To the other members of the Leadership Team,

You guys aren’t right in the head. Well, some people would say that, anyway.

See, you are not like most companies. You think differently. You frame decision-making with two separate (but related) lenses: customers and employees. That’s so uncommon that I just had to let you know how much I appreciate it.

Also, I just wanted to say a quick “thank you” for all of your support. In many companies, HR is looked at as a hurdle to “real” work getting accomplished. It’s an afterthought at best and complete avoidance at worst.

My peers in the HR profession are constantly fighting and clawing to earn recognition for their efforts and gain influence at the senior level of their organizations.

And I don’t have that problem.

See, when we filter the majority of our decisions through “how does this affect our people,” that puts HR at the forefront of what we do. And, if I had to guess, that’s one of the keys to our continued success these past five years.

We have warts, just like any organization. Yes, sometimes I have to remind the team of that focus and I’ve had to push a little in the past to avoid policies and practices that could damage our relationships with our staff, but those interactions are infrequent and innocuous.

My teammates in contracts, accounting, and management all share the same goals. We take the time to work together to define those every year and hold each other accountable. We take action and get results.

We have a “musketeer mentality,” as I once heard someone put it. We’re all for one, and one for all. We don’t ignore things that need doing simply because “that’s not my area.”

We know that if someone stumbles, we all feel the pain. So we work together to head off potential issues, address problems as they arise, and fight the ever-present pull of mediocrity

I get to come in here every day and do what I love. Many people can’t say that in other organizations. This has been an amazing experience for me so far, and I’m excited to learn what tomorrow, next week, and next year will bring.

Keep up the great work. I’ll try to keep up.

Your HR guy,

Ben Eubanks

The story of my human resource management career rolls merrily along…

Well, it happened. I knew the day was coming, and it is finally here. My manager recently announced her plan to go to part-time and semi-retire from the company, and with her support I was moved to be the lead of all HR/recruiting activities at Pinnacle. It’s a big bump in responsibility (I now report to the CEO, which comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities), and I am very excited about what is in store over the coming months.

Getting my feet under me

First, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the idea that I no longer have a mentor and sounding board to look up to. My manager was the best leader I’ve ever worked for in my life, and I am really going to miss her. My new manager is also a great leader, but in a very different kind of way (visionary, makes the tough calls, etc.).

Second, I’ve been looking at the to-do list that has been hanging out there on my whiteboard for a few months. Those major initiatives are no longer shared responsibilities–it’s all on me. I either get them done and we succeed as an organization, or I don’t get them done and we have some unpleasant consequences. Plenty of you have been in that place, but it’s still a shock to jump into it without warning.

Third, I have been looking at the team dynamics. I’m no longer reporting to someone who reports to the CEO. I’m on the team of go-to people for the major functions within the organization-contracts, program managers, security, accounting, etc. That team lost a great contributor and added a few more to take on her functions, but only time will tell how that will change affects the leadership of the organization.

“Opportunities for improvement”

When I was considering the position offered to me, I asked my previous manager what she saw as my hurdles in the new role. The answers didn’t really surprise me, and they definitely galvanized me to start preparing myself more for what sure is to come. Potential issues:

  • Youth-I expected this one, but I have yet to see where it’s hampered me thus far (other than just the occasional lack of raw experience to deal with new scenarios). Like I’ve said before (how to move up in your career), if you can kick butt at the level of work you are given, you’ll be given more challenging work.
  • Communication-I am much better at writing than speaking. In other words, my brain processes things much more efficiently through my fingers than through my lips. However, the opportunities for face-to-face conversation are going to drastically increase in this position, and I need to get better at thinking on my feet. I’m actually working on a new post on that topic and hope to share it soon.
  • Attention to detail-It might surprise you, but I’m not a detail-oriented person. I can get things done and check the block for what I need, but I’m much more of a creative thinker. I’ve had to force some level of organization on myself and that will continue to be a priority for me in the coming months.

Sorry that today is all about me! I’ve been meaning to kick out at least a note on the new position, and time keeps getting away from me. I hope the thought process I’ve gone through is helpful for those who are on the bench waiting to be called to the big leagues. It’s a big leap, but with the right preparation and support, you can be successful in your new role. I’m looking forward to the new ideas this position generates and what I can share through my interactions with the C-level leadership in my organization .

best places to work award

Yes, I know this logo is from 2011. New badges not out yet. :-)

If you’re looking for ideas on how to become a best place to work, maybe I can help. On Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend the Huntsville Best Places to Work Awards ceremony, and Pinnacle received an award in the “micro” size business category. Over 200 companies were nominated to kick off the process, and there was definitely some stiff competition. This is the first year we were eligible to compete since we were too small in previous years.

Want to know how to become a “Best Place to Work?” It’s fairly simple.

  1. Build a company from the ground up with an emphasis on core values
  2. Hire and promote based on those core values
  3. Repeat

Hey, wait a minute. Shouldn’t there be something in there about rewards or transparency or something? Surely there’s more to it.

Certainly, but those are covered in #1. Our values include things like creating a fun work environment and enforcing an atmosphere of open and honest communication. Creating a fun work environment means different things to different people. With regard to the HR team, for example, it is an opportunity to provide a solid slate of benefits that help our people focus on their work, not scrounge around for insurance.

If you choose core values that can be broadly interpreted, yet hard-hitting enough for people to follow them on a daily basis, then you are on the right track. Over time that leads to a great workplace that employees love.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to work. We’ll keep doing the same things we’ve been doing for the past few years, because that’s what our people love about Pinnacle. And that, my friends, is how you become what some people like to call a “best place to work.”

Pinnacle PoundersA quick decision at work last fall has led to untold hours of friendship and fun, and it was entirely unplanned. This is the story of our accidental wellness program.

August 2011

One of our engineers decided to start training for a local marathon. She was already running some, and a few of us at work decided to start going out once a week for a run just to support each other and have some company. What started as one person’s athletic goal has blossomed in so many ways.

Fast forward to March 2012

For three of us, today will be our final training run before this Saturday’s Andrew Jackson Marathon in Jackson, TN. I always said that I wasn’t interested in running a marathon, but after working and running with these amazing people, I just couldn’t resist joining them for the 4 month long training period. It’s been a lot of fun, I’ve learned a lot about healthy eating choices, and we’ve definitely become better friends in that time as well.

The numbers

We’ve estimated that the group as a whole has covered over 2,000 miles just in the past 8 months! A sizable portion of that falls on us training for the upcoming marathon, but the rest is spread among half a dozen others who join us for a few miles whenever schedules allow. The average runner burns 100 calories per mile, so that pushes the group total calories burned to 200,000! In order for a person to drop a pound, they’d need to cut approximately 3,500 calories from their diet over time. Using those numbers, the group has burned enough calories to shed just over 57 pounds. Continue reading

new hire welcome letter

Have you ever wondered how to send a new hire welcome letter to get the employment relationship started on the right foot? I started sending a letter to new hires last year, and I’ve tweaked it over time to cover more questions, beef up explanations, and pretty much share as much information as I possibly can with our new employees. I’ve included my version below, so if you’re considering adding this into your new hire process, feel free to borrow/use some of this. (If you want more help with onboarding and new hire orientation, check out the free new hire orientation eBook!)

The Pinnacle new hire welcome letter

Welcome, [Name]!

We are excited about your first day with Pinnacle. Be forewarned, you’ll have a lot of information thrown at you on the first day, and it probably won’t slow down for a while. A piece of advice: take notes!

We use the phrase “drinking from a fire hose” around here sometimes, and it’s an apt description for the pace of the work we do. Don’t let that worry you, though. Along with that work comes an amazing manager, a supportive team, and a group of leaders that really does care about you and your work.

We’re different from other companies. Other companies say that, but at Pinnacle, it’s true. We are just over four years old and fairly small (about 70 employees at this time). We are growing quickly, and that is as a direct result of our reputation for doing great work. We aren’t a 5,000 person company with dozens of locations. You aren’t a faceless number to us. We treat our people like adults, because you deserve that. We’re a small business doing big things (or “small, but mighty” as we like to put it!).

You have a lot of questions as the resident newbie. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there and it’s understandable. Here are some of the most common questions and answers to get you started. If you have something that isn’t answered below, your supervisor would be happy to assist!

A few things you need to know about your work

  • What do I wear? We have a casual atmosphere in the office. It’s business casual most days, and many of us wear jeans on Fridays. Remember, we’re more focused on the work than your clothes!
  • Who do I ask questions of if my manager isn’t present? We support each other, so you can get questions answered by anyone. The most common questions can go to [insert operations team description/focus areas].
  • What do I do if I have a computer problem? Send an email to [support address] describing your problem to open a trouble ticket.
  • What are the standard working hours? With your key, you can get into the building 24/7 if necessary. Some of the engineers work 6:00-3:00. Some of the operations staff work 8:00-5:00. Find something that is comfortable with you and communicate that with your supervisor.
  • Will I have to work overtime? Evenings? Weekends? At times we will have flurries of activity that require some overtime, but it’s not a regular/weekly occurrence.
  • Will I have to travel? How often? Who makes travel arrangements? Travel isn’t something we do often, but it’s not unheard of. If you are required to travel, speak with your manager about who is responsible for making your travel arrangements.
  • How flexible are my work hours? One thing we appreciate at Pinnacle is the person you are outside of work. We work hard to be flexible when work and life events conflict. During those times stay in close communication with your manager if possible. It’s more about fitting your work into your life than the other way around.

A few things you need to know about your department

  • Who will I be working with? First and foremost, you’ll be working closely with your manager. They will be able to answer most of your questions or point you in the right direction if they cannot. The rest of your team will be [short description of department].
  • Who are the “movers and shakers” in the organization and how can I become one of them? The neat part about Pinnacle is that we all have our unique roles and responsibilities, and we all have a time and place for to be the “mover and shaker.” Doing your work well is a surefire way to establish your credibility as a foundation for future professional and organizational growth.
  • If I have ideas, suggestions or concerns, what channels exist to share those concerns? If it’s an idea, we have a Big Ideas database on SharePoint that you can use as an outlet for sharing new, innovative ideas. If you have concerns, your manager or theirs will be the next likely step.
  • How do people prefer to communicate in this organization? (Face to face? By e-mail? Phone?) Depending on the topic, we use all of these methods. Inside the office, we use Windows Messenger chats for quick back-and-forth conversations. Because we have locations across the US, we use email to do much of our official communication. Phones are perfectly acceptable when you need a quick answer and email isn’t fast enough. And face-to-face conversations (or “huddles,” as we like to call them) are key to solving many of the issues we run into on a daily basis.

A few things you need to know about Pinnacle

  • Do we have a strategic plan? What does it entail? The strategic goals of the organization are developed and shared on an annual basis by the Leadership Team. The corporate goals/strategy for 2012:
    • [Goal A, B, C, Etc.]
  • What are employees rewarded and recognized for? As previously stated, doing your work well is the best way to go. It sounds simplistic, but many organizations don’t have the transparency and flatness of Pinnacle. You interact on a daily basis with everyone from the CEO to a customer site lead to the engineers at corporate. They can tell when you are doing your work well, and good news like that travels quickly.

Questions? 

———–

Again, this is just one piece of a new hire process that touches on our culture in multiple ways. Anyone else use a similar tool with new hires? Care to share what sort of content you cover in this “welcome” document? Here’s an example of one of the welcome letters to new employees that has stuck in my mind for years.

Ever been quizzed in a job interview? Test prep is difficult when the interviewer moves away from the rote questions and asks you to actually perform the job as a display of your competency. I ran across this great post the other day by Jorden Bartlett and just had to share. She talks about using tests during interviews to assess someone’s ability to actually (gasp!) demonstrate the skills required for the job.

It made me wonder… What sort of tests could we use at work on our own employees? Continue reading

We are a small company, but we have employees scattered around the US. Last Friday, Mike (our CEO) and I headed down to Fort Walton Beach for our quarterly All Hands Briefing. We only have three employees there, but when we showed up, it was so much fun to see how excited they were to have us visiting. Actually, believe it or not, this was the first time either of us had ever met the employees since we took over their contract one year ago today.

Can you imagine going a year without meeting some of the key people in your organization? Me, either. 

We were there for a whirlwind tour and the short All Hands Briefing with our entire company, and it was fun to tell everyone about the great team we have down in Florida. The customer on site actually said, “They are a small team, but they’re a good team.” Tough to get better feedback than that, and it was shared face to face with the customer and the CEO, to boot!

The moral of the story? Get out of your cave and meet your people. Find out what they do. Look for ways to make life easier on them. We took the time to find out their issues and frustrations, and we’re working to solve those already (less than 2 working days since the trip). They know that we care, and they are going to remain strong supporters of us in the future.

My friend Dave has a great post on how he sometimes travels with the sales team to find out how to help them do their jobs better. Brilliant. Read through it and see if you see a parallel that you can draw to your own business/industry.

The bottom line

I can send emails, call people on the phone, and talk all I want. But nothing replaces face to face interaction with your people. I think that’s one big reason HRevolution is such a success–people crave interaction and we just give them a forum to meet and converse with one another.