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

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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!

Transforming HR

My New LinkedIn Summary

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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!

Photo credit: jeffdjevdet via Foter.com / CC BY

The HR Martyr

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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