The Land of No HR

dragon

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

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Transforming HR

My New LinkedIn Summary

i-must-try-harder

Okay, my HR pals. Please be ruthless in your feedback. I need to know your concerns as I try to become more clear about what I have to offer. Here is my new summary:

Aligning HR with business strategy and creating success for organizations through compliant processes that work, focusing on hiring, retaining and growing the right people, and simplifying the way we deliver the services needed to nurture the workforce. 

Please either Tweet me @KellyinBoulder or feel free to enter your comments below.

Thanks to all of you who take the time to let me know your thoughts!

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The HR Martyr

the-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 Foter.com / CC BY-SA

The Lifers

prison cell

So, I’ve shared that I recently started a new gig at a big company that has a long, long history. Like other organizations I’ve worked in, it’s poised on the precipice of big change, so “change management” is front and center.

In my role, I get to see people every day who have worked with the organization for their entire careers. They aren’t at retirement yet, but they’ve been there for more than twenty or thirty years. They’ve seen HR people come and go, and heard about this or that change initiative that’s also come and gone. Some of it may have stuck, but mostly not.

Some of them know that they should get on board, but they are just tired: tired of working so hard to take care of their families, tired of worrying so much about whether they will be able to pay for their medical bills, and tired of hearing about this new idea that’s going to make things so much better. They also suspect that all this change will put money in the pockets of the people at the top, but won’t bring a lot of great things to them.

But others are actually energized by the change, even if they’ve been at the company for a long, long time. They know that the changes will make the company stronger and better, and when the company is stronger and better, we all benefit from greater security, pay raises, good working conditions, and the pride that comes with doing a great job and making the company successful.

Others still are just saying, “Let me do my job.” I don’t want to hear about any of this, and I just want you to leave me alone. And by the way, keep it down. You are disturbing my peace and quiet, and I was here first, long before you.

You can’t put the Lifers all in one bucket. They have different ideas, different feelings, and different motivations. But one thing they all have in common? They want you to recognize what they’ve already contributed and respect them for still being there. And I do.

Now, about those changes I mentioned…they’re still coming our way. And I’ll be there to help the Lifers negotiate them, the best I can.

Photo credit: Tim Pearce, Los Gatos via Foter.com / CC BY

Communication Requires Actually Talking

communication

I have a group of clients who like to use leverage. This means they will email instructions on a particular issue like they are a done deal, then tell you to move forward with their direction. They will simultaneously copy in other people not likely to agree with them, and pretend like there’s no further discussion needed.

While this does make for some laugh out loud moments on my part when I read my email, it doesn’t make for a functional, interactive and productive group dynamic when the person copied has a tantrum. In situations like this, I usually invite a leader to weigh in.

Except…sometimes they don’t take the opportunity to provide clarity. In that case, it’s up to me to recognize the need and take a stand with a firm recommendation. That recommendation is often not the last word, and the arguing continues. Even then, in some cases, a leader won’t engage to hear both sides, and make a decision to put the issue to rest.

It’s then I know we not only have a problem to solve today, but a development need for tomorrow as well. Communication requires actually talking to one another, hearing all of the details, risks, costs and benefits, and then making a decision that everyone agrees to live with and move forward under.

The decision is definitely important, and it’s up to the business to make one. But it’s also about the communication. That is something we can and must facilitate in HR.

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I Believe in a Big Candy Jar

candy sticks

Those who know me understand that I’m kind of a health nut. But I love candy. Jelly beans, Skittles, salt water taffy, Airheads, Mentos (the fruit kind-not the mint ones) and any other chewy, sweet stuff you can find. I also love chocolate, the darker and more bitter the better.

My candy jar is almost always full on my desk. It’s not a weenie candy dish that will show a big gap when you take a piece. It’s an overflowing jar with a lid and you are always welcome to come by and see me to take a piece or two. While you’re here I’ll expect to hear a little about your day, what you’re proud of, what’s bugging you, and what you think about what’s going on at work and in your life.

People often remark on the candy jar, whether it’s full, what’s in it, and when there will be more chocolate. They give me a hard time and pretend to steal a piece as they hurry by and give me a sly smile. They interrupt my work to talk about things that are important to them when they are just “stopping by for candy.” And I love it.

Sometimes people will fill the candy jar. It’s never required for anyone to contribute candy, and I don’t complain when it empties. The dish makes happiness for everyone, even those who don’t eat the candy. It spreads goodwill among everyone who sees it. When they give to the candy jar, they’re part of that warm feeling too.

Every HR pro should have the equivalent of a candy jar-something colorful, irresistible and fun in your workspace that welcomes people in. Maybe yours is a bunch of funny office toys for people to squeeze, throw or shake, or tons of funny magnets, stickers and posters for them to read and have a laugh with you.

Inviting people to be present in the moment with you is a great way to enjoy work, do great HR, and make life more fun. My candy jar does that.

What’s your candy jar? Share your ideas in the comments.

Visit Solve HR, Inc.

Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via Foter.com / CC BY