One of the topics that sometimes keeps me awake at night is knowledge. The sheer amount of knowledge in the minds of our staff members is staggering. In the past few years we’ve had a few highly competent people attempt to retire, and we’ve had a great strategy in place to reduce the impact.
How can you reduce “brain drain?”
Here’s a great piece of information that was passed on to me by John Dooney, a ninja research guru over at SHRM:
From the recent Sloan Award Survey conducted by Families and Work Institute: When the organizations were asked the number of employees at their work site that were allowed to phase into retirement by working reducing their hours over a period of time prior to retirement, the answers were as follows:
Just a few: 6%
How we do it
I have a great recent example. We have a staff member who has been working for our customer in some capacity for 20 years. He planned to resign outright, and we asked if he would be interested in working a 20 hour flexible schedule to continue the customer relationship. He was pleasantly surprised at the availability of the option and instantly accepted. He’s still working happily for us, we’re trying to staff up in the event he would like to leave permanently, and our customer is appreciative of the opportunity to transition to a new familiar face.
So why don’t more employers do some version of this?
I think it’s pretty simple.
I think more companies could start by offering the “stay” opportunity to those leaving for voluntary reasons. We do this as a regular practice. It’s not rocket science–you just ask. The worst they can say is “no” and walk out the door. The best option is for them to continue working for some period of time on a reduced schedule. They are invaluable and it makes for an easier transition for them and for the company.
The biggest benefit for us as the person transitions to a part time schedule is us finding out where knowledge gaps are and using them while they are on staff to help close those gaps.
What type of flexibility, if any, does your organization provide?
Prioritizing tasks at work is something that I constantly struggle with, especially when everything is a fire that needs putting out. These days I’m spending about 55 hours a week recruiting like crazy, and when you’re a one-man HR team, there are some things that just have to be left undone. The hard part?
Deciding what things can wait.
It’s a task that requires skill, experience, and input from others. This week I have struggled with prioritizing tasks at work. I’ve worked to get my tasks separated into the three “D’s” so I can make sense of everything.
Prepare for prioritizing tasks at work
Grab a blank sheet of paper and draw two lines so you end up with three columns. At the top of the first write “Delay,” on the second write “Delegate,” and on the third write “Do.”
If you have forgotten how to use a pen and paper, you’re welcome to use a spreadsheet or word doc. Whatever works best for you. Once you have the foundation, let’s jump into what each is for.
Three keys to prioritizing tasks at work
Delay-Sometimes we just have to decide not to do anything for now. I am bad about thinking I can get it all done, and it’s hard to be honest with yourself and just say, “X is the priority. Y will not get done until tomorrow/next week/whenever.” Pick the things that are important but not urgent. We need these things to get done, but it won’t happen today. Some examples for me are cleaning out the inbox, filing, and auditing.
Delegate-Some things can be delegated. If they are important enough that you can’t delay them, but you still don’t have the bandwidth to make them happen, then consider delegating. Target the person who has the skills and time to make it happen, tell them your expectations for a finished product, and let them work. This is not the time to micromanage the process (if you’re going to do that, why delegate in the first place?). Some examples for me include generating press releases, filing, and invoice reconciliation.
Do-After streamlining the list somewhat, you should be left with the critical, must-do items. I have to stress the fact that this can’t be a list with 20 items on it. If so, there was no point to the first steps in this exercise. This needs to be the top 2-3 big tasks that you must do today. You can redo your list tomorrow if need be, and by then maybe some of the priorities will have shifted so you have a clearer overall picture. Then, when you have the key tasks ready, you do what you have been putting off: get to work!
One more tip
I think it’s very important when prioritizing tasks at work to send that list to your manager or post it somewhere that they have access to it. Your manager has a job, too. They can’t keep up with your laundry list of to-do items as well. This can be a great tool for showing them what your focus is, what you’ve decided to hold off on, etc.
It’s not perfect, but when you are short on time and have a long to-do list, this is one method I’ve found to help reduce stress, get a grip on the tasks at hand, and get everyone on the same page.
What do you do when there is more work than time in the day? How do you stay motivated when your list of tasks never seems to get shorter?
Additional resources for prioritizing tasks at work
Today I want to talk about HR competition. And cooperation. It’s something that I stop to consider every so often, and I am curious if I’m the only one who really thinks about it. Here’s my thought process in a nutshell:
We as HR professionals are very collaborative. We’re cooperative. But we’re also competitive. Whether we want to admit it or not, the companies we work for are often competing for the same customers and the same dollars. In the short video below I look at the collaboration vs competition mindset we hold as HR professionals.
While I think there’s plenty of competition to go around, I also know that there’s a collaborative aspect that we all can leverage as well. This comment by Brad Lomenick says it very well.
Question: How do you become Collaborative without Competitive?
Answer: Collaboration has to flow from a place of generosity, truly believing that a higher tide lifts all boats. Be more concerned with others. Listen instead of talk. Be interested over interesting. To be collaborative we must understand that it’s not about me. It’s not about your organization, your non profit, or your project. It’s about connecting people, not competing. Collaborators are okay sharing their wisdom, their knowledge, their connections, and their networks, because collaboration means working together alongside others. Co-laboring. Building bridges instead of constructing walls… When you have an abundance mindset you are more likely to collaborate instead of compete. Avoid the scarcity mentality – the idea that there is only so much to go around.
I know some amazing HR pros who embody the cooperative spirit. Who do you know that fits that mold? Do you have a more collaborative or competitive mindset? Why?
Someone recently reached out to me about young professional events for SHRM chapters. A few years back I was tagged to be the Chair for the SHRM HR Young Professional Advisory Council, and I had a great time working with the rest of the YP team trying to find out ways to help chapters engage their young professional members.
By the way, if you are looking for ideas to improve your chapter (whether it’s SHRM, ASTD, etc.), here’s a great resource I pulled together a while back: Rock Your Chapter.
Here are six ideas I’ve picked up that chapter leaders can use to improve their offerings for young professionals.
Ideas for young professional events
First, know what your goal is with these young professional events. Do you want to increase membership for the young professionals? Do you want to increase engagement for existing YPs? Do you want something else? Be clear on that before you start.
Look for non-confrontational events/spaces to start with. Remember, these guys, for the most part, are not veterans with 10 years of experience. They’re brand new HR professionals, and the more laid-back you can make it, the better. Maybe that’s my introverted side speaking up, but it can’t hurt to be very flexible and informal, at least to get started.
Target the members of your local chapter with young professionals working for them. A large number of companies have young professionals in their ranks. You should encourage their managers and leaders to allow the YPs to visit your young professional events in order to make them a more valuable employees.
Offer programming for young professionals. In the research I have conducted over the past few years, it turns out that this group of HR pros wants pretty much the same types of content as someone who has been in the field for 10 years. They just need the basic foundation in each area first to feel competent enough to starting building a career on that knowledge.
Using social media isn’t a necessity, but it won’t hurt, either. I’d recommend a LinkedIn group or a Facebook group. Make it private where members can ask questions in a “safe” zone without fear of looking silly or risking any credibility. If you can get some interaction on these platforms, it can go a long way toward building a sense of community for all participants.
Take a look at the young professional guide. It’s free, and it shows how you can focus on the three key areas that young HR professionals want to know about (based on some research I conducted several years ago). In case you are wondering, those three areas include:
If there’s one thing that HR lacks in many organizations, it’s credibility. Who really listens to what you have to say? Do your managers, leadership team, and line staff have faith in your abilities to help lead the business, or do they see you as just another roadblock to getting work done every day?
Here’s the kicker–those of us in the HR space talk often about how to “get a seat at the table” or “develop a strategic HR planning process.” It’s because we want to know that we have meaning and value for our organizations.
But it’s rare to think about that in the context of employees. Yeah, you might be “strategic” and “aligned” with your organization, but how much faith does the average employee have in you? How do they perceive you?
If prompted, what value would the average employee say that you bring to the organization?
With that in mind, let’s check out this fantastic list of ideas from my new pal Stephen Tovey. It’s basically a how-to manual for demonstrating your value to all staff.
If we’re implementing strategies and practices to help our Companies achieve their goals, shouldn’t we make sure that the people that are going to be needed to to do things to achieve those goals know why? Shouldn’t they understand what is being asked of them? Shouldn’t they have an input? Engagement needs these things to happen, and where is the credibility of a people-strategy if the people being asked to “do” don’t respect or understand those doing the asking?
Create and maintain credibility:
Focus on all people, not just managers and the ones we think will help our career
Work to break down “us and them” and blame barriers
Support, develop, coach, mentor (do everything you can!) to up-skill managers to manage people
Communicate and promote what HR is doing and why. Be honest. Encourage input and opinion.
By being fair and consistent when dealing with all people
By challenging managers to be better, fairer managers, not accepting the status quo and not just going along with things
Be visible, be available, be empathetic
Make sure the workforce planning, strategic and “behind-the-scenes bits” are meaningful, relevant and appropriate
Listen to what people are saying to you. Feed it upwards. Make sure, if you’re not making the decisions yourself, that you influence those that are, or at least give them all the information.
There is a disparity between what we as HR professionals, whatever our level, do and how we see ourselves and what a lot of employees think we do and how they think we behave. Source
Let’s hear it for him. It’s something that desperately needed to be said. I love the points he makes, and his final sentence is the best closer I could have hoped for.
How we see ourselves and how our employees see us are two very different things. Learn what the gap is and work to eliminate it, if possible.
How do you maintain credibility for your HR function not only with your leadership, but with your line staff as well?
When we talk about metrics, analytics, and business intelligence, we forget that measuring human resources isn’t the goal.
It’s an objective. Yes, we need to do it, but it isn’t the end of the process. At the end, after we’ve spent all the time and effort measuring human resources as best we can, all we have is data.
And it’s what you do with that data that matters.
Measuring human resources with lean analytics
This is a massive post on analytics. Not specifically written for HR, but wildly valuable. Here’s a snippet to get you started:
This should not be news to you. To win in business you need to follow this process: Metrics > Hypothesis > Experiment > Act. Online, offline or nonline.
Yet this structure rarely exists in companies.
We are far too enamored with data collection and reporting the standard metrics we love because others love them because someone else said they were nice so many years ago.
And so starts a long, detailed journey into using analytics for business.
For the visual learners
This handy dandy chart is there for those of us who learn by seeing. It’s a great representation of the flow for actually using metrics versus simply collecting them. If you want to simplify that further and look at four key steps in the process, here they are:
Figure out what to improve (What’s the problem?)
Form a hypothesis (I think xyz will solve the problem.)
Create an experiment (Let’s test xyz.)
Measure and decide what to do
Each of those steps is important, but the one I see most often lacking is number 4. In the big scheme of things it’s relatively easy to guess a problem (#1), guess a solution (#2) and test out an idea on a pilot group of employees/managers (#3). It’s the moment when you are actually measuring human resources and making decisions based on those measurements that I see the problems come in. People lose focus. They don’t know what to do. They might not really want to know the answer to the problem at hand.
It could be a dozen different things, but I would encourage you that step 4 is where you see the best HR pros stand out. They are the ones that embody the true purpose of human resources.
For those measuring human resources
As I read through the amazing article I linked above, I kept wondering about HR topics, and I realized I already have a go-to resource for those questions.
If you are looking for ideas of what to measure, how to use it, etc. in an HR context, please check out everything that Cathy Missildine-Martin has ever written. She does great work and is highly competent in this area.
I Have a Strategy, No You Don’t by Howell J Malham, Jr.
Recently I received this book to review. Honestly I picked it because of the title–it sounded unique and I was interested in checking it out. Once I got into the book (it’s a quick read), I was sucked into the funny dialogue and unique illustrations of what a strategy looks like.
The book was written because the author realized that we as a society have begun to “strategy” every little thing around us. Everyone has a strategy for everything.
And most of the time, it’s not actually a strategy at all!
With that in mind, check out the video book review below. I enjoyed the book, and if you’re in a role where you are trying to define what a strategy is (or help others with that task) I think you would enjoy it. The book has occasional illustrations, witty dialogue, and a great message to help us all remember what a strategy really is, and more importantly, what it is not.