assess training needsIf you’ve been tasked with conducting a training and development program, it’s important to look at the issue from all angles. This involves taking a deeper look at the role that each individual plays in the organization, and where there are gaps in the current employee training program. Here are five areas to focus on as you examine the organization’s training needs.

1. Analyze the organizational goals

One of the primary ways to identify a business’s training needs is by looking at the organization’s goals and strategies. An organizational assessment takes a deeper look at what these goals and objectives area, and how effective the team currently is at the moment. You can also look at the history of employee training and if it made any measurable changes in the organization’s performance. The purpose of this type of assessment is to help you see the bigger picture, forecasting where training would be required and how effective it would be.

2. Conduct a work or task assessment Continue reading

credibility integrityRecently someone asked this question on Quora, a site that I sometimes drop by to help shed some light on the world of HR:

If I lie about a past felony on job applications, will the California FCRA keep background checks from finding out?

The first two responses to the question were focused on what the law covers and how the person might hide their information–interestingly enough I don’t see their answers on the site anymore, so I’m not sure what to think on that. However, here’s what I offered as advice:

Since the others didn’t address it in their answer, I’ll go ahead and say it: you don’t want to start your career off with a lie. There are studies that show the number one predictor of long term success is integrity–if you’re willing to sacrifice yours now, well…

If I was the HR director at the organization and found out later that you had lied about something like that, we would terminate. If you lie to me once there’s a good chance you’ll do it again.

This isn’t a dig at you or your history–this is a plea to maintain your honesty, especially when it gets hard. There are careers that don’t require you to pass background checks (small employers and startups rarely use them).

Continue reading

crazy employeesFun, happy, and crazy employees make this job awesome

I absolutely love this profession, but we have some interesting challenges in front of us. On one hand, HR really wants to be strategic. On the other, we deal with unbelievable people issues. The variety really keeps us on our toes! The notes below are based on comments I have had with employees and managers over the years, and I’m willing to bet you have had some of these, too. Feel free to add your own to the list below!

  1. I know you don’t like that brand of clothing that one of your employees wears, but we can’t create a policy banning it. Might I suggest something radical? How about taking with the individual directly?
  2. Yes, we have limits on what we can offer to candidates. That’s why we call it a compensation range, not just a compensation suggestion.
  3. No, you can’t fire her for poor performance solely because she’s not working as much as your other staff. She’s taking intermittent FMLA leave, remember?
  4. No, I can’t find someone with all of those qualifications you listed. The job requisition asks for a combined total of 72 years of experience.
  5. Sorry, tuition reimbursement doesn’t cover your travel to a quilting conference. No, I won’t request a waiver of the rules just for your “special” case.
  6. Certainly! We’d love to consider you for a promotion just as soon as you can start coming to work on time and sober for more than a two day stretch. No, I don’t think that’s asking too much.
  7. What do you mean you didn’t know about the seven emails I sent, the poster in the break room, the flyer I put on your desk, the letter I mailed to your home, or the all hands conference call where I explained the open enrollment deadline?
  8. I know you think you’re right, but cc’ing every management level up to the CEO on notes in your email battle with another individual is a bit much. Yes, it makes you look a bit crazy.
  9. I appreciate the retirement plan fund suggestions, but your brother’s company stock isn’t available through our company plan. Yes, I already checked.
  10. I know you think your employees are engaged, but your manager survey scores indicate otherwise. Why haven’t they said anything? Probably because of this “blows up angrily at any comment or question” item that I keep seeing on all of your survey results.

Bonus (vendor style): Yes, I’m well aware of the mistake, Mr. Insurance Provider. We provided the complete and accurate documentation in time and via your requested method. Apparently the mistake was choosing you as a provider since despite all that you managed to lose my employee’s application for coverage and are now denying them coverage.

So, which ones have you said lately to your employees? What would you add to the list? 

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a nerd of many facets. Recently I listened to an episode of Freakonomics on behavioral science and really enjoyed it, so I listened to it all over again, took notes, and created lessons for you guys from them since it was just that good. Enjoy!

  1. We need to make it safe to have conversations others won’t naturally have. That’s how you make innovation an integral part of what you do, not an after the fact, bolt-on, clunky process. The more comfortable people are in making innovative comments, the more innovation you’ll have. The more “danger” people face in making innovative comments, the less you’ll have.
  2. Economics focuses on a perfect world. Behavioral economics focuses on real behaviors from real people in an imperfect world. Don’t assume all else will remain the same when you make a change in the workplace. There will be some unintended consequence, either for good or ill.
  3. Don’t assume cash is the answer to motivating people. They highlight a newspaper losing customers that brought in an agency to help them use non-cash incentives to retain subscribers, and they were incredibly effective (see #6).
  4. Use role playing to demonstrate new techniques. Don’t rely on PowerPoint or even something as interactive as employee video communicatins just to get the point across, especially when the interaction requires dialogue. Role playing might be a bit uncomfortable at first, but it’s better than facing a new situation unprepared.
  5. Behavior trick #1 to get what you want: get some background on the “why” when you get a question/complaint. Use that in your counter. For example, “I want to cancel this subscription because I’m busy, have a full time job, and my kids are growing up so they need my attention” would warrant a response such as “Oh! Did you realize you could get reduced price movie tickets for you and your children with this subscription?”
  6. Behavior trick #2 to get what you want: using social norming (peer pressure) to help drive behaviors. “Many people in similar situations do xyz.” That pressures us to follow the norm and not take our own path, even if the norm seems to be against our own best interests at the time. “Most people choose x, but you can choose y or z” led to triple the conversion rate.
  7. Behavior trick #3 to get what you want: loss aversion is powerful. Basically, this means that it hurts us more to lose something than the pleasure of gaining something of equal value, even if we don’t particularly like what we have! Script: “I’d hate to see you miss out on that…”
  8. Reframe statements to be positive. Calls using positivity and the techniques above were 3x more successful with an 80% save customer/avert loss metric. Wow!
  9. More on social norming: we feel a sense of comfort doing what others do and mild anxiety of doing what others don’t. It’s the “herd mentality” at work.
  10. Human beings survive on inference (guessing about a situation based on known facts), so copying others is a fairly safe bet. people pay for big brands because they think there’s less chance of it being catastrophically awful.
  11. If you can play these emotions in other people you can get them to do what you want. In a position with a lot of influence opportunity but little hierarchical position power, this is a big deal. We are extremely irrational creatures, even though we like to think we are good at rationalizing things. Newsflash: we’re not. (click to tweet)
  12. The funny part is that these ideas aren’t new, they’re just being rediscovered and proven with empirical data. Shakespeare, Solomon, and others throughout history have used ideas like these to get their points across.
  13. Plus, advertising firms have been using these techniques for years–now they are gaining exposure elsewhere and for other types of situations.
  14. Moment of joy! They turn to HR/employment and bring on the Chief Analytics Officer from Cornerstone OnDemand, Michael Houseman. He talks about his mission to help companies hire and keep the best employees by analyzing all the potential factors of employment:  prehire assessment results, when the person was hired (or left), supervisor, shift, wages, overtime, etc.
  15. There is some correlation of pay vs longevity: pay enables people to stay longer. Data shows that a 10% increase in pay delivers a 5% decrease in quitting behavior.
  16. You know that “warm fuzzy” feeling someone gets from a raise? Research shows that feeling only lasts 1-4 weeks. (click to tweet)
  17. Wages are a lever you can use to drive behaviors, but other things keep your turnover low, and are less costly. For instance, finding better supervisor fit is a great opportunity.
  18. But seriously, how important is a supervisor in the employment relationship? The supervisor accounts for about as much reason someone will stay as all other factors (culture, job, wages, etc.) combined. Huge.
  19. Research shows that raw talent only predicts about 10-15% of success. This is the myth of “A players.”
  20. Measuring honesty in employment–people claiming honest were 33% more likely to be fired for policy violations. (click to tweet)
  21. The issue is in asking people if they are honest. Dishonest people are likely to answer falsely, and honest people are more likely to admit when they have faults here, skewing the numbers.
  22. The real way to measure honesty: applicants were asked about computer skills and level of tech savvy, then a couple screens later they were tested. Researchers compared the results of both data sets. In the end two groups emerged: one was honest and one was “creative” in their responses (cheating/lying, in other words).
  23. Honest employees tested better on virtually every performance metric, except for one: sales.
  24. And my personal favorite: employee web browser choice can indicate job proficiency. In their studies Chrome/Firefox users are better employees on every metric. They can’t speak to why that is or what the cause is, but the simple answer is they suspect users that are informed about technology and concerned with productivity will actively choose another browser and not rely on the built in (and poor overall choice) of Internet Explorer.

 So, what was most interesting for you? Anything truly surprising? 

employee appreciation day signEmployee Appreciation Day is upon us (March 6th, for those who are dying to know). While you all know that I am a firm believer in the power of employee recognition (whether it’s formal, peer to peer, or anything else in between), I am also a fan of making it part of your culture, not an annual event. The simple analogy is this: would you wait until a specific day of the year to tell your family, significant other, or children that you love and appreciate them? Probably not!

Thanks to my good friend Trish McFarlane sharing the top 3 things leaders shouldn’t do on March 6th, I wanted to kick in 3 more tips for managers that want to skip this whole Employee Appreciation Day nonsense. Enjoy!

  1. Don’t make it complicated. The process for thanking someone is simple. You approach them, thank them for something specific they have done, and go on with your day. This is appreciation at its most fundamental level, and despite the simplicity it has been shown to have an incredible effect on employee happiness and engagement.
  2. Don’t be lame. “Thanks for doing a good job” isn’t really that motivating, and it isn’t likely to reinforce behaviors you want to see repeated. How about “Thanks for providing clarity on that project meeting–it really helped me to understand what’s going on and be prepared for what’s coming in the next phase.” See the difference?
  3. Don’t be generic. If you want to include something monetary, be personal. A good example: I used to work with a young lady who had a goal to visit each baseball stadium around the US in her lifetime. When it came time for a project reward, her manager purchased a nice ticket stub scrapbook for her to track where she had been complete with photos of her and friends enjoying the games. That $20 purchase meant more to her than a $100 generic gift card because it was something deeply personal for her. Another fun example: a local HR Director buys a bag of dollar store goodies for birthday celebrations and each employee gets something. The other employees vote on what to give each other and why, and it gives everyone a chance to join in the fun and makes each “treasure” a personal experience.

What ideas do you have for avoiding Employee Appreciation Day in favor of a continuous culture of employee recognition? Do you have any managers that do this well? 

employee communicationsEmployee communications are dominated by email

According to a recent survey, up to 28% of our time is spent creating, reading, and replying to emails at work. In the average workweek that’s about 11 hours of time that you won’t get back, and we do that every single week.

There’s something else I’d like you to consider trying this week: video.

I am a firm believer in the power of video for learning and for communication purposes.

  • It’s personal.
  • It’s easy to create.
  • It conveys emotion and meaning.
  • It helps to explore complex topics.
  • And so much more!

While I know we can’t completely get away from sending emails to our employees, I think we could do a better job of incorporating video into the overall communications we use to increase opens, clicks, and overall understanding. And no, you don’t have to be a 10,000-employee organization with a dedicated video team on staff. This is incredibly simple.

And if you happen to be one of those people who think video isn’t going to “catch on,” you should take a second and recall those individuals that printed emails because they knew that that whole “email thing” was just a fad.

So, why use video for employee communications?

In the comment above, you can easily swap out “marketers” and put your own name in there. People are used to seeing and interacting with video content online. Some studies show that up to 75% of executives watch business-related videos online each week. This isn’t just for your front line employees–it can be a valuable tool for your C-suite as well.

I shared a case study of how ADP used video for their open enrollment communications (not only to share information, but to actually drive specific behaviors). Check out How to Increase Benefits at No Cost for more info.

Try it for just 30 seconds

One of my friends used to walk around with a small handheld camera (and now we all have phones that can do this just as well). He would grab a manager and ask them to talk for 30 seconds about how they help to manage career development for their employees, and then he would post those on the internal network so that employees could see and learn from those little clips. What was the impact?

  • The managers weren’t out more than one or two minutes of time.
  • He could get them talking on things they might not normally bring up with employees.
  • And he (HR) was seen as bringing value to the employee/employer relationship through facilitating these discussions.

Explainer videos

As far as the type of video that we’d use, the “explainer” type is probably most common. Here’s a simple way to start: think about the top three questions you receive from employees that you have a hard time responding to via email due to the complexity or sensitivity. Here are a few examples:

  • How does our FSA work?
  • What will our tuition reimbursement plan cover?
  • What are the career development options available for my position?

Then, take 30-60 seconds to create a short video explaining how that works in plain language your employees can understand.

Seriously, it’s as simple as that!

If you’d like some more research and ideas on video and how it can be used, check out the infographic below. Continue reading

Recently on LinkedIn I saw someone asking how to learn HR. Specifically he was trying to learn compensation when he didn’t have a background/foundation in the topic. The people in the comments made some good suggestions, but many of them involved expensive certifications, workshops, and other similar costly avenues. Coming from a background of smaller organizations with limited budgets (and understanding the personal budget of a new HR pro), I know that most of those suggestions are not possible for a significant number of people. Today we’ll look at how to learn HR from the ground up in some of the most practical, and inexpensive, ways possible.

Whether you’re just thinking about getting into HR, you’re just starting out, or you have some experience behind you and you want to grow your skill set, you’re going to walk away from this article with some good ideas on how to do that.

how to learn hr skills

First, Let’s Flash Back to 2009

In 2009 when I started this blog, I was thinking a lot about recent HR grads and the world of HR education. Let’s revisit, because it sets up the rest of this article nicely as far as a true need for HR-related information.

HR education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The colleges and universities are living in a different age. And although some of them are trying to upgrade with technology, they’re still using textbooks as the major instructional material. And who writes those textbooks? Well, I’m sure they’re smart people, but for the most part, they are not involved with the day-to-day business world. For some students in technology-rich fields, their college education may be obsolete by the time they graduate. This scathing comment from a recent study:

“College was a total waste of time and money. Computer courses are bordering on obsolete by graduation. There were not nearly enough computer courses in my degree program. I gained no skills to get me a job.”
— anonymous computer information systems grad

Maybe it’s time for someone to offer something revolutionary in terms of HR education?

Here’s a novel idea. Why don’t we take some measure (not all, mind you) of education from the HR blogs that already exist? There are dozens (hundreds?) of wonderful people pouring their hearts and efforts into maintaining a blog that describes the ins and outs of human resources. What if schools had some sort of HR education curriculum that required—or at the very least suggested—its students study from those actively participating in the field? How revolutionary would that be?

I only found out about the prevalence of the blogosphere when I was nearly finished with college. And that was only through my own personal research on topics that are unrelated to human resources. I stumbled across a few blogs and loved the community-like atmosphere and the availability of information.

I have long believed that to be great in HR you need to go beyond the knowledge that formal education offers. That’s only about 20% of what is necessary to be great in this profession. The other 80% is learned afterward in various ways.

ways to learn human resources

Qualitative Data Comes First

Back when I was a wee lad just thinking about entering the HR profession, I had a mission. This was pre-LinkedIn, so there was no easy way for me to do this. I spent hours scouring websites for local and regional companies and then emailing the HR contacts from the website with a few questions. Unfortunately I don’t have the exact list of questions any more, but here are a few of them:

  • What is the average day like for someone working in human resources?
  • What sort of training or education did you have that prepared you for this job?
  • What is the biggest challenge you regularly face?
  • What’s the best thing about your job?

I received dozens of responses from all of those hours of work. I actually created a few research papers in college based on that information, but more than that, it helped me get a glimpse into the world of HR that my classmates did not. This concept is going to come into play again in just a moment, but I wanted to introduce it here first. The purpose is to gather qualitative data about what to focus on and that will guide future learning. Without it the learning is haphazard and without structure.

As you know I am a firm believer in using books for learning (the latest in the series on that is about making a leadership reading list), but I’m staying away from that medium for purposes of this post because they are not free and because I want to focus on nontraditional ways to learn this information.

How to Learn HR Skills for Free

Remember the example I started this article with of the young man looking to learn more about compensation? Here’s the first half of the response I provided:

Surprised nobody here has mentioned Payscale.com for free research, white papers, etc.

Let’s analyze that, shall we?

First, I mention a vendor website. Payscale sells compensation data and tools to businesses. So why would I recommend them? Because they have a wealth of free resources, white papers, webinars, and other information on their site. I could spend a day just reading and listening to the content there and have the equivalent of a basic college level compensation course work of information in my brain. And it cost me nothing but a little time. As far as how to learn HR, that’s not a bad way to go.

And the fun thing is that this is just one vendor. There are hundreds, and many of the larger ones provide these same free tools to help us. Not sure where to go? Here are a few suggestions just to get you thinking. I spent half an hour researching these for you guys and this is just scratching the surface!

Recruiting

Talent Management

Compensation

Benefits

Training

HR Technology/Various

Now, obviously when these types of companies are sharing these resources their ultimate goal is to use them as marketing to drive you to their products, but you’re certainly not obligated to purchase anything. These resources are free, and you should take advantage of them.

How to Learn HR (And Get Paid To Do It)

I’ve written fairly extensively on getting into HR, breaking into the profession, etc. On the job training still one of the best ways to explore experiential learning, and if  you can lock in a job, you get paid while you’re learning.

More info on those topics:

You might assume that you have to have some of this education in order to get a job in HR, but it’s certainly not the case. Plenty of people move into an HR career without that sort of education or knowledge.

One thing that is worth noting here: your job will not cover all types of things you can learn in HR. That is why it’s important for you to keep up the momentum in the other tactics listed here so your learning does not suffer and you don’t get stuck in that job forever. If you keep learning and growing, you’ll be ready for the next step on the career ladder when it’s time to make that move.

How to Learn HR from Real People

Now, the other half of the response I provided to the request for information is equally important. Here it is:

Try to find some people in your local HR community that “do” compensation and spend an hour or two with each to understand what works for them, what doesn’t, and what they would have liked to know if they had to start over.

This is exactly what I did when I started learning human resources, and it’s still a powerful tactic today. Again, with tools like LinkedIn this makes the whole thing so much easier.

When I hear from people just getting into the field, one of the first things I recommend is for them to find some trusted contacts to start building out their network. Over the years I have been able to connect with hundreds of great HR pros, and some of them have amazing specialties.

For instance, one lady I coached during PHR/SPHR prep last year is a compensation and tax whiz. If I have questions on how to handle taxes for an employee, I could easily pick up the phone or shoot her an email. If I have questions about incentives and motivation, I’ll reach out to Paul.  Heck, if I just need a pick me up I’ll read anything Steve Browne writes.

Get the picture? We don’t have to feel like we are in this thing all alone. We also don’t have to figure out every single piece of it by ourselves without help or support. There are so many great resources and people out there that we can connect with. Figuring out how to learn HR is not just a solo act.

While the web has helped with this and made it more easy to scale up, it has also made some of those connections more shallow. That’s why I also think it’s critical to build a local network of people as well. Within my local area I have a couple dozen HR pros I could call today if I had a question or just wanted to hash out an HR problem I’m dealing with.

That took time, trust, and effort to build, but I started with just one person who took pity on me as an introvert and introduced herself to me at a SHRM chapter workshop all those years ago. I’ll always remember that first interaction. If you’re looking to build out your own network, I’d encourage you to connect with your local chapter. Being a member is helpful, but the best benefits come when you volunteer on the SHRM chapter board and really get involved.

How to Learn HR: Blogs

Read. A. Blog.

Okay, so not all blogs are worth reading. True. However, if you have curated content from someone you trust, that can help to keep the quality high and give you some good, free knowledge. This has been another key part of my learning strategy, especially in those crucial early months when I was just trying to understand how this whole thing worked.

When I talk with college students about HR, I tell them that with a degree specifically in human resources they know about 20% of what they need to be successful. The rest comes from experience, additional learning sources, networking, etc. I always point them to blogs, because those were a major part of my informal education beyond college. I can still remember reading two PHENOMENAL writers, Frank Roche and Chris Ferdinandi, and I can easily trace some of the philosophies I have about how I do HR back to things I read from those two individuals. There are certainly others, but those were the first two I really ran across and latched onto as I was working on understanding HR.

So, how do you find blogs? The HR Carnival is a “traveling” blog collection of some good content in the HR/recruiting space. I recently wrote one themed on Strategic HRM, and I would encourage you to check it out it if you haven’t already.

Otherwise, check out the sites I link to regularly. I don’t link to low quality blogs or sites that I don’t know.

Pro tip: use a tool like Feedly to double your blog reading speed.

If you want to know how to learn human resources management, blogs provide a very easy way to do that.

How to Learn HR: HR Podcasts

Okay, maybe you’re not a huge fan of reading. I have two things to say:

  1. Get over it. You’ll need to use that skill often and it’s better to practice it and do it well than try to avoid it and do it poorly. :-)
  2. There are other options besides just reading.

Over the past few years several great HR podcasts have surfaced and they are free and provide great information that you can listen to at work, at home, in the car, on a run, feeding a baby at 3am… Yeah, something has to keep me awake when I’m feeding the little guy and it might as well be educational, right? :-)

Here are some of the best HR podcasts you can catch. Pro tip: certified HR pros can get recertification credits for listening to HR podcasts!

  • HR Happy Hour – I’ve been a listener of this show from the very first HR Happy Hour episode, and it has been amazing to follow. Steve Boese has really delivered some great information and entertainment for his audience. The topics for the show (employer branding, the future of HR, technology, and work/life balance, for example) are varied, but the friendly, conversational nature makes it easy for anyone to become an addicted listener.
  • Drive Thru HR was designed to be a captivating and easy-to-digest lunch discourse that covers topics relevant to HR professionals. Each 30-minute episode features a guest speaker who shares her or his knowledge and experience in human resources. Our hosts and special guest cover a wealth of topics, including HR Technology, Recruiting, Talent Management, Leadership, Organizational Culture and Strategic HR, every day at 12:00 pm Central Time.
  • Xenium HR for Small Business podcast focuses on HR topics of interest to all HR professionals, whether at a small business or not.
  • Ultimate Software has a selection of podcasts on key topics of interest to HR and payroll professionals, delivered to your desktop on-demand. This series is presented by Ultimate customers and other industry thought leaders on topics that can contribute to company success.
  • CIPD publishes a new podcast on the first Tuesday of every month. Each episode is like a short radio show, focusing on a workplace or people management topic.
  • SuccessFactors doesn’t update their podcast any more, but there are dozens of great episodes of People Performance Radio you can still use to learn more about HR.

How to Learn HR: HR Videos

The other medium to explore is video. I ran across a few YouTube channels that would be worth checking out for some great content to dig into. While you’re not getting 2-3 hour lectures (I’m sure you can find that if you’re really interested!), you are getting information that will help you to learn HR and improve your knowledge.

  • SHRM (link) I haven’t mentioned SHRM anywhere else in this article because much of what they offer is not free and is hidden behind the pay wall. However, the content on their YouTube channel is free high quality.
  • MeetTheBossTV (link) I have followed MeetTheBoss for a while now and really like the executive viewpoints, the high quality video, and the interesting discussions. This is not all HR content, but I found over 30 minutes of HR specific, strategic discussions within a minute or two of searching.
  • Human Resources Magazine (link) while they haven’t updated their channel in a while, I found some great content that would be worth reviewing.

Learning HR doesn’t have to be difficult or painful! Yes, some lessons have to come with experience and a series of trial and error, but you can pick up much of the knowledge you need from these types of resources.

  • What questions do you have about how to learn HR?
  • What is your biggest challenge in this area?
  • What has worked for you?