HR is as HR Does

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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.

Photo credit: Foter.com

Recruiting Mature Workers Just Got Easier

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Did you know that AARP, the huge organization to advance the interests of people as they age in the United States, has launched a job board? Take a look at the new board here.

My trial run on the board revealed that it’s got all of the basic features job seekers expect to see in a job search site. One suggestion I’d make is that if the tool is meant to appeal to recruits who may be looking for flexible scheduling or an alternative work arrangement, maybe more categories are in order beyond full-time and part-time. The options for employers posting and reviewing applicants look useful and appropriate at first glance. But one thing really jumped out at me.

If your organization signs an Employer Pledge, it can earn a 30% discount on job posting packages during the launch period. Standard packages begin at $199, and Enhanced packages, with increased visibility for job postings, start at $399. More information can be found on this page.

According the AARP, the Employer Pledge involves the following:

Working with AARP, participating organizations have signed a pledge that they:

  • Believe in equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age
  • Believe that 50+ workers should have a level playing field in their ability to compete for and obtain jobs
  • Recognize the value of experienced workers
  • Recruit across diverse age groups and consider all applicants on an equal basis.

Here is the AARP Employer Pledge overview, if you’d like to check it out.

The tagline is “Experience Valued.” As many baby boomers, and soon, Gen Xers join the ranks of age 50+ workers, and organizations look for ways to cut costs by shedding more expensive salaries in favor of early-career professionals, remembering the value of experience is critical. A 2015 AARP Study (analyzed by the Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM) concluded that the value of employing older workers is substantial, while the incremental cost of hiring and retaining them is only 1-2% over earlier career employees.

SHRM and the SHRM Foundation found the aging workforce worthy of a substantial research initiative in 2016. The results and tools for successfully managing an aging workforce are detailed and useful. According to the SHRM Foundation’s Guide to Leveraging the Talents of Mature Employees, the population of younger workers with the skills needed for success in today’s environment is too small to step into the shoes of the aging Baby Boomer generation. As these less experienced workers build their skills and experience, aging workers can take advantage of flexibility in scheduling and role design, if employers are willing to offer it, in order to fill gaps.  SHRM’s suggestions for recruiting mature workers include identifying sources of talent that will include older adults. AARP’s new job board could be a good fit for that need.

Older workers often have wisdom, institutional knowledge, experience and a strong work ethic. Check the data, and be sure you aren’t overestimating the costs, and underestimating the benefits, of recruiting, hiring and retaining them.

Photo credit: tec_estromberg via Foter.com / CC BY

 

I Own My Career

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the decision I made a little over a year ago, to “go out on my own.” I owe my success first to a supportive husband and family, all of whom have made it possible for me to take this risk. But beyond that, my SHRM and local HR networks have been instrumental to my success, by providing guidance, pep talks, commiseration and tools to help me get on my feet and fashion the career I’ve always wanted.

The decision to leave the flock as an HR Professional isn’t an easy one. Working as a department of one, or in an established HR team at a company that pays you every other week and provides employee benefits and a 401K provides a feeling of security, camaraderie, and a clear future path.  You get feedback on how you’re doing, and sometimes a pat on the back or some kudos when you hit it out of the park. The job can be easier, too. You know the minefield of personalities, politics and closet skeletons, and the goals are laid out before you like a yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City. The problem is, there’s also often a “man behind the curtain” and all of that isn’t what it seems.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a very fair salary that I appreciated going in, only to end up having to work two full-time jobs to avoid leaving real humans I care about without receiving the support, operational consistency and services they need from HR. So, the salary, benefits and 401K take on a different value when divided in half. Now, when I get paid, it’s because I worked my ass off and delivered exactly what I sold to my client, and more. And when I perform work, it’s because it’s meaningful to me and I’m interested in doing it. Are there lean times? Yes. And when those come, I am rich with time to do things I want to do. Time has immense value to me.

I’ve participated in goalsetting that doesn’t align with any semblance of business success-or that is supported in any way by internal customers. Sometimes those goals have been a moving target, or backed into after the fact based on pet projects of new leaders. There’s no yellow brick road, or if it’s there, it leads nowhere. Today, I set my own goals, and achieve my own milestones. And they are exceedingly meaningful to me. I celebrate, and appreciate, and love when my blood, sweat and tears (along with the support of my partners and resources) have brought me to success. The flip side? I fail. A lot. And I learn. A lot. The freedom to fail and learn is one of the things I cherish about the freedom my new career affords me.

In the past, I’ve been embedded in organizations where dysfunction reigns and the No Asshole Rule is never enforced. I’ve let myself be stuck in a vortex of self-pity and inaction when my efforts to call it out have failed. The upside of being my own boss is not that I’ve escaped that. To the contrary, that experience has helped me recognize where that’s happening, and consulting has gifted me with the freedom (and readiness on the part of clients to receive the message) to illuminate it where it exists and help repair it. Where teams revel in dysfunction and by default create their own survival code for members to suffer through each day, there is almost always a kernel of human pain and need, and lack of understanding and empathy at the core. I’m not always successful in triumphing over dysfunction, but I always get to try. The elephant in the room never goes unnamed, and I value that greatly.

Gratitude is the first word that comes to mind when I think about my career today. Appreciation for the many colleagues who have been there before me and have shared their advice on how to make this work-it’s helped me hang on and not give up. Fulfillment: it’s what I get from this work, and in turn, helps me have the energy to give all I have to my clients.

I own my career. And it feels like success to me.

Photo credit: mtchlra via Foter.com / CC BY

The Land of No HR

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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 Foter.com / CC BY

Change is the New Normal

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Russell Senate Office Building-Photo credit Kelly Marinelli 2016

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 th 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!

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