As I look back on the past five years and all of the people I’ve met, I have made some interesting conclusions about career choices. My background as an HR pro has helped to expose me to a wide variety of experiences, people, and career options. I was talking with a friend a few days ago about some of the HR positions I have had over the years. Some of them were at dysfunctional companies with dysfunctional teams. Others were made up of great people vigorously pursuing excellence at all levels. However, I don’t know that I would have appreciated the good ones as much if I didn’t have some bad ones sprinkled in there for comparison.
Think about it. If you are feeling pretty sore from a workout or from a long, stressful week, you appreciate a massage more. If it’s hot out, that cold drink seems especially soothing.
So while we’re all working hard to offer great work environments and engaging opportunities for employees, they might not realize how nice they have it without a really awful place to compare it to.
So, what’s the answer? I really don’t know. We won’t make it unappealing simply to make a point, but there has to be some way to make this work. While you’re pondering that, let’s talk about something else: coaching.
One of my favorite HR activities is providing coaching to managers and employees at critical moments. For whatever reason it’s just something that I really enjoy. Recently I spoke with a friend about some of these career coaching moments, and we discussed how to approach some particularly tricky options his employees are facing.
Here are two scenarios that are probably all-too-common. If you have seen employees with these sorts of challenges, I’d love to hear how you helped them to resolve the issues.
The Overpaid Employee With an Entitlement Mentality
Let’s call her Carla. Carla has worked for this company for years and has tons of experience in her field. She’s the most technically competent employee that works for this company–and she knows it. She has been poking her manager about a pay raise because she thinks she is worth more money. The truth is she’s probably already overpaid for the level of responsibility she holds and overall value she brings to customers.
So, like it usually happens in this situation, the manager sends her to HR to talk.
My recommendation was to turn it around. This is not HR’s job to discuss this–it’s between the manager and employee. I suggested my friend get the employee to set up a meeting (after all, she is the one pushing this so hard) between her, her manager, and HR. The employee needs to lay out what she wants and expects, and the manager needs to be upfront and honest about her career aspirations, the value she brings, and what possibilities lie ahead.
Every time I do this the manager initially balks at the concept. However, after the fact they appreciate having the clarity between them and the employee, and HR was able to observe/facilitate and offer support without having to be the one driving the discussion.
Honestly, the employee forgot that less than five years ago she worked for an absolutely terrible organization that treated her poorly. She’s become a bit aggressive and entitled at the same time, and this is the first step to rectifying that.
The Humble Employee with Limited Experience
Another employee faces a career decision as well, but of a different type. This guy has a great attitude and has grown in responsibility over time. He also has about five years of experience with this company, but he realizes that he doesn’t have the depth and breadth of experience to move to the next level. He doesn’t want to leave, but at the same time, he knows that something will have to change for his skills to be up to the task of managing his function in the coming years.
So my friend talked with him about possibly leaving for a year or two to work at another organization, learn their processes, strategies, etc. and then return in time to step up to the next role when it is time. Obviously this carries some risk:
- what if the job doesn’t materialize
- what if the things he learns are not enhancing his skill set
- what if the company can’t hire him back when they originally said they would
- who will run his function in his absence
You get the idea. It’s scary.
And yet it’s innovative. It’s a solution to the problem. And without anyone internally to mentor him and help him grow, this might be the only chance to gain the needed experience to ultimately help this company succeed.
If you think you might identify with this guy and need to make a change for your own career development, then scout out some local opportunities to see what might be available.
So, those are just two of the most recent conversations I’ve had about HR being involved in career discussions with employees.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which of these types of employees is working in your organization right now? How can you help them?