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

Work it Like it’s 1998

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Okay, so I’m outing myself. I’m not doing some super-strategic, high value HR at my new gig. I’m screwing up things like data entry and making badges for people to get into our building. Oh, yes-I’m also generating ad hoc reporting that allows my clients to look backward…but not to really plan for the future. It takes about 60-70 hours per week to complete the transactional, tactical duties my clients expect of me at my site. And that’s before I even undertake the project work that my inspirational HR leader needs me to commit to performing in order to take us to the next level.

So…I am definitely going to need to disappoint my clients in service of making some needed adjustments. Status quo will not build the changes they need to grow. Some leaders will recognize what I’m doing, but some won’t-and they will be very disappointed and feel like I’m failing them. They will wonder why they can’t have their old HR manager back, the one who would take care of every administrative need, and check every transactional box for them.

But there are others who will come along with me. They will see that when we find shared solutions for the transactional, we can free up energy for the transformational. I really care about these people, and like a parent or a good friend, I care enough to tell them what they don’t want to hear.

The next year will bring some tough challenges, and some high-value changes. Come along with me and see what it’s like to practice HR that brings strategic value to the business. Stay tuned!

Visit Solve HR, Inc.

Photo credit: ** RCB ** via Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

Make Your Hiring Process Real

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While working in severely dysfunctional environments back when I was a baby professional, I have personally sat in on interviews as an individual contributor and heard hiring leaders tell bold-faced lies about things like work-life balance. And I’m not talking about technicalities here, like saying “Our organization’s values statement includes work-life balance” when it isn’t actually implemented in practice. What I heard was, “Oh, yes! There’s plenty of balance here! We manage to get our work done and leave plenty of time for your personal life. And we’re flexible too, no worries!” Umm, no, and no.

Should I have offered to walk this candidate out to the entrance after the meeting and told her the truth? Yes. But that would be ruining any chance for my own work-life balance since I was working in “survival mode” as my manager called it, and with two team members currently missing, I needed some new sucker to take the job. That makes me a terrible person out to save my own hide, but I’m not sure what anyone expects in that situation, where you pit team member against team member and put them on a tropical island without enough food or tools. “Survival mode” is fine when it’s really just in emergencies, but nobody has the fortitude and motivation to do their best work that way all the time. The organization had made a choice that it was worth the turnover to keep lean. I’m not sure they were right, but that’s for another day, another post.

In the years after that, I had a very different experience with a much more enlightened employer. I had been looking for a new opportunity and wasn’t in a hurry. The role was very demanding, but exciting too. When I heard about the salary range, I wasn’t dazzled, but the work was cool enough that I wanted to know more. I had a great call with a recruiter, and was next scheduled to speak with another person in the role I was being considered for.

She helped me put the brakes on pretty quickly. “This is a job where you can expect to work 60 hours or more per week consistently, every week. And then sometimes we work through weekends if there are deadlines.”

She continued, “And you should expect to travel 50-75% of the time, depending on client need.” Hmm…this was not previously mentioned by the recruiter. Travel is fun, but not all the time, and it’s certainly something I would need to know in order to realistically evaluate the opportunity.

“You also should know that you will be held to billable hours and sales goals.” OK. As a recovering lawyer, “billable hours goal” is code for “we will work you within an actual inch of your life.”

I revisited the salary range, thought through the other details, and it was very clear that I wasn’t willing to be worked within an inch of my life or expected to spend most of my waking hours there, even for exciting work, for the salary they were offering. If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have left the legal profession.

What if my interviewer had been a coward, like me? The organization would have gotten some good work out of me, that’s true. But alas, it wouldn’t have been a long-term gig. Telling the truth about the job gave me, and the organization, the right result. It wasn’t a fit. Wise hiring leaders and talent acquisition professionals know that painting an accurate picture, warts and all, makes for not only good hires, but the right hires.

Think about your own recruiting, interviewing and hiring processes. What incentives is your organization creating among those involved in the hiring process (recruiters, interviewers, yourself) that aren’t in alignment with your business and hiring strategic goals? Are you being frank with job seekers about what you have to offer?

Visit Solve HR, Inc.

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Friends at Work

Friends

A survey from SHRM found that having friends at work is an important factor in employee retention. In my case, I have the most amazing and real relationships with some of the teammates I left behind when I went out on my own to begin my consulting business. So it certainly contributed to my happiness and engagement level while I was with that employer, but it didn’t keep me from leaving when the time was right. What’s so wonderful is that I’m able to keep in daily contact with them, and have regular lunches and happy hours to keep from feeling like I’ve lost the connection.

I’m going to sound like an old lady now, but in the olden days when I began my career, during the dawn of the internal email system age (and before the Internet was widely available) AND, importantly, well before cell phones, when you left an employer, you really left.  There was very little you could do (without spending a ton of time and effort) to keep in touch with your work buddies unless you were still in their direct professional orbits.

So sad…I’ve lost touch with countless people that way over the years.  LinkedIn has helped-many of them have reappeared to connect with me so I can celebrate all of their rock-star accomplishments with them.

But back to today: I’m so grateful to be able to take my friends with me wherever I go. They’re only a text away. And they are, every one of them, critical to my success, wherever I’m working from. I need their support, sense of humor, and fresh ideas to inspire me. HR is like that…a tribe of folks who understand, who have been in the strangest of situations, and when they hear your stories, they just nod knowingly and touch your shoulder and say, “hang in there.” And then they laugh, and you do too.

Looking forward to meeting a new batch of great work friends at the SHRM Annual Conference in June. Be sure to look me up and connect on Twitter @solvewrites and on LinkedIn. See you in DC!

Visit Solve HR, Inc.

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Kill These 2 Innovation-Blocking Employee Assumptions

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Radical Transparency.  It seems like a difficult culture to maintain without completely stripping team members from their own emotions, but Ray Dalio runs his business that way. Take a look for more information on Bridgewater’s unique way of giving feedback.
On the opposite end of that scale is a culture where nothing gets done unless everyone at each level has taken the time and energy to calculate the reaction each action or idea may generate from the level of management above it.  Mistakes or failures are punished (overtly or quietly, in the form of reputation damage wrought by a whisper campaign) and the only acceptable actions are those perceived to be completely without risk. This is an extraordinary waste of energy and time, and like a poisonous fog, obscures what could be great ideas, big wins, monumental problems solved…and as Ken Pearlman described here, it’s a true innovation killer.
Here are two ways your employees are wasting their time, your company’s money, and squandering innovation in the process:
1.   Nothing is shared with leadership unless it’s perceived as something they want to hear.  Each idea that’s generated is initially met with excitement, but that’s quickly tamped down when the team goes into full spin mode. What will the leaders think of this idea? There is currently a huge push underway to cut costs, so this idea is likely to be seen as a misunderstanding of that directive, because it requires a budget. What about the fact that it is likely net cost-saving?  No way will the team (or their manager) take that chance, because if it is a flop, history has shown they will go down with their ship.
2.   Those who actually go ahead and champion ideas that go against #1 are labeled as troublemakers. Sometimes ideas are just that good—your employees can’t resist trying to bring them to fruition. What has happened to those team members in the past?  Have your fearful managers attached targets to their backs and discredited them to the rest of the leadership team?  Or have these employees with moxie been so discouraged by the stagnant culture that they left the company on their own? Either way, you lose—ideas, talent, and forward motion.         
When you multiply the levels of your organization, if this waste of resources is happening all the way up the chain, you are losing a lot of productivity and nixing hundreds of great ideas.  Discard the fear and send the message from the top that innovation and free flow of ideas is what you want and expect from your employees and managers, and enjoy the success that comes from trusting the amazing people you chose to be part of your team.

Visit Solve HR, Inc.
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6 Easy Ways to Drive Away Great Talent

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There has been a lot of attention on the dismal levels of employee engagement lately. In fact, Gallup’s most recent poll shows employee engagement at 34.1% in the United States. Turnover has great costs, in financial and human terms-I wrote on the Solve HR, Inc. blog recently about how trust can inspire loyalty, increasing retention, if that’s the direction you want to go.
Instead, today I thought we should talk about what managers do to push employees away.  We’ve all experienced these irritating, counterproductive habits of poor managers that drive great talent to seek another (even any other) path.  Just one manager exhibiting these behaviors can cost your business thousands, so imagine if you have several of them how expensive that can be!  Here are some of the miserable things these managers do:
  1.  They make sure they have no idea what their employees are doing. Your managers aren’t there to organize and allocate work.  They are just there to pass on pronouncements from above them and to make sure their teams don’t do things that generate complaints that they will have to actually respond to. And if problems arise?  This manager passes them on to the team without comment and goes back into his office. The good news for him?  His manager doesn’t know what he is doing either.
  2.  They ask for status updates every ten minutes, and don’t let their team talk to anyone without asking them first. Your employees are pretty lazy—I mean, what would they get done without their manager following behind them, asking them to justify their every move?  And they’re not too savvy either. That’s why this manager has to make sure she controls every word upper management hears from the team. It also doesn’t hurt that this way she can take credit for any decent idea they happen to come up with, although that’s not likely.  What would the company do without her stellar management skills? They’d save the cost of her salary and reduce turnover, too.
  3.  They don’t go to bat for their team-it’s too much trouble. Upper management doesn’t totally understand what employees are doing on the front line when they come up with a new strategic direction for the company. That’s something a manager could use courage to be frank about, and stand up for the team to ensure that bad decisions aren’t made in the absence of full information. But why should this manager do that when he thinks it’s easier to just keep quiet and look like a stellar team player to his leadership? Just say “yes” to everything and lean on the team to move mountains to get the job done, even if the results don’t justify the effort, and employees completely burn out in the process.
  4.  They don’t explain anything – the team should just do as they’re told. What does company strategy have to do with this team? Apparently, nothing much.
  5.  They make sure their team knows “face time” is more important than results. Being in the office early and staying there late is much more important than how much work product is generated and what kind of quality work gets done. Face time is what the leaders see, and when the leaders see the team, they comment on what a great manager he is, especially when the leaders aren’t paying attention to the results either!  The extra bonus is that this leader can lord it over other managers who let their teams get off “easy.”  It extends the reach of the dysfunction even further!
  6.  They know how to reward their highest performers-give them all the work! Why should this manager waste time figuring out what team members need for coaching and development, when she has a goose that lays golden eggs, in the form of a stellar performer who always seems to hit it out of the park on every project?  When others can’t finish on time or don’t perform up to par, just give it to the team’s best player! I’m sure he won’t mind doing everyone else’s work, even if he has to put in a few extra hours after everyone else goes home.  Oh, wait a minute.  It wasn’t too hard for some other employer to notice what a great performer he is-when a recruiter reached out on LinkedIn, he was ready to respond, given that he’s miserable and being taken advantage of!
Every organization has moments when it’s tough to avoid these awful manager behaviors.  The key is to call them out, name them, and make it clear to every leader and employee that they won’t be tolerated.  Creating a culture of respect and trust is a great way to say goodbye to these counterproductive and turnover-producing management habits-forever!

Find out more about Solve HR, Inc.