Responding to Criticism-How to Prove HR’s Value

So yesterday I posted on a comment from a reader on a previous post. The person was obviously disgruntled with the HR people in their company, and I wanted to take the opportunity to respond here. Obviously I think HR in general has value for the company, leadership, and employees, but how does that play out in the real world?

How HR Provides Value

  • Recruiting-Many managers don’t want to stop working to interview candidates, much less create strong job ads, prescreen candidates, hold multiple interviews, and select the best fit for both competency and culture. The HR/recruiting function uses those tools to help keep turnover costs down and productivity high, both of which can significantly impact profitability. Continue reading

HR-Glorified Administration or Something More?

Recently I saw this comment on an HR blog post and couldn’t resist discussing it. Most of us would be quick to defend the work we do, but I’m looking for some strong, well thought out responses to the criticism. I’m going to post my own response tomorrow, so be sure to come back to see what I’m thinking.

HR is not relevant in any workplace. It is merely glorified administration that serves no real purpose other than to suck resources from the business the HR ‘professionals’ (I use that term somewhat ironically) Continue reading

HR Manager Questions for a New HR Job

Today we are working off of a reader question about HR manager questions to ask the management staff at a new employer. If you’d like to submit a question, please email me and I’ll do my very best to incorporate it into a future post. Thanks!

Have you ever written a post about when you start a new HR position what to ask the managers in the company?

I have started a brand new HR Manager position and I wanted a checklist of topics/questions to ask the departmental managers so I can get to know their “HR” needs.
–Shanna in FL

Well, Shanna, I have not, but this is an excellent topic to explore! The first thing that occurred to me when reading your question is that some of the fundamental questions about a company could be answered by asking these company corporate culture questions as a job seeker. That helps you to determine if you even want to work there before the offer is ever given.

However, for the purposes of my response I’ll assume you’ve done at least the basic research, taken the job, and now you’re wondering what to ask. The reasons for asking are threefold:

  1. Where have we been? What worked/didn’t in the past?
  2. What are we doing now?
  3. Where are we going? Do we have what we need to get there?

HR manager questions: how to begin

I would start with a quick meeting it it’s at all possible. Explain to the various department heads that while you might be new in the role, you are eager to help them get their HR needs satisfied. Some of them will welcome that, others may seem annoyed that you want to “stick your nose” into their business. I’ve found that more often than not, those managers will change their tune once you’ve helped them settle a dispute or assisted them with terminating a problem employee.

After the short meeting, it’s time to start meeting with them one-on-one. When you’re talking with the staff, you will probably get funny looks if you specifically ask about their “HR needs.” So talk instead about the various facets of what you do-training, development, compensation, compliance, recruiting, selection, benefits, employee relations, performance management, etc.

If the managers/employees are remote, it’s very simple to use a free tool like Google Docs to create and distribute a management survey in under 10 minutes. If your organization is relatively small, it might be worth your time to send that same survey to the entire employee base to get a feel for what they need. It’s very easy to analyze responses and figure out just what people are looking for in their HR representative.

If you assume everyone’s wanting new benefits and compensation but the survey shows that most of them are having issues with their direct managers, then you are going to be spinning your wheels and wasting time and resources.

If I was in your position, that’s the tool I would use.

Sample HR manager questions

Here are a few questions you might want to ask. I’m writing as they pop in my head, so there’s no rhyme or reason (and I hope the audience chimes in below in the comments with their own ideas).

  • How well is your performance management system working? Do staff know performance expectations? Are supervisors capable of having difficult conversations? Do they thank and recognize good performance? Are the right people terminated? Do you reward and incent people according to your values? DO you reward people for longevity? Do people feel like the organization has their back? Is it a win-win situation? Are staff seen as partners? How does the
    company communicate its gratitude to its staff?
  • What are the patterns of high turnover? Are the problems in a given shift, job, status (e.g. part-time), department, certain managers or locations? Where it\’s working well, why is that? Is it the supervisor, the clients, the location, hours, what?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of orientation and onboarding? Are new staff just ‘thrown in\’ to the job, or are they adequately trained before working alone? Who trains them? If it is other staff, do those staff feel happy or resentful to be put in that situation? Are new people welcomed and supported by HR, management, and other staff? Do they have enough supervision (quantity and quality)?
  • Direct line managers: are they mostly hired from outside or promoted from within? If promoted, do they have the knowledge and skills to do their jobs well? Do they have ongoing management training? Are they on the same page as the senior management? Do you have a manager at each employee site, or are managers based in the office and responsible for several sites? (There are pros and cons to each, and you have to manage the cons.)
  • With regard to mission/values: What do they mean to people? How are they used? Do staff espouse them? What are your agency\’s stated values? Do they match up with the principles? Do they match management and staff behavior? Do you have a cohesive set of values that you base your human resources practices on? Do you hire, promote and reward according to your values?

Other HR manager questions

If a human resources audit has never been performed, now could be the right time. Check out the link for more info on that.

Other resources

My friend Mike Haberman wrote a very good post titled 4 questions every CEO should ask about HR. While we’re looking at the opposite type of situation, this could be a good starting point for factors that are relevant to a CEO’s point of view.

Also, this article has some great ideas for how to develop a more global/external awareness as an HR professional. It would probably be worth your time to at least skim for ideas.

General questions to ask your boss at a new job (listed in no particular order):

I’d love to hear some ideas from the audience on HR manager questions. I know you guys might have more experience in this area, and I know that Shanna would appreciate it. Thanks!

Outsourcing HR Functions-I finally get it

Every time I used to hear “outsourcing” and “HR” in the same sentence, I would cringe. I guess that’s because because I’ve seen it done poorly before and don’t want to let go of the responsibilities I took on when I started in an HR role. Now I’m hitting a wall with what I can do and outsourcing (or automating) is looking like a more viable option.

Here’s the scoop

I’m in a small company. We have right at 60 employees right now, so pretty much everything HR is done by me or my manager. Recently I’ve been looking at performance management tools to help reduce our administration and labor costs associated with that process. I was set on a tool, and then a wrinkle was thrown into the process when a benefits broker reached out to take over our benefits administration. And then I found an ATS that I like, because it will help reduce some of my time and labor involved with the recruiting process.

My options

Automate our performance management process-saves the operations staff some of their admin time, saves all the hassle of paper shuffling and storage, and helps us to easily see some of the analytics tied into the process. The downside? I have to train everyone on how to use the tools, and I’m not sure that will go as smoothly as I would like, because half of our managers are out of state.

Outsource our benefits administration-again, saves the operations staff some of the time and effort, but otherwise it doesn’t impact our employees in a meaningful way (other than freeing me up to do things like training, leadership development, etc.). The downside? The cost is actually more than the performance management system. Yikes. So those are the two options I’m wrestling with right now.

Here is how we are going to tackle it as the operations team. We are going to put together a chart with all of the labor hours tied to these items and then see where and how we can automate for the lowest cost but highest value/yield.

Riveting, huh?

If you’ve ever been through this process, I’d like to hear your ideas and thoughts on how it went well, how it went wrong, and what you would do differently next time.

Trench HR, Digital Influence, and Blogging

Recently I posted a humorous item about being listed as a “Top 25 Digital HR Influencer.” It was all in fun, but there was something more serious brought to my attention by my friend Charlie Judy on the Trench HR LinkedIn group for “in the trenches” HR pros. He wanted to know why there were so few “real” HR people on the list and how we could get more people involved.

If you remember my Put Up or Shut Up goals for 2011, one of those is to help more people get started blogging. Just putting that out there might seem scary for you. It’s really not. If you don’t have the time for social media or you just don’t have the patience to get your own blog up and running, I would love to help. I want your voice out there.

My friend Steve Browne recently (finally!) started his own blog after months of people begging him to start one. He got started doing guest posts like the one on my site and built an audience of people who loved to hear what he had to say. Then someone gave him a free blog setup for Christmas. :-)

If you have something to say, let’s talk. Even if you think this blog might not be the forum for you, I’ll gladly help you reach out to someone else if I can. The best blog posts are those that talk about personal stories of triumph and tragedy, and everyone in the HR/recruiting fields has seen their fair share of those two things.

And if that’s not enough to spur you on, there could even be some PHR/SPHR recertification credits in there for you. Recently, the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) announced that they would award recertification credits for blog posts that fit their requirements. Here’s what it takes:

  • Credit is awarded under the Research/Publishing category.
  • Blog posts must be 700 words or more on a subject related to the HR knowledge base.
  • Posts must contain facts/data and not be an editorial or opinion piece.
  • Blogs must be posted on a site that is open to the public, whether it is the writer\’s blog or as a guest blog post for another site, such as SHRM Connect.
  • Links to posts must be provided in the submission for recertification.

If you are interested in blogging for fun, for the emotional release, or just because you can get a few recertification credits, please let me know. I haven’t been around this profession as long as many of you, but I know something for certain.

Blogging makes you better at HR.

But I’m too busy for social media…

trenchhrThis is a tribute to the TrenchHR LinkedIn group created by my friend Charlie Judy. Recently I joined and asked a question about how to respond to people who say they are too busy to use social media tools. In less than 48 hours I had a great number of responses from people who practice HR every day and have combated this issue in their own lives. Read on for some great ideas and a lively discussion on the value of social media in the life of an HR/recruiting professional!

“But I’m too busy already…”

So, when I’m pushing HR people to join LinkedIn, start reading blogs, etc., the first response is usually “but I’m too busy already” or “I don’t have time for something else.” Looking for some good responses to those comments. I can say, “Look at me!” But that really doesn’t help my case. :-) These people think they want to start doing this stuff, but they are talking themselves out of it before they even start. Suggestions?

Ben Eubanks Continue reading