  1. What’s the key to crafting a communication plan? Understand your objective and your audience and communicate with multiple media.
  2. If you want to increase the perceived value of an item (your benefits package), you need to help the customer (your employees) better understand the offerings and how they can help them to achieve their life goals.
  3. Think about targeted, timely messages. As an example, “Hey, it’s two months until the end of the plan year. You still have some of your FSA funds remaining. Here are a few ideas for how you could utilize those funds before they expire…”
  4. Talk in laymen’s terms, not HR-speak. Think about someone in your life that might have trouble understanding the message, and make sure you could explain it to them (a teen, parent, grandparent, etc.).
  5. Mix up the media you use–email and/or brochures are not the only options! Consider postcards, posters (bonus tip: include QR codes for smartphone scanning), mailings, video, podcasts, text, external websites, or even social media.
  6. Use employee stories (with permission) to make the options personal and help others relate. Maybe a new parent talking about how the maternity benefits helped them, an employee who utilized the short term disability coverage, or someone who transitioned to a high deductible plan and realized cost savings.
  7. This topic was recently covered in part in “Are your employees clueless about their benefits?”
  8. Be sure to measure, refine, and follow up. Results are the key here, not just activity.
  9. Pro tip: use short one minute videos to answer questions in an FAQ format and post them internally for employees to access. Not sure how to start? Imagine an employee calls you with a question about their benefits. Now, consider your response to that question. Take a few moments to write down some key thoughts, then shoot a video of your response (or just record the audio as a podcast, if you’re video shy!). That is all it takes! Do five to ten of those, then post them. As you get other frequent/recurring requests, create more of those short snippets to help answer questions.

So, what has worked for your organization? How do you communicate benefits to your staff? Are any of the suggestions above of particular interest to you? 

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