Last week I published part 1 of this series of essential HR skills focusing on Organization, Dealing with “Gray,” and Negotiation. Here’s the followup.

The remainder of the items in our list include the following traits:

  1. Communication
  2. Discrete and Ethical
  3. Dual Focus
  4. Conflict Management and Problem Solving
  5. Change Management

Communication

Every job requires some proficiency with communication, but the level of communications necessary to do this job well is pretty substantial. If nothing else, you need to have an “awareness” (for lack of a better term) of the communication going on throughout the organization, as well as a good understanding of how people will receive messages/announcements. I get questions from senior leaders often on “how people will respond” to specific comms. That takes attention, an understanding of how things work within your org (this usually grows with tenure), and knowledge of how people act and react. I can’t stress enough that this can make or break your success in this role. Split testing internal communications is a good way to get started learning how people process and respond to new information.

Discrete and Ethical

You hold the keys to the kingdom with salary information, medical data, investigation records, and other highly sensitive information. Being able to maintain a division between who needs to know xyz information and who doesn’t can be a difficult task, especially when you have friends at work who are not in positions with a “need to know.” This one is easier in my opinion–just keep your mouth shut when dealing with sensitive (or potentially sensitive) information, and you’re good to go.

Dual Focus

I struggle with this one sometimes. Basically you are an advocate for the employees while also being a representative of management. The way I usually get around the questionable topics is this: I’m also an employee, if I didn’t have this information passed to me from the leadership, how would I feel? More often than not, stopping and asking that question of myself and the other management team members is an excellent way to refocus on what is best to share with all staff. Sometimes the answer to that question is a definite “no,” but other times we lean toward “yes” to align with our corporate culture of open and honest communications.

Conflict Management and Problem Solving

I sometimes run into trouble with this one,  because I have a much higher tolerance for stupid behavior than others. People don’t always get along. We understand that. But if they are focusing on things that are irrelevant, I will work with their manager(s) to help reconcile those differences. There are times when those differences can’t be fixed, one party might be belligerent, etc. and in those cases the solution is a more final one, but I have seen plenty of times when someone is frustrated in the heat of the moment only to completely forget the issue a few days later. Knowing how to discern work stress bleeding over into relationships vs. actual, real relationship problems is the key here for me and my staff.

Change Management

Things change more often than they stay the same. There’s always new information to share, new initiatives to begin, and new people to bring on. All of those have the potential to bring stress into the workplace. Two solid pieces on how to avoid or control this: The Double Down Effect and Communication Stealth Tip.

I hope you enjoyed the series! Let me know in the comments if you have another “critical” skill for HR pros. What should make #10 on the list?

Recently I attended a training, and the speaker offered a great piece of advice that I have taken to heart.

Before you make the ethical decision that you’re considering, can you see yourself defending it from the witness stand in a courtroom?

Ouch, but true. When we sometimes are sliding into those gray areas around employee relations and other “soft” parts of HR, it would be smart to keep that in mind.

Ever had to defend a decision in court? How did it go?

My friend and I were talking recently about how to determine company corporate culture before you start working there. In the past we’ve both been burned by companies that looked good on the surface but eventually turned out to have a terrible culture of one sort or another.

company corporate culture

Take a peek at the culture

Honestly, if it was foolproof, people wouldn’t be suckered into it as often as they do. And since my friend and I (and others) actually work in HR/recruiting, we should know better than anyone how to unearth this stuff, right?

Mindset change required

All too often when we’re looking for a new job we become blinded to the negative and would move over even if the hiring manager promised to kick us in the kidneys four times a day. I understand when you have no job that it’s important to take what you can get, but never settle for working at an organization with a poor company corporate culture (or if the culture really isn’t “wrong,” but you just don’t fit in anyway). You’re giving them skills and experience that they can’t get from other candidates, and they’re trading that for money. Don’t forget that employment is a two way street!

Think about it. For many of the questions below, there are no “right” answers. Everyone appreciates different things about specific working environments, and what may appeal to you actually repulses others. Consider what the ideal company corporate culture would be for you, and filter the responses through that. Oh, and several of these methods will require you to ask unorthodox questions of the hiring manager or recruiter, but it’s the price you pay if you’re going to be serious about finding the right company corporate culture fit for you.

14 Ways to determine the culture

  1. Ask to interview an employee or two on what they enjoy about working there
  2. Ask for a walkthrough of the office-listen for laughs and look for smiles; that says a lot about the work environment
  3. Ask about previous people who held the position if you are replacing someone-find out what they did right and what they could’ve done better
  4. Look at sites like Glassdoor.com for reviews by current or former employees
  5. Keep in mind that there are “pockets” of culture within individual departments, so the overall company culture could differ from your specific work area-that’s why it’s important to try to do things like #1 and #2 above
  6. Ask what sorts of behavior are rewarded and which are punished
  7. Ask how (or if) news that affects the company is shared-does everyone learn of it at once or is it distributed to managers to trickle down to employees? Are they transparent?
  8. Find out what sort of events the company holds for employees-is it a once a year Christmas party or are there monthly opportunities to celebrate with coworkers?
  9. Ask if there are known slackers in the office and try to find out why they are still around (good luck with this one, but if you get a straight answer, you will have a leg up)
  10. Ask about how difficult it is to get attention or funding for new ideas and initiatives-are they a “we’ve always done it that way” type of company?
  11. Ask what the company’s overall mission/vision is. If a random employee can tell you (at least in general terms) it could signify a strong, unified workforce.
  12. Ask about the dress code and other abrasive policies/details that, while palatable at first, can end up chafing you down the line
  13. Find out if the company offers any sort of reimbursement or support for training, seminars, or college tuition. If they value smart employees who work to better themselves, they probably will.
  14. Ask how previous employees who committed ethics violations were held accountable (general terms are fine to protect any guilty parties, but do they even care about ethics in the first place?)

So, what other ways do you know of that a candidate can use to discern a company’s corporate culture before deciding to take a job?

Integrity. Ethics. The last two items on the list of Senior HR Competencies were so closely linked that I did them together. If you are good at one of them, chances are you’re going to be good at the other as well. The same goes the other way. If you’re terrible at one of them, you’ll most likely be terrible at the other, too. Hope you enjoyed the series!

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