I can still remember sitting at home watching a movie as part of my change management class. The movie?

change managementLean On Me, featuring Morgan Freeman.

Freeman plays the character of the “turnaround principal” of a failing school. His job was to step into the school and reverse the negative trends that were plaguing the students and teachers. He wasn’t always nice and friendly, but he got the job done and in the end, people respected him and the work he accomplished. Check out this short clip for a glimpse of his management style:

Thinking about change management is something I do fairly often. Most of what we do in the HR profession revolves around initiating, communicating, and managing change. That’s probably why I was so surprised when I looked at the results of the Brandon Hall Group 2014 Talent Management Systems Study.

According to the data 23% of respondents did not create any type of change management plan to assist with implementing a new talent management system. Wow. In this Brandon Hall Group blog I write about some of the ways to approach change management with a “people” focus as well as some essential elements of a good change plan. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the topic!

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?

I’ve been thinking about what I like to call the “double down effect.” It’s also known as push back, resistance to change, and a host of other terms used to describe what happens when you try to push people in a direction they don’t want to go. Instead of merely rejecting the information, they “double down” on their efforts to continue unchanged, even if it is harmful in the long run.

resistance to changeOne recent example was in the area of wellness. A company started pushing its employees to start eating right and exercising, but it was heavy-handed and not at all tailored to individual needs. Employees quickly came to resent the latest management fad/program, and they began to make a game out of eating fast food, avoiding the “recommended physical activities” under the wellness plan, etc.

What was meant to help actually ended up hurting the workforce, because any further attempts to implement a wellness program would have to not only overcome the initial hurdles, but the lingering affects of this clumsy attempt at changing a deeply-ingrained set of behaviors.

So, now what?

If you’re still with me on the concept, you’re probably wondering how to avoid getting this backlash any time a change is recommended. There’s no blanket answer, but if we’re following the example above, here are a few ideas to consider when you begin the process of planning and communicating a change to the workforce.

  • Use your key influencers. Get the informal leaders on board early, then leverage their connections to grow the movement organically. 
  • Develop a communications strategy. Throwing out an email or a flyer with no advance warning is the best way to immediately invite resistance. Instead, offer previews of what’s coming. Talk about the benefits. It’s a sales process, to sell it!
  • Offer multiple messages for different groups of people. Some employees prefer to hear news about changes from their manager. Others like to get bits and pieces and develop their own opinions. Still others prefer to discuss the ideas in groups. Provide multiple avenues for gathering information (and for goodness sake, please don’t make HR the gatekeeper for all the data!).

You’re still going to get some resistance to the change process, no matter what the change might be. If you’re looking for some additional wisdom on the topic, I’d recommend this book on change leadership that I reviewed earlier this year. Good stuff in there on this specific topic.

How do you avoid the “double down effect” with your own staff? I’d love to hear some additional tips and tricks from the field. 

 

Business communication writing skills are incredibly powerful and effective, if used correctly. I’ve talked previously about my communication style at the office (Better Communication at Work). I think that only scratched the surface of my thoughts about the importance of written communication in the workplace, and I’d like to delve deeper into that today.

business communication writing skillsOver the course of the past several years, I’ve used persuasive writing on numerous occasions to encourage candidates to accept job offers, defuse tetchy situations, encourage managers, etc. It’s one of the tools that I use quite often in both my HR and recruiting roles, and it’s one that I would argue is critical for sustained success. Let’s backtrack and set a foundation for business communication writing skills:

Persuasive writing, also known as creative writing or an argument, is a piece of writing in which the writer uses words to convince the reader of his/her view regarding an issue. Persuasive writing sometimes involves convincing the reader to perform an action, or it may simply consist of an argument(s) convincing the reader of the writer’s point of view. Persuasive writing is one of the most used writing types in the world. via Wikipedia

How to use persuasive writing at work

Here are ten quick ways you might need to use some persuasive writing in the workplace. Over time, you can build your business communication writing skills through each of these scenarios. If you have more, please share in the comments below!

  1. Converting a candidate to a hire
  2. Getting a manager to see your point of view
  3. Influencing a policy change
  4. Getting your manager to give you a raise
  5. Helping your staff to step up to your expectations
  6. Increasing your initial offer acceptance rate
  7. Making new hires excited about their first day of work
  8. Reducing resistance to change initiatives
  9. Encouraging meetings to flow smoother/faster
  10. Negotiating with vendors for increased services or reduced costs

Essential elements of business communication writing skills

Now that you have an idea of how to use persuasive writing, what are the key elements to making it work?

  1. Passion-You need to believe in what you’re sharing, or others won’t want to believe it, either.
  2. Perspective-Write from the reader’s perspective. Understand what their ideal outcome is and try to align with that if at all possible. This is the most important of all. If you can do this well and understand your reader’s needs, fears, etc. as well as they do, you’ll have amazing success with these techniques.
  3. Explain-This is not the time to take the “I’m an expert, just trust me” stance. Instead, try to explain the situation as simply as possible.
  4. Emotions-Try to appeal to emotions, but try to stay away from fear if you can. Fear is a powerful emotion, but too many pushes on that button yield decreasing and unpredictable results.
  5. Logic-Use logic as well. Using all logic or all emotion in your writing will eliminage a large portion of your audience. Tying the two together with facts will help to reach the largest number of people.

Business communication writing skills exercises

This is where the rubber meets the road. Let’s look at a few examples. Feel free to write your responses below or somewhere private. Just think through the elements I mentioned and how you can incorporate them to influence the outcome in the direction you choose.

  1. Getting a raise: You’ve been going above and beyond your normal workload for several months, and it’s resulted in some key wins for your organization. You have the data to back up how you specifically contributed to the bottom line. You’ve decided to write a short exploratory email to you manager to discuss a raise in preparation for a face-to-face meeting. What do you write in order to sway the decision in your favor?
  2. Influencing a policy change: Your leadership team has been discussing a key policy change that will require all staff to be at work for “core hours” from 8am to 3pm Monday through Friday. You believe that there is a better way to ensure full coverage for customer issues while not forcing every staff member to physically be in the building for that period of time. You have indicated that you would like to challenge the policy change, and the leadership team requested a response in writing. What do you write in order to explain the significance of the change’s long-term impacts to the organization? 
  3. Reducing change resistance: Your organization has decided to change insurance providers in order to save money. There are no immediate benefits to the employees, and many are happy with the current provider. The leadership team has tasked you with explaining the change to all staff. What do you write in your company-wide message to minimize negative responses and encourage support for the change initiative?

Wrapping up

I hope I’ve convinced you that persuasive writing, if done correctly, can be an amazing skill to develop and hone. I’ve seen great success with it, and I try to get better every single day through practice and learning from my mistakes. Building business communication writing skills takes time and effort, but it’s wroth it in the long run!

I’d love to hear from some of you who have used this technique in your own career. How did it work out for you?

4 Tips from the Life of a Human Resources Entrepreneur

human resources entrepreneur-secret identityShhh. I have a secret identity. When I’m not working on my blog/business as a human resources entrepreneur, I’m wearing a tie and going to a day job. I love the dual hats I am able to wear, and the experiences from both working a day job and working for myself are doubly exciting.

I also think that I get to make mistakes twice as fast. :-)

I’ve learned some great lessons that I think apply to my daily work in HR. Life as a human resources entrepreneur life isn’t always easy, and there are plenty of pitfalls. I’m going to talk about one of them that translates especially well to the HR profession and then I encourage you to check out the video below for the other three human resources entrepreneur lessons.

Working “on” vs. working “in”

I’m guilty of it. Let’s start off with that.

Do you ever get so bogged down in the day to day that you don’t take the time to step back and make sure that you’re seeing the big picture? I know I do. It’s easy, really. We get comfortable, even when project deadlines are bearing down on us and we feel like we’re fighting a forest fire with a wet towel. We lower our heads and plow through instead of taking the time to work on process improvement or how we can make things better by putting systems in place.

It’s easy, even when work is difficult, to work “in” the department. It’s not just in human resources. Entrepreneur life includes the same challenge.

In the revolutionary book The E-Myth, Michael Gerber talks about how small businesses often fail because the leaders fail to work “on” the business. People get into business for themselves because they enjoy doing something specific–making soap, cleaning houses, or even blogging.

So they focus on that (working “in” the business). At some point they run into a problem and they keep trying to solve it by doing what they’ve always done; however, it’s not the answer. If the entrepreneur doesn’t stop, take stock, and decide what the business needs (working “on” the business), then it’s destined to fail at some point. That’s a simple example, but you get the picture.

If we as HR pros don’t stop and take stock once in a while, then we’re going to be left in the dust. Marketing, finance, IT, etc. all take the time to plan for the future. They look at how they fit into the organization and plan ahead so they are leading the charge, not trying to play catch up. If you’re not making time to work on your HR team (maybe a “state of the HR union address” would be in order?), then you’re going to be left behind.

It might not be today, and it might not be this year, but there will come a time that you are going to wish that you’d taken the time to rise above the daily shuffle to plan ahead and ensure that your work was congruent with the organization’s goals.

I think I’ve made my point on that one. Check out the video for three other lessons learned as a human resources entrepreneur. This life has taught me much (mainly through making plenty of mistakes and learning from them!).

Video: Human resources/entrepreneur lessons

Subscribers click here to view.

(There’s a little bit of echo and the cam shifted to chop my head off after I set it up, but it’s still pretty darn good compared to the early days. I’ve since fixed the echo and head chopping, so there’s a great example of process improvement right there!) :-)

So, what do you think of the human resources entrepreneur lessons I’ve shared? Are you guilty of any of these? Did you learn any lessons that you can take with you into your day job to do it better? Any plans to work “on” the HR function instead of just “in” it?

Change Friendly Leadership by Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan

change-friendly-leadership-book-reviewWhen I got my review copy of Change Friendly Leadership, I was transported back to my college days of studying change management. It was a great course and I had a phenomenal teacher, so my thirst for ideas related to managing change well started early. Good thing I found this book! I have two pages of notes and I’m not even finished going back and digging into all of the pages I’ve flagged for further review. There may be another review in the future or even some posts on subtopics to delve deeper, because this thing is full of solid advice for business leaders trying to work within the change process.

Okay, now that I’ve built it up, let’s peel back the layers and dig into a few of the key points of Change-Friendly Leadership.

What I liked

  • Training failure-The author quotes a study by ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) that says that despite record amounts being spent on training in the workplace, less than 30% of training is being implemented. Continue reading

When I ordered a copy of Jolt: Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing from BookSneeze (here on Amazon), I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up with a book containing an interesting blend of leadership, change management, and religious topics.

I’m openly and unabashedly a Christian, so that last part wasn’t really an issue for me, but I know that some people are not big fans of that sort of thing. That said, there were a few parts that I did enjoy.

What I liked Continue reading