Tag Archives: Strategy

strategic hr

HR Strategy: How to Work ON Your Department, Not Just IN Your Department

One of the challenges with HR strategy and strategic HR is that it’s often talked about in vague terms, which means it isn’t always easy to understand for some individuals. There’s a great metaphor for this concept in the world of entrepreneurship put forth decades ago in The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. Here’s the core of it:

When someone starts a small business (even if it’s a sideline HR consulting business), they do so because they want to do a certain task: writing, painting, consulting, and so on. The problem comes when that person realizes they are actually doing two jobs: the product/service they are selling AND running a business. Many small businesses fail because they are great at working IN the business but not working ON the business.

Hopefully you can see the application of this in the world of HR as well. Many of us are really great at doing the core components of HR:

  • Recruiting great candidates
  • Delivering high quality training
  • Supporting leaders with coaching and development

But we often struggle when it comes to this strategic stuff. It’s not because it’s hard. Most of us are smart enough to lay out a game plan for the year with objectives and then work towards it. No, the problem is that we’re so darn busy doing the day to day work of HR that we can’t find ways to get to the strategy. We never really arrive.

If you’re not sure if this applies to you, here’s a simple test:

If you’re spending your days, weeks, and months churning through tasks and never really working on improving your function, team, or department, then you’re probably missing out. 

This actually played out last week in a conversation during the Alabama SHRM state conference. The audience was talking at their tables about obstacles for HR, and the group at my table talked about HR’s bad reputation for being the “no” police, for caring only about compliance, and for never leaving the office to do anything more meaningful.

I know, I know. A lot of this connects to the HR to Employee ratio at your company, as I’ve written about before. If you have a thousand people for every HR professional, it’s going to be very transactional. There’s no way around it other than picking up technology to help automate what you can and personalize to the highest degree possible.

I actually spoke with an HR executive recently that offers some incredible insights into this problem. If you don’t listen to the podcast regularly, you are missing out. In the upcoming episode I speak with Michael Stambaugh, Chief Human Resources Officer for HJF, about how to seize the opportunity for strategic leadership in HR. He tells a compelling story and it’s one I highly encourage you to listen to.

What are your thoughts? Does this problem of overwhelming tasks IN your HR role prevent you from working ON your HR function? How have you tried to overcome it?

2017 Priorities for Talent Leaders: Strategy, Process, Impact

The new year brings new challenges and opportunities as we attempt to whip our HR and recruiting functions into shape. One of the new projects we’re working on at Lighthouse is our Global Talent Acquisition Sentiment Study. With more than 400 votes, we are helping to narrow down the most pressing priorities and topics across the talent acquisition function. The infographic below offers some insight into what those priorities are, and my forthcoming report on the topic will delve into how the data shows differences in US and non-US populations, what trends are driving the relative importance of each of these issues, and what to expect in the coming months.

I’m also delivering a presentation on this topic in March and would be glad to share these insights with your group in a lecture, workshop, or webinar. Just reach out via my speaker page and we can discuss. 

Below are some of the noteworthy findings.

Key Priorities are Not Function-Related

Some of the key priorities in the study that came out on top were focused not on specific practices in recruiting, but on more broad aspects, such as process improvement and business alignment. This is a positive finding, because all too often when I’m working with clients I see that they have a great onboarding or branding program, only to find out that it’s working in opposition to their goals and business strategies.

Onboarding, Sourcing, Candidate Experience Top the List

It consistently surprises me when I see a group of talent leaders prioritize onboarding. Not because it is unimportant, but because it seems like so little effort is placed on it in reality. It’s possible that 2017 is the year we turn that around, making this a strategic differentiator for growth.

Next up is sourcing. I see a great divide between the highly capable digital sourcing professionals and the rest of the HR and talent leader community. This is so pronounced that it almost seems like a different profession, akin to marketing or customer acquisition more so than HR.

Finally, candidate experience was barely edged out for third place. In our recent research on the candidate experience, we pointed out some not-so-obvious ways to improve this practice with assessments, video interviews, and more. This discipline is steadily becoming more of a concrete science for talent leaders, which means we can find what works, make specific process improvements, and deliver higher value to our future employees.

One final note: you’ll notice that not much room separates any of these in the infographic below. This is good in that companies have their priorities in order, but it is also challenging, because when we have competing priorities it means we’re going to be less effective. It is critical to find the specific talent practice your team needs to work on and make it happen before attempting to move to other opportunities in the list.

Lighthouse 2017 TA Sentiment Study Graphic

HR State of the Union: 2017 Edition

Every year I republish my “state of the HR union” article from previous years with new additions and edits as a challenge to each of you. Am I on target, or did I miss anything pertinent? 

Early every year, the President of the United States makes an address to the nation. The purpose of the annual “State of the Union” address is to give an account of the year’s events and discuss the priorities of the coming months. If communicated properly, this is an opportunity to reach a larger audience, share major goals, and get buy-in from the constituency.

So, why don’t we give it a shot?

hr-state-union-address

I think every HR pro needs to have their own State of the Union address within their own company, department, or team (depending on the level of responsibility). This is strategic HR communication at its best, and it could become a valuable tool to allow leaders to peer into the inner workings of the HR strategy while allowing HR leaders to share key results areas as well. In fact, even compliance can be strategic, if communicated properly.

When I think about this, I remember the best boss I ever had. She did an annual HR “touch base” meeting to get us on the right track, get everyone on the same page, and help to lay out key themes and strategies for the year. In reality it was a team of two of us, but she brought in additional stakeholders and interested parties to hear the session, giving them a peek into our priorities. It also allowed them to see how we might be able to help them and enable their success, a primary part of how I define successful HR.

She was always good at pointing out the need to be agile, knowing that business needs could dictate changes in our approach. Knowing that the HR strategy could change rapidly helped to give me some sense of control, despite the complete lack of it! That’s one reason I put together the following video a while back, because I know that the HR strategy sometimes changes, shifts, or even fails. We need to be prepared for some of those eventualities.

Featured Video: What to Do if Your HR Strategy Fails

HR Needs to Step Up

Are you ready for me to step on your toes? Here’s a quote from one study I found:

“Only 20 percent of [the largest publicly traded] companies discuss HR in their reports to shareholders. About one-quarter provides only limited references to the workforce, and some don’t mention their employees at all.”

Can you imagine how our stakeholders would react if we spent 30-50% of our budget on a resource and then never followed up about how it was being utilized? In effect, this is what’s happening with regard to our human capital investments. People are quick to say that payroll is the largest line item in a company’s budget, but then when it comes to proving how we’re doing in terms of diversity, development, direction, etc. we fall down on the job.

I did a little digging and found a few examples of HR annual reports that organizations have created. You’ll see some interesting insights in them, from hard statistics proving the value of the HR function to strategic plans for the coming year ahead.

  • Deutsche Bank-Lays out progress toward long-term “Strategy 2020” goals that belong to the business, not HR. This example also provides the most comprehensive data around specific performance of the various HR practices–for example, 1 in 3 employees were hired from internal candidates and 10,000+ internal staff changed roles during the year, providing ongoing talent and development opportunities for workers.
  • John Carroll University-Gives a one-page executive summary followed by monthly highlights of programs and contributions to the organization.
  • UCF-Demonstrated specific metrics around HR performance, from increased screening measures to specific training points and diversity improvements.

Nobody said you have to create a full-color, 25-page report to show what you’re doing. But a one-page executive summary with key insights into the core HR areas? That’s totally doable. At a minimum, it should cover:

  • Recruiting–what has your performance been like? Common metrics? Best success story as a case in point?
  • Training and development–how much, what kind, and most importantly, what has it enabled the business to achieve?
  • Safety and health–what is the progress/status? What’s the well-being of your staff? Are they performing and productive?
  • Strategy–is your HR team aligned with the business in terms of overarching strategy? Can you demonstrate that alignment with a few examples of how HR projects and accomplishments translated into the business strategy or impacted business outcomes?

How big is your “union?”

As I stated above, depending on where you are in your organization’s hierarchy, you might only be addressing your HR teammates. Or maybe you have the ability to snag an audience with your senior leadership team, and you’re willing to put together a short presentation for that group.

Whatever the case, the size and target audience will be different for everyone, but the tips below will still help you in defining what to discuss.

What to say

Okay, so I’ve sold you on the idea of delivering your own “state of HR” address, but what do you actually say? Here are a few ideas

  • Talent retention—Discuss retention initiatives and any cost savings associated with reduced turnover
  • Learning and development—Give examples of new human capital capabilities brought about by learning and development investments
  • Performance management—Talk about increased performance or reduced turnover expenses associated with improved employee performance
  • Leadership strategy—Provide insights into the role the leadership strategy has played in supporting business growth
  • Sales strategy and planning—Offer data to demonstrate how HR supported the needs of the sales staff and leadership

These certainly aren’t the only topics you can cover, but this is a good starting point based on what organizational leaders want/need to hear. Remember, your goal is to demonstrate that HR isn’t just a cost center, but that you’re bringing value to the organization and its people on a regular basis.

The bottom line? This is your chance to get in front of a key audience (whether it’s the rest of your team or another influential group) and share your message about how HR’s priorities align with those of the business.

What are you waiting for?

Closing Question to Ponder

  • Which stakeholders would benefit most from hearing this address from you or your HR leaders?
  • What are the key issues your leaders are facing that you can include in your address?
  • What is the best format for your culture, geography, and leadership preferences that makes sense to deliver this? Internal webinar/teleconference? In-person with slides? Handouts and a conference room? Hint: think about how finance or marketing would present something like this and do something similar, assuming those functions are respected within the organization.

Using the Gig Economy to Enhance Business Outcomes

I have done dozens of presentations in my professional life. But boy was I nervous about a recent one. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to deliver my first ever Ignite-style presentation.

I was sweating it, big time.

In short, you get five minutes to explore a topic. The kicker? Your 20 slides auto-advance every 15 seconds, leaving you without any control. Honestly, I’d rather have just one slide and an hour to talk about it than have no control over the 20 slides for a five-minute talk. In the end the session went very well–one in the string of nine other people delivering these types of presentations at the HR Technology Conference Ideas and Innovators session. I had fun, and the next time I have a chance to do an Ignite talk I’ll be less worried about it!

eubanks-gig-economy-presentation

Photo: Talking about the Gig Economy, On-Demand Talent, and More

My topic blended in some ways with others that talked about more fluid decisions in the workplace, but it was a look at something I think is going to shape future talent decisions for organizations everywhere. This is a sort of highlights reel of the presentation and a few of the key stats are listed below. I’d love to hear your thoughts after you read through! (Also, let me know what you think of the tool below that shows the story. It’s something new I’m using and if people like it I will create more of them to help explore complex topics.)

Email subscribers must click through to view the presentation below.

Presentation Highlights

  • Gigs are nothing new, but the idea of using them to get business tasks completed is.
  • Some of the interesting companies (not an exhaustive list) that are playing in the space of providing gig-economy-writeupon-demand workers include Toptal, Shiftgig, Wonolo, Upwork, and others.
  • There are more than 800,000 workers in the platform-based gig economy. That means they are working through an intermediary, not as a solo independent contractor. If that was a company, it would be the second largest in the US, twice the size of McDonald’s.
  • While the relative size of the labor sharing economy is not that large, it has grown rapidly and will continue to over time.
  • The interesting piece is that many people automatically assume these workers are doing gig work (W9) full time. In reality, many of these people are doing this work in addition to their full time (W2) job. But why?
  • One of my theories is that this disengagement epidemic could even be caused in some respects by employees that are using gig work to get the satisfaction, flexibility, variety, etc. that their day job just can’t offer.
  • One thing I see on the horizon is pressure on outdated government rules. Companies (and people) want the flexibility to make granular talent decisions about who, what, and where they work. The existing rules limit that freedom and flexibility, as evidenced by some of the Uber (and other services) lawsuits around independent contractor vs employee.
  • One of the neat ideas I want to see come to fruition is embedding on-demand workers into the employment processes. For instance, onboarding a consultant to teach them about your culture or offering training to a temp worker to improve their performance.

This is a topic I’m incredibly interested in, and I look forward to exploring it more in the coming months. What questions do you have about the gig economy and how it affects the workplace?

Originally posted on the Lighthouse Research blog.

Video: What to Do When Your HR Strategy Fails

When I speak about HR strategy, one of the things that inevitably comes up is that it’s hard to plan ahead. Things change. The business changes. The objectives shift. It makes it difficult to pin down the right HR strategy to support the organizational goals.

And that’s okay. Death, taxes, and change are the things we can count on in this life. In the video below I tell a personal story that helps to illustrate the need to not only be prepared for change, but to actually expect it in some regard so that the molehills don’t become mountains.

(Email subscribers click through to view the video)

It’s quick and to the point, but I hope you get the idea. We can let changes break us down or we can use them to get smarter, faster, and better in our approach.

I’d love to hear your story! Tell me about a time (whether in HR or not) where you had a carefully crafted plan and things suddenly went awry. How did you cope? What were the results? I enjoy sharing stories with my audience both here and from the stage, because stories are powerful and connect us at a deeper level than a series of stats and data points.

 

Oops! How Failing an Interview Question Taught Her About HR Strategy

I had been on the job search for a little while, and I was very thrilled when I received a request to come in and interview for a manufacturing operation that produced rubber molds and other rubber pieces.

This was going to be my first big HR role, and I was really nervous. Fast forward to the interview session, and I was feeling a little more confident. Everything was going well, but then the president of the company threw me a curve ball.

He asked, “Why do you think our capital costs have risen so much in the last few years?”

So I thought about it for a minute. Then I responded, “Well, it’s not like rubber grows on trees.”

He gave me a strange look and proceeded to tell me that yes, indeed, rubber does grow on trees.

—–

When I heard that story from a reader a while back, I had to laugh. And in case you’re wondering, yes, she still got the job. The point here is that the core piece of understanding how to create HR strategy is by understanding the business and how it operates. (And it also shows just how much of a role we can play as the CEO’s most trusted advisor.)

The lady who sent me the story realized that she had a gap in the basic understanding of the business, its resources, and how it operated. To remedy that, she proceeded to learn what she could about strategy and business in general, but also about the organization itself. That blend of learning put her in the driver’s seat when it came to creating a forward-looking HR strategy.

I find it very interesting that strategic HR is one of those things that seems to be well known for some and a mystery to others. It’s probably why more than 6 in 10 companies have no HR strategy in place. I did some research last year and found that there were dozens of sessions at the Annual SHRM Conference that mentioned “strategy” in their name or the content description, far and away the most common word that was present in the session listings. So unless they are way off the mark (and SHRM knows its audience), there are a lot of people looking for information on the topic. I hope this funny story helps to illustrate for you just what you need to know in order to support your own organization.

Do you have a story about how your lack of understanding of the business created an opportunity to learn more and build a stronger partnership between the business and its HR resources?

Why I’m Attending an IT Conference (Advice for HR Leaders)

This week I’m in Atlanta for the Microsoft Ignite event. Yes, I see the puzzled expressions. Microsoft? IT? What am I thinking?

conferenceNo, I’m not making a career change. I’m perfectly happy where I am.

Here’s the deal. I have been to tons of events over the years, and what always surprises me is the fact that I get something out of the most unlikely places. A stray comment from a 7:00am 401k administration session at SHRM 2013 still rings in my ears when I talk about workplace retirement plans. Yes, there is something of value in pretty much every interaction, and getting outside of the normal routine is a valuable practice in general.

This week I’m going to be talking with some of the team at Microsoft, but I’m also going to be seeing sessions and exploring concepts that relate to the HR world. I’m looking for the perspective from IT leaders and one of the world’s biggest technology firms around concepts such as collaboration, productivity, and delivering business results. Hopefully all three of those ring a bell for you, since they are key pieces of creating a valuable HR function.

Now, I’m not saying you need to pack up and join me, but this ties in with a valuable concept that I’ve been advocating for quite some time. HR needs allies in the workplace. Here’s a tip for you if you’re new:

If it’s only an HR initiative, it will die.

It might seem a bit cynical, but it’s true. People have had enough of the HR programs and fads. The needs of the business rule. And HR is often seen as a blockade. A problem without a solution. A challenge or hurdle to progress.

What to Do

So you need to find some allies. Create some influence. Network a little within your organization’s walls.

One great way to get started is to find some time together with other key people in the company, and that includes people leading your technology team, your accounting/finance team, etc. Those individuals can be your most vocal detractors or your most staunch allies, depending on the time and effort you have taken to understand their needs, support their goals, and deliver high value service.

Take these people to lunch. Find out what their challenges are. Learn about their best plans and their worst fears.

This is an investment in your own influence within the organization as well. Just to clarify, this isn’t sleazy-car-salesman influence. It’s the ability to speak in a language that matters to the audience you’re with. It’s the knowledge of key issues going on that currently or will eventually have an impact on the people side of the business. It’s in your best interests to be on top of these relationships and to make them a priority.

Now, as I said, I don’t expect you to head to an IT conference or jump on a plane for the next whatever-the-heck-it-is that accounting folks go to. But you can walk down the hall and start a conversation today. Here are a few quick and easy ones:

  • I’m facing some challenges with xyz. What sort of things are keeping you up at night?
  • How are you handling xyz? It seems like it would be challenging and I want to understand your strategy.
  • What is the biggest people-related challenge you see in the next 12 months? Hiring? Development? Retention?

Everyone’s situation, company, and relationships are different, but these are just as blunt as I would put them in a forthright conversation with a peer. In fact, I’ve used several of these to create those conversational opportunities to understand the other functions within the business, what their priorities were, and how I could align the HR practices to support them.

Funny enough, that’s what we call strategic HR. I wrote a while back about one of the best leaders I ever worked for and how that relationship helped to truly clarify what the HR strategy had to look like in that organization. Remember, if it’s an HR initiative, it will die.

What relationships are valuable to you in the workplace? What do you do to offer value in return?