Posts tagged Solve HR Inc-
HR is as HR Does


Those of you who know me are aware that I am biased toward action. Mulling things over? Nope. Researching a little bit more after the conclusion seems clear? Not unless you can convince me of the value in it. Talking something to death? Never.

I know a lot of folks in HR whose bread and butter is generated through speaking, generating content that others purchase or receive as part of consulting packages, and whose reputations are built upon their gravitas in the HR public sphere. I think these people are great. I admire them, learn from them, enjoy their work, and become a better HR professional because of my exposure to them.

Here's the thing, though. I am what's called a "do-er." If words and actions disagree, actions are always what I believe. If there's a choice between doing something and talking about it, I prefer to do. You may think that makes me "tactical" or even "transactional" in orientation, but that couldn't be further from the truth. My work product communicates, adds value and is left behind, as words fade into the air. It can be referred back to, shaped, revised, and molded to fit the needs of tomorrow and the next day. I continuously communicate while I act-strategically, efficiently and, hopefully, helpfully.

Action is what matters most. HR is sometimes guilty of acting in a way that's not consistent with what we say, as a result of burnout, lack of experience, or failure to speak truth to our clients. We say that our company's employees are its most important asset. We talk about employee engagement like it's a priority. We even spout messages about developing leaders internally and caring about retention. Then what happens? We complain about human problems and label people like we think we know their stories. We are complicit in treating employees like they are cogs in a machine because our shareholders need a teeny, tiny bit more value. We (sometimes haphazardly) label some people with monikers like "High Potential" (without recognizing the unconscious bias we all have in making this choice) and participate in numbering them in order of their perceived value. We allow our manager clients to get away with not coaching, communicating about performance or engaging in difficult conversations with their direct reports.

Are you as frustrated with this as I am? Let's do something. Speak less, act more. Treat employees with dignity, no matter what they have done or said, or what consequences we must deliver. Everyone tends to find themselves in crisis at one time or another, and there are no walls around the workplace anymore. Recognize people, know them and appreciate them every day. Question authority when you think your wonderful, unique and human teammates are being mislabeled or made the victims of petty, poor leadership politics. Hold your manager clients' feet to the fire when they avoid conflict or face to face communication, and remind everyone all the way up the management chain that they own the success or failure of their front-line employees.

Let's agree that we'll act. Our workplaces will be better for it, and the trust level in HR will go through the roof. And, ultimately, our organizations will be more successful, which is exactly what our business leaders need from us.

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The Land of No HR

Lately, I have been working with an organization that had little support or guidance in the way of HR, for many years. It is of a size that needs it desperately, and in an industry where extra care should be taken with workers to ensure production of a quality product or service.

I’ve been around a while, and I’ve seen a lot of team dynamics. I’ve worked with toxic leaders and dysfunctional departments. But I must say I was lulled into complacency by this team at the start and then was reminded how things work in the Land of No HR.

The first rule in the Land of No HR, is that no one knows what HR is supposed to do. So everyone is glad to see you when you get there. They have an idea that HR is basically there to save them from the mean leader who is making life hard for them and the changes in the organization that are causing anxiety and upheaval. They think HR is there is be a representative for them to take their complaints to their own managers and force them to listen.

They’re on the right track. I’m there to help them develop communication skills so they can be candid and solution-oriented with their leaders about what’s not working so they can move on to summiting mountains and slaying dragons. I’m even ready to be a mediator where ancient, fetid, ugly problems that have been festering for years are coming to the surface. And I can help leaders clarify strategy, performance, and how resources and people fit together in the plan.

I’m not there to wave a magic wand and make the challenges go away, or deliver disingenuous platitudes to feral managers who have never been held accountable for leading or delivering results that contribute to the organization’s success. In a lot of ways, I’m there to challenge, listen, empathize and push a little, and make sure everyone has the training and guidance they need. I want people to feel understood, valued and empowered, but to get there, they must take responsibility for their roles, their work and their own behaviors.

We’re working on it. By the time I move on, they will have the tools, an informed and capable business leader who understands and values an HR presence in the organization, and hopefully, a permanent HR resource in place. But the future is truly in their hands. I hope they are wildly successful!

Photo credit: johanferreira15 via / CC BY

Change is the New Normal
Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

In HR, we're used to rolling with the punches, adapting to changes every day in the needs of our organizations, the crises that arise among our workforce, and continuously learning how to navigate the workplace waters with new technology.

Recently, with a contentious election cycle completed, and an unexpected result (at least, unexpected by many), some of the HR compliance and policy issues that we all have been watching and working on for the past few years have been upended. What will the next four years bring? No one can predict that. But here are some of the areas I'll be watching with a new administration in place and (presumably) shifting alliances in Congress and new leaders/administrators at the Department of Labor.

  • Overtime Rule Changes: Even before the surprising injunction was issued out of federal court in Texas, the winds were shifting on the overtime rule salary threshold changes. In the first week after the election handed the presidency and majorities of both houses of Congress to the Republicans, even some Democratic lawmakers were willing to take a look at advocating for a more gradual increase in the threshold instead of doubling it in the first year and adding automatic increases. Perhaps they were thinking that a reasonable solution might save the rule from being reversed outright. Now that the rule has been blocked, it's anyone's guess whether it will be implemented as written anytime soon. With many employers having already made changes in advance of the 12/1/2016 implementation date, it may not matter to anyone but the most hardened procrastinators.
  • Inclusion of Pay Data in the EEO-1: This requirement isn't set to be rolled out until  March of 2018, but many have argued that the burden of this reporting and the privacy concerns that arise from this reporting requirement and the publication of aggregate data by the EEOC merit giving it another look. Employers with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with 50 or more employees make this a small business concern. President-Elect Trump has stated that he wants to make it easier for businesses to create jobs by cutting corporate taxes. Will he consider reducing regulatory burdens to be part of that picture?
  • Paid Maternity Leave: Mr. Trump has indicated that he is in favor of requiring six weeks of paid maternity leave. This is certainly a benefit that would allow many women to recover from birth and bond with their infants who would not otherwise have that opportunity if they are not currently eligible for short-term disability benefits through an employer. This policy (also championed by his daughter, Ivanka Trump) indicates that the new president may be willing to impose costly burdens on employers if he believes the outcome is worthwhile. This separates him from some other politicians in his party, who don't support such an expansion of paid leave.

What labor policy will we see from an incoming Republican president whose base of support includes party-crossing union voters as well as business owners? The answer is likely the be fascinating and unpredictable. These are just three of the policy issues I'll be following over the next year. Share your thoughts on issues important to HR in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Kelly Marinelli

Transforming HR

I’ve been involved in some projects lately that promise to transform the way HR is delivered at the organizations where they’re being implemented. It’s an exciting time for these folks, and I know they will eventually be very successful if the will and resources continue to be there for them as they make this journey.

In the process, though, I’ve noticed (and shared) a few things that could make the job easier. I think these are typical missteps when it comes to proposing, and ultimately implementing, transformational HR initiatives. What’s the one common thread across all of them? Some HR executive leaders that may be removed from the front line either don’t fully understand or maybe even sufficiently value HR Operations. The transformations are commonly depicted as TACTICAL to STRATEGIC, and what’s lost in the process is that both are needed to deliver HR effectively.

The following failures can sink a big HR organizational change before it even begins to take place:

  1. HR leaders don’t always undertake to understand the current HR operational landscape. Benchmarking numbers of clients each front line HR professional should be able to support begins with an understanding of the service levels they are providing to their clients. Are there tech tools that are underutilized and creating inefficiencies, or are those tools incompletely implemented, with wires hanging out the back of them where another system should be seamlessly collecting information that is currently being entered manually (at great time and efficiency cost)? Is your staff supporting one on one because there is no centralized support currently being offered? Are multiple locations using different processes, or providing varying levels of service? Fully understanding the critical services and making small changes to standardize how they are being delivered today can help us begin the transition process among management to help them adjust to a new way of thinking about HR.
  2. HR leaders don’t fully plan for the nuts and bolts needed on the ground to keep the current organizational expectations of HR fulfilled. Failure to consider how to continue providing services during a seismic shift in HR delivery can deliver a fatal blow to any big HR change initiative. It’s not optional to keep things going on the front line-this is a core expectation of the business. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater on day one will just frustrate management clients and create an intolerable level of disarray in front line HR.
  3. HR leaders don’t think about how to clearly describe and communicate the changes to the business, so that expectations can be adjusted and satisfaction levels maintained. This is really change management at its core. If we don’t communicate what is changing and how we expect it to impact the business, they will make up their own version of what results of the change will look like (and it usually doesn’t look good). The quickest way to get the organization’s leaders to disengage and fail to support the changes proposed by HR is to let them be disappointed by unrealistic expectations, or, worse, come up with fatalistic versions of reality on their own that allow them to envision failure before an initiative even begins.
  4. HR leaders expect current staff to handle things like critical project work and technology implementation in addition to their front-line HR delivery responsibilities, for a long period of time before efficiencies from those HR technology changes are captured. Don’t burn out the people who actually can help you implement. Think about whether you can afford the high cost of turnover, and then take a lesser amount of that cost and allocate it to temporary resources, either to offload some of the everyday work of your current frontline HR employees, or to hire consultants to lead or supplement the project work needed to transform your organization.
  5. HR leaders tend to discount the value of the tactical, and even transactional work that is expected of HR. HR is absolutely capable of delivering on the promise of a strategic partnership with the business. We can increase the bottom line, and develop the organization’s people to be more engaged, productive, and successful. We can hire the right new resources and ensure they want to stay, and we can figure out how to reward them in ways that make them feel appreciated without compromising profits. We can deal with seismic shifts in the workforce, like the incoming Millennials and GenXers becoming the successors of quickly retiring boomers, and we can develop talent to be ready for the challenges of tomorrow. We can ensure our workplaces are compliant and protect the reputation of the company. We can do all this and more, but if we don’t make sure people get paid, understand their benefits and ensure that required paperwork gets filed, we will be considered a failure. Yes, HR should be sure we are not exclusively focused on the tactical, but tactical is not a dirty word. It’s our job as HR to execute each and every day on behalf of the organization and its employees.
  6. HR leaders assume that Business Systems/IT is a ready partner in troubleshooting and implementing HR Tech solutions. Unless there is shared accountability for the outcomes of HR Tech initiatives, there will not be shared ownership. HR leaders would do well to not only understand the capabilities of Business Systems and IT in their organization prior to making them a critical partner, but also ensure that they are on the hook for the results as well. Otherwise, there are plenty of other partners (many of whom generate revenue for the organization) who will be pulling away those resources from HR. Midstream is not the time to lock down this partnership if it’s critical to success. If a mandatory part of the plan is to use technology to increase efficiency in HR operational transactions in order to free up time to be a strategic partner with the business, HR can’t go it alone without an IT resource, whether it’s internal or external.
  7. HR leaders fail to provide clarity of expectations and exercise quick resolve to decide which team members are in the right roles, which ones will go forward in the new world post-implementation, and what kinds of new talent is needed in HR to make the change happen. It will become clear immediately which organizational structures will not be useful (or are not even currently useful) in a transformed HR organization. It’s not practical or helpful to let go of current resources on day one, but in an environment of courageous change, there needs to be an immediate realignment of roles to ensure that team members whose skills and/or motivation are not in alignment with the new HR vision are doing work that doesn’t currently require this. At the same time, those team members can be offered the development opportunities needed to bring their skills in line with the future vision of HR. With very few exceptions, front line operational HR work can be done remotely, and those without the current capacity and ability to perform project work in support of the HR transformation can absolutely keep the lights on while changes go forward that will eventually result in the efficiencies that justify a smaller team. Use your resources wisely and stop wringing hands over who should be let go. And when it comes to new talent, don't just focus on the fun stuff-we need operational expertise to make this happen, not only more ephemeral "strategic" thought leaders. We need both. Let me say that again: we need both to bring the results.

Thinking about these seven concerns before we make promises to the business and begin implementing large-scale changes in HR will increase our chances of success. We need to begin with an understanding of HR operations first, in order to make BIG HR changes happen.

Photo credit: Julie Raccuglia via / CC BY-SA

The HR Martyr

Why is it that everywhere I go, HR professionals work ungodly hours, are expected to drop everything at any time, and don’t feel they deserve work-life balance? It’s like we believe the hype the business sells when they tell the story of us as a cost center and a transactional, commodity-type service. The cheaper the better, the business says-watch out, because if you cost too much and don’t make it worth our while, we’ll just outsource you, replace you with technology, or not build you in at all, like many startups do today.

What is our typical response? It should be to show the value we bring in bringing success to the business, and in increasing the bottom line. It should be to prove our strategic worth, and stop being simply the department of “no.” It should be that we resist being seen as the party planner, the cleaner-upper, and the administrative assistant, and instead provide something more that the business can point to that brings them less turnover, a happier, more productive and successful workforce, more efficiently structured teams, better hires, and in turn, increased profits.

What do we do instead? Often it's more of the same transactional, tactical, check the box, frenzied activity. So much of it that we trick ourselves into thinking we are indispensible. We work 70+ hours per week, making our already relatively lower pay (compared with other critical business functions) lower still by spreading it over two full-time jobs. We tell ourselves we’re lucky to be working for such a great organization, and that some people probably appreciate what we do. We talk about how much we’re working, how crazy busy it is at work, and how it’s impossible to get everything done, but that we have to keep trying, because the people are important to us. You know HR, right? It’s always like that. And we don’t deserve any better. No one thinks we’re important. They just think we cost money, and they are always looking for ways to cheapen the outflow of cash in our direction, because they don’t understand or appreciate what we bring to the table.

Poor us. But one thing is certain: they will never know if we sit back and hope they'll notice. Telling isn’t enough, either. And just working long hours isn’t going to do it. We have to bring the goods and push our way to the table, and show them.

Photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) OFF via / CC BY-SA