Tag Archives: Talent Management

Preventing Conflict in the Workplace

If asked, many HR professionals would say that preventing conflict in the workplace is one of their key job duties. However, I’d like to step back from that well-known requirement and re-examine the need for civility at all costs. Let’s kick off with a quote:

It means caring a lot about not offending someone. Let’s be clear, to be civil is good. Civil behavior is a useful part of a healthy team. However, it can’t be the defining characteristic of the team. Great performance means tough conversations, which is why candor should always trump civility. Candor refers to interactions defined by honest, frank and, forthright exchanges. No sugar-coating, just professional and somewhat blunt conversation. Credit: Lynda.com

Recently I was evaluating some training for some of our supervisors, and I ran across this comment. I think within the realm of human resources management, this type of thinking is more critical than almost any other area of the business. Think about it: we’re supposed to facilitate civility in the workplace. We’re supposed to help eliminate friction, prevent hurt feelings, and ensure a sense of “peace in the family.”

Preventing conflict in the workplace? That’s our job

In fact, if you’re an in-the-trenches HR kind of person, you probably thought of an ongoing situation where you’re trying to facilitate civility as you read that last paragraph. It’s just what we do, right?

But maybe we shouldn’t?

Recently I wrote about the relationship between the Chief Executive Officer of an organization and the key HR leader. The thing that CEOs want most out of HR? Candor.

[Related: Here’s what 76% of CEOs appreciate about HR]

Not only do CEOs want to share candidly with HR without fear of the information being used against them; they also want HR to speak candidly with them about problems and opportunities. The relationship is too critical to allow it to be hampered by the desire to pursue civility at all costs.

The next time you’re looking at a situation that requires you to choose between being open and honest (and possibly causing conflict at work) or trying to smooth things over to prevent any negative response, make sure you are not diminishing the message so much that it loses all value.

Group Feedback is Ineffective and Insulting

This just in: group feedback isn’t the best tool in your performance management toolbox…

I was running through some old emails the other day and found an example I had to share. Several years ago I was working as a high school wrestling referee. It was definitely a tough job, but I learned some good stuff from the experiences (not getting overwhelmed when someone’s screaming in your face is an amazing skill).

One of the quirks of the job was that you’d get an anonymous/random evaluation on your performance once or twice a year. I never once received any specific, personal feedback on how I was doing other than informally from my peers. However, occasionally, the reviewer would send out group feedback notes like the ones below…

Overall the officiating has been good. Your hustle and positioning has been generally good. There are some opportunities for improvement. Stalling is still a problem. We need to get more aggressive in calling stalling to eliminate that from the sport. With tournaments coming up at several places, remember that it is your responsibility to ensure the restricted areas of the mat are clearly marked. Also remember that only two people are allowed in the corner and they are supposed to be seated in the chairs. Over the next three weeks, I will be looking closely at how you have responded to my comments from previous evaluation and in determining who should be recommended for the post season. We have several candidates in you Association. This is your time to convince me that you are the one who deserves to be selected.

Let’s imagine for a moment that this was a performance evaluation provided to you and your team on your collective performance. How motivated and engaged would you feel if someone sent you this group feedback in an email along with twenty of your coworkers?

Yeah, I had that same reaction.

I just wanted to share as a little reminder that despite all we know about leadership and effective talent management, there are still managers that need help doing the job of managing people. Wow.

The Talent Mandate Book Review

The Talent Mandate: Why Smart Companies Put People First by Andrew Benett

I have learned that based on my own interests and daily work, I am eager to consume just about anything I can find related to talent management. When I got this review copy, I dove in and while it’s been a while coming, I finally had time to put together a review of this excellent resource.

Things I liked

  • Show, don’t just tell. the talent mandate andrew benetStop saying, “People are our greatest asset!” and actually demonstrate how it’s true. Actions speak louder than words.
  • Make culture a priority. “There is something strangely intangible about culture, something that can be felt but not always articulated.” In other words, culture is what happens when you are not looking. So how do you embed that into your organization? Codify what is important. Form a “Culture Corps” to define why people like working for the organization, what the organization and people aspire to be/achieve over time, and reinforce both.
  • Always be asking three critical questions: is the culture grounded in values, does the culture promote cohesion, does the CEO make culture a top priority? If the answer to any of those is “no,” then you’re going to face difficulties in maintaining the best culture for the organization.
  • Consider a “manager detox.” New managers at Rackspace are required to undergo a three day training to “un-learn” outside thinking to avoid polluting the new environment. We’ve all run into “that’s how we did it at my last job” situations, and many of those with questionable results. This process helps to overcome those potential conflicts.
  • “Be comfortable with what you don’t know.” The best ideas come from a team, not just from a single executive. Every employee wants to make an impact, so give them a chance!
  • Hiring for agility as a competency. This means looking for strong thinkers who can apply their knowledge to different types of business problems. Agile leaders focus first on big picture and then on how their piece will contribute to that. Dave Ulrich provides a model describing four types of agility: learning (curious, finds simplicity in complexity), people (self-aware, makes other succeed), change (likes to experiment), results (flexible in ideas, works well in teams). The bottom line: find someone with those traits and you’ll have an excellent example of an agile leader on your hands.

Final thoughts

If you’re also looking for ideas and tips on talent management, then I encourage you to check this book out. I think you’ll learn a few things, see some old concepts in a new light, and challenge yourself and your organization to be better at managing talent overall. The Talent Mandate is a great book. Click here if you would like your own copy.

You Have Their Backs, Do They Have Yours?

I was reading through this piece by Kris Dunn and it made me start thinking about something we all face at work. Here’s the quote:

So anyway, you’ve got a merit matrix in play at your company for one of those reasons.  With that in mind, your managers deliver an above average review to multiple employees, at which point they are forced to have to tell the employees that equates into a 3.2% raise.

The employee appears unimpressed, and the smart as #### ones get vocal.

At which point your manager utters the words, “I’d like to give you more, but I can’t.  This is all they’ll let me give you.”

“They” means “You” – the HR pro or the company.  It’s called the “manager pass-through”, and it erodes trust and confidence from the employees towards all parties involved.  The manager.  The company. The HR pro.

Those conversations are happening every day.  Find another way soon – because it’s killing you, whether you know it or not.

Most of the time I’d like to think my managers would have my back and take ownership of the process. That’s one thing I tell all of our supervisors: you have leeway in pay, performance, etc. of your people. That’s what we pay you for!

Get managers to take ownership!

There are two basic ways to respond to the top performers mentioned in the quote above:

  • Right: We get x% to spread around, and you’re worth about y% of that. Here’s how you get to be worth more than that…
  • Wrong: Well, HR only gave me this much so I can’t give you any more. If you have a problem, talk with them.

When employees come to me, I almost always go back to their manager to circle back on the issue, check for a satisfactory conclusion, etc. I partner with the managers to ensure that together we are serving our staff well.

However, I know there are probably some out there that are of the mindset that Kris mentions in his article (statistically, it’s bound to show up sooner or later). They are eager to throw the “blame” back on HR, management, the owners, or whoever else happens to be an easy target–as long as it’s not them. Why? Because the manager has to see and work with that employee on a daily basis, and if the employee realized the actual level of involvement and discretion on the part of the manager, that buddy-buddy thing would be out the window.

Anyone have ideas for how to resolve this? I know how I handle it internally, but I’m always open to ideas that might help with these recurring issues…

Managing Your First Employee

I started with Google. I was searching about managing my first employee, because I was about to have the chance. Finding info about managing your first employee shouldn’t be that hard, right? But most of the results had to do with entrepreneurs hiring their first staff member, and there was very little to do with becoming a first time manager of employees. Here’s a little of what I learned over the past few months.

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to bring on an intern to help with some overdue tasks, ongoing support, and basically anything else I could dig up. I’d been falling behind on some actions for a while after a hiring/recruiting surge, and I needed some additional part time help to fill that gap.

We interviewed several people, but one college student, V, had the attitude and skill set that I desperately needed.

Looking back now, it’s kind of funny. I write about talent management here fairly often. I know the theories, ideas, concepts, and methods for managing people.

And it’s still hard.

I fell into the traps.

I got a little lazy at times.

But I still learned a significant amount, the stakes were fairly low, and V (world’s greatest intern!) was forgiving.

She has learned a significant amount this summer, but so have I.

Key Takeaways

I learned a few things about myself, my work style, and a few quirks as well. Here are a few of the more pertinent ones:

  • Managing your first employee is going to be a different experience. It’s not like “doing” the work.
  • Be sure to delegate things that the person is good at. I hired an organization ninja because I’m not one. And she has been a godsend.
  • Ask how you’re doing in a frank, honest way. Don’t discourage feedback of any kind.
  • Buy them lunch. Or breakfast. Or a cookie. Especially if they’re an intern or admin staff, you can afford to do that once in a while.

For those of you with plenty of management experience under your belt, what tips would you give a first time manager? What has been your best tool over the years?

Two Biggest CEO Concerns? Talent and… Talent

I’ve long believed that recruiting and talent management is one of the fastest and most direct ways to prove and enhance the value proposition for HR. The tweet below was brought to my attention during a session at the SHRM conference, and I can completely understand the truth behind it.

What I can’t understand is the lack of desire for HR pros to change it. The reality is we are not doing all we can in this area, and it really boils down to two pretty simple concepts that I outline in the video below. Check it out and let me know in the comments if you’re doing this well (or not) and how you plan to adjust fire to ensure you are taking full advantage of the available opportunities.

(subscribers click here to view the video 1:43)

So, what do you think? Are you getting the right talent, or enough of it? Are you helping to deliver enough leadership talent, either through hiring externally or growth and professional development opportunities internally? 

Let’s Get Rid of HR #SHRM13

This morning a great discussion popped up among the social media team at SHRM, and I just had to share. This will probably be a little controversial, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

Can we cut to the chase? Let’s get rid of HR. Managers should be doing “HR’s job.”

Because in a surprising number of cases it’s not really HR’s job.

Want your HR team to be useful and provide real value to the organization? Let HR focus on strategic activity, supporting the critical business functions, and planning for the future.


Because when you spend all day fighting fires, responding to emergencies (real or imagined), and generally acting as a crutch for managers who won’t manage, there’s no time for the activities that will truly demonstrate the value of HR.

Should HR completely get out of the practice of being a facilitator for employees and managers? A large portion of the support that managers request from HR is actually work that could (and arguably should) be accomplished by the manager.

Anonymous HR professional: But wait, my managers need me! They need my help. They don’t have time to help employees set goals, talk with them about performance issues, or discuss succession opportunities. I’m a critical piece of the puzzle!

Yeah, those HR pros are going to be hurting, because change never happens without some growth pain. For those that want to cling to the “power” they have by being a resource for managers, they’ll never be able to grow into true strategic players in the organization.

The choice is yours, but I’d like to explore getting rid of HR as it’s all-too-commonly practiced. It’s about time.