The Armchair HR Manager

Advice and Commentary from an "HR Fan" – whether asked for or not!

“I’m not paid enough!” (Part II)

In my last post on this subject, I blogged about the two type of issues that generate this type of statement from an employee. I indicated that whenever a manager or an HR Pro hears this statement, it is either a situational based issue or one of circumstance.  In this post, I focused exclusively on the situational based challenges that one might face and gave some insight as to how to resolve them.  As a quick reminder, the situational based challenges are ones whereby an employee is dissatisfied with their compensation based on workload and/or role/scope creep.  These situations are ones that are often well within the organizations control and typically only affect an individual employee.  These are typically referred to as internal equity compensation issues.  You can link back to this post by clicking here.

Pay Increase 2This post will focus on the 2nd part of this compensation challenge.  That is, when the statement of claim of not being paid enough is one of circumstance.  What I am referring to is when an employee, who might not have felt underpaid before, has started to feel this way due to a particular (specific) circumstance or change in circumstance.  You often see/hear of this when an employee is talking to their peers who work for similar organizations and/or in similar industries.  They get to talking and start to feel that they are underpaid for what they do.  They might even begin to look at online salary surveys, refer to professional organizational surveys or even refer to news articles, regional economic factors, etc.  These type of compensation challenges are commonly referred to as external equity challenges.

The bottom line is that these types of concerns are circumstance driven and require an “apples to apples” comparison and discussion.  When managers and HR Pros get wind of these concerns coming from an employee or employees it requires dialogue and education.  Managers will need the direct support of HR to have these types of conversations.  It is best to hear the employee out first and try and understand what is driving their concerns.  From there you can better game plan the conversation.  It has been my experience that in order to gain an understanding with the employee, the manager and employee have to understand:

1) How the organization determines its compensation structure – were job evaluations done, how were pay bands determined, etc.  Is the issue one of overall job value or is it where & why the individual employee resides in their pay band?  It could even be as simple as letting the employee know that there IS a compensation structure and salaries just weren’t abitrarily determined.  Often this goes a long way in the understanding and resolution of the issue.

2) Why the employee is paid what they are for the job that they do – this is a discussion that focuses more on performance and how that has impacted the employee’s movement in the compensation stucture.  This is a very employee specific conversation that requires the manager to speak candidly about performance.  Often this is a positive conversation if the employee has progressed nicely along their band and resides in the top quartile(s).  They need to “see” that they are being paid at the highest levels.

3) Industry data – the manager and HR need to understand where the compensation data is coming from and how it relates or doesn’t relate to your organization.  Geography is important as many salaries differ simply based on cost of living  The computer programmer you hire in Vancouver will make more than the one you hire in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Likewise, industry is a big driver.  If you work in healthcare or environmental services, those jobs will often be paid less than ones in the oil and gas industry (for example).

4) The total compensation package – it is also key to look at things beyond pure salary.  A comparative salary difference of $15K might seem like a lot at first; however, if your organization offers flex time, compressed work weeks, professional development assistance, tuition aid, cheap(er) benefits with a retirement plan, an entrepreneurial or innovative work environment and a nice work/life balance, than that might be worth more, comparatively speaking, compared to the $15K more you might get elsewhere but have to work 70 hours a week to earn with the majority of your time spent away from your family.

5) The company’s ability to pay – often people get caught up in just the numbers as it pertains to salaries.  However, you also need to compare same/similar organization sizes and profitability.  Even within same/similar industries, a Fortune 100 company with 25,000 employees typically has a higher ability to pay than does a 50 person company in its 5th year of existence funded by its original founder/owner.  Bottom line, the company’s ability to pay is critical comparative factor when addressing circumstance based compensation challenges.  If the organization is coming off a couple of lean years, then they probably aren’t able to pay top quartile salaries.  As well, an organization has to be able to balance its books and often providing an employee a greater understanding of the organization’s financial position will help in addressing their compensation concerns. Again, the company is trying to rationalize all this against external factors (circumstance) which makes the conversation that much more difficult.

When faced with circumstance driven compensation challenges, I encourage you to have this open dialogue with your employee(s).  Share the facts (as you know them) and make sure to position things appropriately with them.  When comparing apples to apples, it may become apparent (to the employee) that they are in fact paid appropriately.  However, you should also be prepared that when reviewing factors 1-5 above, you still may have an under compensated employee and you should be prepared to address that issue too.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/







“I’m not paid enough!” (Part I)

As managers and HR Pros we have all been faced with this statement before. Whether it is a general statement by some staff (i.e. a ‘feeling’) or perhaps it is coming from someone who reports to you that has been stretched too far on an assignment or spread to thin in their current role, it is a situation that must be addressed because it is one of those sore spot issues that festers, causes resentment over time and ultimately leads to disengagement and turnover. So what to do?

First off, you need to determine whether or not the issue is one of situation or circumstance. This post is going to focus on when the issue is one of situation.  The good news when dealing with an issue of situation is that these issues are quite often within the organization’s (manager’s) control to address and resolve.  I will blog about circumstance-based compensation challenges in a post later this week.

Pay Increase 1If you are dealing with a compensation issue based on situation, than your focus needs to be on communication, understanding, coaching and support, with you ultimately getting to the root cause issue. That is, in situation based compensation issues, what your employee is probably saying is that they are not paid enough for what they are being asked to do. Often this is when your employee is doing the work of one or two other people. You often see this is in departments where there has been some turnover and staff haven’t been replaced. The workload is spread out amongst one or two stronger performers who “can handle it.” The weeks and months go by with the work continuing to get done and as the manager you start to think, “hmm, maybe I don’t need to replace/add any staff.” The problem is that this takes its toll on your employees and they start to feel taken advantage of, hence the reason you start to hear the “I am not paid enough” comments.

As the manager, you need to start to work with these employees and get them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That could come in the form of a commitment to add headcount by a certain date, or take some of the workload off their plate and spread it around to others. At the very least, there needs to be a carrot – whether that is some paid time off (aside from their regularly earned vacation), a bonus or some other monetary reward.  At the end of the day, the compensation issue is coming from the situation that they have been thrust in and/or accepted up to this point.  This is also, primarily, an internal pay equity issue.  That is, it has almost nothing to do with outside factors, hence the reason it is within the organization’s control to address.

A similar issue also arises when it comes to role issues (as opposed to workload).  This is  another example of a situational based compensation complaint.  You see this is in cases where an employee is asked (or allowed) to step outside of their regular role and take on an assignment with greater responsibilities.  They are never given any formal title or compensation increase but the organization benefits from the employee performing in the higher paying position (without paying them to do it.)  It is incumbent on managers and HR staff to not allow these situations to persist long-term.  Again, staff will feel taken advantage of and will begin to resent their company.

You can’t look at this type of situation as “getting a deal” because any short-term salary savings you think you are getting will be gone the minute that employee attains.  Employees don’t have a problem with taking on roles to show what they can do – kind of like a “try before you buy” type of deal. However, once they have proven themselves to you, you need to put your money where your mouth is, organizationally speaking, and do the right thing by officially promoting and compensating them.

Bottom line, as a manager and/or as HR Pros, when you hear an employee or employees state, “I’m not paid enough” AND you can determine it is a situational based complaint/concern, it is well within your control to address things.  Talk to the employee, understand the situation that they have been placed in, take steps to alleviate workload issues and/or to address role enhancement issues.  Keep in mind, left unaddressed, situational based compensation issues are major drivers of disengagement and turnover.  Next post, I will address circumstance based compensation challenges.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Me, Myself and I Inc.

One of the smartest things that professionals can do is to make sure that they are always managing their personal brand. Essentially, your personal brand is the bits and pieces that make up who you are as a working professional. This covers a range of things like your reputation at/for work (i.e. quality, dependability, performance, on time delivery, etc.) as well as the more subjective pieces that make up your brand DNA like your personal ethics and values, what you stand for and other criteria on which you base your decision-making.

There are other elements of your personal brand that important to maintain such as how you network, how you market yourself and how you represent yourself in social media. All of these elements must be skillfully maintained, cultivated and managed by you on a regular basis. If ever a piece of your personal brand falls out of alignment with the rest of your brand composition, than your overall personal brand suffers.

BrandThe importance of maintaining your personal brand cannot be overstated. It plays such a huge part in your career trajectory and personal job satisfaction, whether you realize it or not! I often get asked by folks for career advice, and while I don’t consider myself some sort of uber-career advice guru, my years of experience in HR qualify me (I think) to dole out the occasional nugget of wisdom. The best advice I give people (IMHO) is when I advise people to always be managing their personal brand (hence the reason for this blog post!) That is, always make sure you are managing YOUR NAME Inc., or as I like to call it, “think of yourself as an employee/owner of Me, Myself and I Incorporated. That way, when you make (career) decisions you are making them in the best interest of this ‘company’ called YOUR NAME Inc. (a.k.a. Me, Myself and I Inc.)

Essentially, this line of thinking keeps everything in alignment for you from a personal branding perspective. If you think of your personal brand the same way you think of a product/business brand, it makes total sense why you would make career decisions in the best interests of Me, Myself and I Inc. If you think of yourself as a company, your own individual entity, than your brand IS your company and your company is your brand.

Now I know what you are thinking, but Scott, you are advising that people don’t consider their current employer in this equation? Absolutely not! Who you currently work for plays a big role in the decisions you make and how they align with your personal brand. A lot of times (many times) what is best for Me, Myself and I Inc. is what is best for who YOU work for. That is, decisions that cause you to apply for internal promotions, volunteer for project teams or support your colleagues are what are best for you and your company. Better yet, the day to day decision you make to show up to work and do a good job is most certainly in the best interest of My, Myself and I Inc. as that is what your employer expects from you AND it is what they pay you for! I would assume that earning money, being able to pay your rent/mortgage and put food on the table is what is best for Me, Myself and I Inc.? The tricky part comes when those two things (what is best for you vs your company) are at odds.

When conflicted with career choices and decisions, I always advise people to make a decision in the best interest of Me, Myself and I Inc. Sometimes this may involve someone moving on to (perceived) greener pastures. Sometimes this change is good for you and for your company. Perhaps you have grown stale in your role and with your company and you both need a change. Sometimes a change of scenery is good for both parties. In other situations, you may find yourself at moral or ethical odds with the company you work for. Perhaps the new line of business they opened up conflicts with your morals or beliefs? Sometimes how they treat employees (in general) during difficult time gives you pause for thought. Either way, you own your career and you own your brand, so you need to make a decision that is in alignment with this brand and that is best for Me, Myself and I Inc.

My intent here is not to put you at odds with your current employer, but to give you cause to pause and reflect on your personal brand, how you currently have it defined and what it means to you in your current role and for your career overall. The bottom line is that you need to make sure you are making decisions in the best interests of Me, Myself and I Inc., that is, those that reflective of your personal brand, because at the end of the day, that is what you are marketing to your current and future employers. Think of your brand and what drives you to make the career decisions that you have made so far. What has led you down this path? What has caused you to be successful? Then, stick to this personal brand charter and act accordingly. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Happy 2nd Blogiversary to me!

Wow, hard to believe another year has gone by at the Armchair HR Manager. As a (still) fairly new HR blogger, I have only been doing this for two years now; however, I am starting to find my sweet spot a bit. What started out as an exercise in capturing my thoughts and sharing lessons learned has now evolved into, I think, a somewhat respectable blog with a modest following….and for that I am very grateful. I have started to focus more on leadership challenges as well some specific HR and recruiting topics. This seems to have struck a (positive) chord with my readership.

2nd anniversaryOne of the things that I have found to be truly remarkable about the blogging experience and HR bloggers in general, is how supportive they are. I have found that most bloggers, regardless of their experience level, remember what those first few years of blogging were like and how difficult it is to make your mark. Instead of viewing new HR bloggers as ‘competition’, they have tended to provide support, inspiration and guidance and keep reminding me that I am not along…people really are reading my/our stuff!
At the very least, I have found the HR blogging community is not shy about challenging ideas and each other, albeit in a very respectful way. I have found that to be a great learning experience for me too. As I have gotten a bit bolder in my writing, and more adventuresome in where I share my thoughts, I have engaged with more and more people and have come to experience a greater diversity of perspectives from people who have read my blog and shared their thoughts with me. This truly has been one of the most remarkable and most positive aspects of blogging!

As I move into year three of this blogging journey, much like I did last year, I wanted to throw out a word of thanks (and a plug) for some folks who have helped me along this journey by providing me advice, guidance, inspiration, support or simply due to the fact that they ALWAYS take the time to share my content. For those I haven’t met in person, it is my sincerest hope that I will get the opportunity to meet some of you in the coming year(s). I also hope that you check out their blogs and what they have to say – you won’t be disappointed!

1) Jay Kuhns ( No Excuses HR) – Jay blogs about leadership and HR by providing bite size nuggets of instantly applicable information. Jay is the VP of HR at All Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida and blogs at NoExcusesHR. Jay continues to provide a lot of support to The Armchair HR Manager blog by sharing my content on a regular basis to his vast network. Jay is always supportive of his fellow HR bloggers and to the HR community in general.

2) Mike Lehr (Omega Z Advisors) – Mike provides great leadership and management advice on his blog over at Omega Z Advisors. Mike’s personal mission, in my opinion, is to help make better leaders of us all! Mike is an engaging writer who never hesitates to share content and provide commentary on what I write. Thanks for your support Mike!

3) Chris Fields (The Resume Crusade) – I have had the opportunity to correspond with Chris over the past year. Chris provides a lot of valuable advice to those in the job search process. He provides a lot of information on resumes, job searching and interviewing. If you are looking for a job or are thinking of making a move, you should check out his blog. If you need a resume done RIGHT – hire him to do that too!

4) Sabrina Baker (Acacia HR Solutions) – Sabrina is an HR consultant who works at, and writes, for her company, Acacia HR Solutions. Sabrina brings a ton of real world experience to her writing. If you are looking for HR advice or some great HR content, check out her blog. She provides a lot of practical advice and I appreciate that she takes the time to share my content too!

5) Careers in Government (Mike Hurwitz) – Mike and I started working together a few months back. One of my side writing gigs has been to provide some content for Mike’s Careers in Government site. They have a ton of relevant career information on their site so you should check them out. Mike has also been a supporter of The Armchair HR Manager as well and I appreciate that.

6) Brighter Life (Paul Gagliardi) – Paul and I began a partnership well over a year or so ago. Paul is in charge of content for one of Sun Life’s sites – Brighter They share some great posts on managing life and career challenges. Paul has been a big supporter of my blog and its content and I encourage everyone to check out BrighterLife for some great information!

7) Kevin Dee (Eagle Professional Resources) – Kevin is the CEO of the staffing firm Eagle Professional Resources. Kevin was an early adopter of many social media tools and has been blogging on his corporate site for many years. Kevin provides valuable advice on leadership, management and talent acquisition (as well as other topics). I encourage you to check out his blog – you won’t be disappointed.

I wanted to provide a big thank you to these seven, as well anyone else who has read and/or shared my writings from The Armchair HR Manager. I am looking forward to another year of blogging and continuing to engage with the HR blogging community as a whole.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

What do you stand for?

There has been much hype and coverage about the recent Ray Rice/domestic violence issue. Without re-hashing too much of things, the salient points are:
Ray Rice is an NFL football player who plays (played) for the Baltimore Ravens• He was brought up on charges for domestic violence.

• The league that he plays in, the NFL, waited to see what the courts would decide before they did anything.

• He was indicted on a charge of 3rd degree aggravated assault and based on the indictment, Rice was suspended for 2 games by the league.

• There was a lot of public outcry from fans that this was not a long enough suspension. To compare, athletes that use performance enhancing drugs all receive an automatic 4 game suspension for a 1st time offence.

• The commissioner of the league later admitted that he goofed on the suspension (it wasn’t long enough) and quickly implemented stiffer penalties for future domestic violence (player conduct) violations. (Automatic 6 game suspension).

• Yesterday, a video of the incident (which showed Rice assaulting his wife), became publically available. In a word, it is disturbing. Rice essentially punches his wife and knocks her unconscious in an elevator and then drags her out by her hair. Because of this video, more public backlash ensued.

• The league, which hadn’t seen (or even previously asked for) the video, promptly suspended Rice indefinitely. His team, the Baltimore Ravens, immediately released (terminated with pay) him from their team.

StopThis obviously won’t be the end of this story as Rice decides if he will appeal his suspension and/or if the players union will intervene on his behalf and challenge the league on whether or not they can even change the suspension/suspend him indefinitely. Regardless, my concern with this whole situation is not so much with the league and its commissioner but with Rice’s employer, the Baltimore Ravens. While the league goofed with the initial suspension by going WAY too light on such a serious issue as domestic violence, they quickly copped to this error and implemented stiffer penalties for future offenses. (Yes, the league could have asked for the video before but didn’t for some reason.) So as the governing body, their initial response was not the right one; however, they are not a court of law so they can change their decision/ruling, etc. and suspending him indefinitely was the right move.

My greater concern is with his employer, the Ravens. They chose to remain mostly silent on the issue up until yesterday. That is, they were content to let the judicial system met out its punishment to Rice and then let the league do the same in turn. At no point in time did the Ravens seemingly want to thoroughly look into this issue themselves. They too didn’t ask for video of the incident, which begs the question, what do they stand for? Yes, I know that they spoke to Rice who I am sure gave them a watered down version of what really happened, but surely as an employer, the Ravens have their own code of conduct that governs how they expect their employees to act? Surely based on what they heard and found out and should have asked (i.e. for the video), they could have made their own determination that Ray Rice was not someone that they wanted employed with and representing their organization. Now, the interesting thing is that Rice is one of their top players. I can only wonder if he was player #53 on the 53 man roster if the Ravens first response would have been different.

Yes, the Ravens finally did the right thing by releasing him from their team, but that is only after the court of public opinion AND a very damning piece of video evidence came to light. They could have terminated Rice’s contract before this. (Essentially terminate him with pay). They could have stood up and said that ANY type of violence against women is unacceptable and as such, they will not employ someone who has conducted themselves in such a way. I don’t know what values the Ravens organization has or what criteria they choose to govern themselves by; all I know is that at this moment, I personally am not sure as to what they stand for as a company. They could have made a stronger statement against domestic violence by terminating Rice earlier on in this process after their own investigation. At the end of the day, it ultimately was never a question of guilt or innocence from Rice; it became an issue or matter of ‘severity.’

I challenge each of us in our roles and with our organizations to think about what we stand for and how we would govern ourselves in such a situation. Would you have responded differently? Would you have continued to employ someone who conducted themselves this way? How does that reflect upon you as an organization? What do you stand for? What does your company stand for? For me, this is all about look to your personal and organizational values to guide your decision making. As an HR Pro representing your company, how do you want to be known and what do you want to be known for?  How would you lead your organization if faced with an issue like this?  What do you want to be known for? If you can’t answer these questions and/or if you don’t have these personal or organizational values to help guide your decision making, then perhaps you may find yourself in the same situation as the Baltimore Ravens.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

Personal Accountability – A lesson learned

For regular followers of my blog, as well as members of my network, you will know that I am a big believer in personal accountability. I write about it a lot, I speak about it and I most certainly coach others on it a lot. Bottom line, my belief has always been that we are all personally accountable for our actions. As soon as we get caught up in a victim complex, we are trying to blame others and remove our own personal accountability. The most successful people I have ever worked with, and look up to, have always demonstrated a high degree of personal accountability. Hence the reason in my work and personal life I have always tried to hold myself personally accountable for my actions. If I screwed up, I will admit it. If I have erred in judgment I will cop to it. In all cases I try and learn from the experience to better myself as a person and also so I can be a better coach to my operations clients (and on a personal level, to my family.)

Police StoppedThe reason I am blogging about this subject and the reason I gave you the preamble above is because I screwed up the other day. For all the time I spend coaching and preaching personally accountability, I totally went against what I believe in and what I try and instill in others. I became a victim, or at least that is what I tried to do. I blamed other people for my actions. What did I do? Well, nothing horribly egregious – I got a speeding ticket. Yes, I know people get them every day, but this was the first ticket I have ever received in my life!

Here’s the scoop, there were multiple accidents on the major highway I take home from work. I tried to be clever by taking alternate routes, none of which worked as everything was gridlocked from these accidents plus the usual back to school traffic. My clever decision to take an alternate route had me stuck in construction traffic for well over an hour. I then decided to take another route home (after I cleared the construction) to make up some time. It was at that point in time I was flagged for speeding. (Truth be told, I just wasn’t paying enough attention, I was focused on taking my new found short cut route) and not wanting to be any later than I already was.

After the officer handed me my ticket and left I began my shameful drive home. What a lousy feeling it was getting a ticket. As I continued my drive home, I got madder and madder. “It’s not my fault that I got stuck in traffic for all that time and that it made me late getting home.” “The stupid GPS sent me on this new route, if I just went my usual way this never would have happened.” “Don’t the police have real criminals to catch? Why are they wasting their time on catching someone going a few kilometers above the speed limit?” I went home and began Googling all kinds of ways to beat the speeding ticket in court. I must have spent 2+ hours surfing for this information the other night.

Then it hit me. I was deflecting all blame and accepting no personal accountability. I was trying to make myself out to be a victim. I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that I went against what I believe in terms of accepting personal accountability. I was embarrassed that I spent, no, make that wasted, more than two hours of my life trying to figure out how I could “get out of” paying the ticket. That was two hours I could have spent with my family. Most of all, I was embarrassed that I felt like a hypocrite.

Bottom line is that I needed to walk the walk and practice what I preach. By not accepting personal accountability, I wasted time, energy and effort as nothing positive came out of trying to be a victim. My personal relationships were not enhanced because of this. This was no one’s fault but mine. I needed to accept that and move on. For me, personal accountability is all about learning from our mistakes. In this case, I learned a valuable lesson – be more mindful of the speed limit and don’t blame others for your own poor decision making. Rushing around and trying to “make up time” just doesn’t work. Don’t blame it on someone else – all that did was make a lousy day worse! I am accepting accountability for my actions. I will stop whining about getting the ticket. I am moving on. I have accepted the consequences and will pay my ticket and be a better driver.

What about you? Can you accept personal accountability for your actions? Will it make your life and career better? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of

Lessons Learned: The right candidate at the right time

One of the main goals, if not THE main goal of recruiting is to find the “right” candidate(s) for our client(s). In talent acquisition, we receive a job requisition and then conduct our in-take meeting with our client. At that point in time, we obtain all the necessary information to conduct a proper search. We make sure to understand what “success” looks like by obtaining/developing a proper performance profile. As recruiters, we then go out and conduct an exhaustive search. We employ our best sourcing strategies, we leverage our network and utilize social media to search for that “just right candidate.” For the best recruiters, many times they are successful in the search. They are able to find that match that the hiring manager is looking for, both in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities, but also in terms of overall “fit.” The candidate accepts the offer and starts with your company (or your client’s company) and life is good.

Time Too SoonSo far, this sounds like a classic recruiting success story but then, something strange happens. This candidate, Mr. or Ms. Right, quits after 6-9 months on the job. What happened? We had the right performance profile. All of our predictive analytics and testing was spot on. The candidates’ references validated what we had thought about the candidate in terms of their experience and capability. So what went wrong? We hired the right candidate!?
In my experience, hiring the right candidate is, of course, a major part of the recruiting formula. There is, however, another major piece of that equation that is often missing. You need to hire the right candidate at the right time. The part about the right time is the element that trips up a lot of good recruiters mostly due to the fact that finding and hiring the “right” candidate is what gets recognized and rewarded.

Here is the thing, your rock star candidate might seem right to you but you really need to be listening to make sure that it is the right TIME to hire them. For example, at a previous company of mine, we were looking for a Manager of Client Services to be the client lead at a local contact center with an employee base of about 400 people . The position was an individual contributor role and reported to an offsite Director. After intensive searching and interviewing we thought we had found the right person based on their background, skillset and how they interviewed. This person had worked in a large contact centre environment before and had managed multiple client contracts across multiple verticals. They understood the contact centre environment and had thrived in previous roles.

We hired this person and within 6 months they quit. We were shocked and couldn’t understand what went wrong. However, when looking back on things to determine exactly what did go wrong, we figured that we probably didn’t listen to the candidate We got caught up in romancing them and didn’t truly listen to their questions and feedback to make sure the timing was right. Turns out, the candidate/employee, was actually taking a step back in their career with this move (not forward as we had thought.) They were really looking for a Director level role where they could call the shots and lead staff. (In their previous role, before joining my former company, they had a staff of 6 that did a lot of the proverbial “leg work” in client services whereas in this role, with no staff, they would be doing all that themselves.) Turns out, in the process of courting the candidate AND in the candidate only hearing what they wanted to hear from us, that the fit we thought that was there really wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, this was still a great candidate but we hired them at the wrong time. We needed this person once our contact center had expanded and doubled as part of its growth trajectory. This candidate would have been ideal about 2 -3 years from the day we had actually hired them. We missed the part about hiring right at the right TIME. To this day, that has been a real lesson learned by me and one that I routinely advise others not to repeat. You need to truly understand the career timing of your candidate, as well as your organizational timing and career offering, when making the hiring decision. Step back a bit from romancing the candidate and make sure you are not just in love with their credentials and experience. You need to get the equation right. Take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this the right candidate at the right time…or just the right candidate? Often, if it is just the right candidate, you may end up looking for the right candidate AGAIN. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

You want better outcomes? Get ALIGNED!

Line of sight – according to the Wiktionary it means “a straight line along which an observer has a clear view.” It is also an important axiom when developing organizational, departmental and individual goals. Kevin Dee, CEO of Eagle Professional Resources, recently wrote a great piece on the annual budgeting process that I feel really encapsulates this feeling. He pointed out that in many companies, their struggles with the annual budgeting process are due to the fact that they “employ a less than strategic approach to their planning…..managers are allowed to feel like they don’t actually “own” the plan. Essentially in these types of companies, the approach is to “pick a number, share that number (maybe) and hope they hit that number.”

I believe the same holds true when it comes to organizational strategic planning and goal setting. Far too many organizations develop a whole slew of great sounding goals based on the competing interests from a variety of department heads. These are then glommed together and tagged with a few general measurements to show how “serious” they are about the goals. Employees are then supposed to buy-in to and support these goals, through their own interpretation (work execution), osmosis and blind luck. Basically, the strategic planning process becomes a check in the box exercise to say that there is an organizational plan that has been developed and is followed.

MissionReality is that shortly after the planning process, these strategic goals gather dust on a shelf somewhere while the organization goes back to its daily business. The plan is never revisited again until next year at which point in time organizational and departmental heads are amazed as to why these “strategic” goals weren’t accomplished during the year!

Here is what is missing in this process (aside from the obvious communication) – ALIGNMENT. You need to have alignment from all levels of your organization with your strategic plan – from the top (organizational) to departmental to individual employees. Here is where the previous mentioned line of site comes into play. Individual employees need that line of site into organizational and departmental goals so as to feel engaged and understand where they fit in, organizationally speaking. Your employees want to know how what they do “fits” in with what the organization is trying to accomplish. In order to ensure this, the process itself doesn’t have to be complicated it can be as simple as:

1. The organizational leader(s) establish the organizational vision and mission.

2. Strategic plans and goals are set in support of realizing this vision and mission.

3. Specific objectives and measurements are established in support of the strategic goals so as to be able to measure success or failure.

4. Departmental heads then establish their own departmental level goals in support of the organizational goals. This can also be done with input from managers and employees.

5. In turn, employee goals and objectives are established and measurements of success defined in support of the departmental goals.

This may be a bit over simplistic way of looking at it, but following this basic process ensures three critical elements are supported in your strategic planning process…all of which are vital to its success:

1. Alignment – because the goal planning starts at the top, is cascaded down, and is supported from the ground up, you will have organizational alignment. Each level feeds into and support the next. Your employees are all working in support of the department objectives and the departments are working in support of corporate objectives.

2. Communication – by involving department heads, managers and staff, everyone is aware of what the organization is trying to achieve. Because individual employees are working on goals that are in support of the company they can see where they fit in AND they know how their success will be measured. The process, when done right, becomes iterative throughout the year as there is a constant requirement to refer back to “the plan” and adjust/readjust where appropriate to make sure everything is still in alignment (see point #1).

3. Accountability – ultimately, with line of site, communication AND with effectively written goals (with measurements) you have accountability. According to Kevin, “everyone needs to be accountable so that the culture is one of pursuing success, not one of developing excuses for failures.” While he was referring to the budgeting process, I feel it also holds true for strategic planning and goal setting.

So there you have it, a fairly simple 5 step acid test to make sure that you are aligned with your organizational goal setting and that the company will realize its desired outcomes. Make sure your employees have line of site into and involvement with the process and that way everyone is accountable. Accountability will be the critical piece that is key to your organizational success. Make sure that your organizational goal setting process is an iterative one with a continuous feedback loop. That is the only way you will know for sure you are truly staying in alignment and working towards achieving your desired organizational outcomes. As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

But why are your employees REALLY leaving?

A friend of mine from my university days, who is now running his own tech company, recently reached out to me. He was really struggling with turnover in his organization and wanted some advice on how to “get to the bottom of things.” (No, he doesn’t have an HR department – but that is a separate discussion). This issue of escalating turnover was all new to him because during the growth phase and into the stability phase of the company everyone was excited and engaged and now that the company is more established (going on 10+ years now) he is seeing his voluntary turnover rate rise. Before, he used to pride himself on knowing his employees and what was going on with each and every one of them, much like many hands on entrepreneurs do. However, now that his company is north of 200 people, he can’t quite keep tabs on everyone in the manner in which he was accustomed to.

ExitI asked him if he had any idea as to why they were leaving his company. Mike* (not his real name) told me that he was “pretty sure” it was all about the compensation. Because he is still a smaller development shop (relatively speaking), his larger competitors are able to throw bigger dollars at his people. He felt everyone was happy with the company but it is hard to say no to big pay increases. When I asked Mike what data he had to substantiate his theory, he indicated that he didn’t really have any, other than that is what the employees are telling him (and their managers) when they give their notice. Mike, like many other organizational leads, made the classic mistake of falling for the softest attrition reason that departing employees give you.

When your employees tell you they are leaving, try as you might, managers and leaders take it personally. Employees know that they don’t want to burn any bridges, so the most palatable reason given for leaving is “compensation.” Compensation is tangible and easy to understand. When a manager hears that as the reason for separation, than it is easy to understand and wrap their heads around. It makes sense. There is no emotion attached to it. It is just more money, so who could fault them for that?

Here is the thing, based on my completely unscientific research, nine times out of ten, the primary reason for departure is NOT compensation. This typically only happens when someone is so grossly underpaid – based on internal AND external comparators – that they jump for more money because they feel disrespected.

Typically though, you need to dig deeper. There are several ways to find out why people have left or might be leaving:

1) Exit interviews – conducted by HR, or some other confidential service, can often give you some more tangible data as to the “why’s.” You might need to put on the detective hat and read between the lines a bit, but if done right, there is usually some good information in exit interviews that will give you some insight as the reasons for employee departures. The only problem is that the proverbial horse has left the barn (i.e. your employee is already gone) when you get this information.

2) Stay interviews – similar to the approach with exit interviews, except they are done with employees who are still with your company. Find out why they stay with you or better yet, what might cause them to leave. Ask employees what is working now and what isn’t working. Look for the trends and themes across offices and departments.

3) Employee Pulse Surveys – not so much the surveys themselves, but the focus groups you have afterwards to help comb through the data. Listen to what your staff is telling you. Read between the lines and look for the trends.

4) Coaching sessions and performance reviews – train your managers to truly listen to their staff. Regular coaching sessions are a great opportunity to engage in candid dialogue about how things are going. If, all of a sudden, your coaching sessions take on a more negative tone (coming from the employee) something is amiss. Ask questions and don’t settle for face value responses like, ‘everything is fine.’

5) Talking to people – yes, just casual everyday conversation can quickly give you a feel for the pulse of the company. This is the classic management by wandering around approach. Talk to people in the lunch room or out on the shop floor/operational area. I once had an employee relations manager who used to work for me who always had the latest gossip, news and insight at to what was going on with employees. Her secret – she was a smoker! No, I am not promoting smoking; however, if you have a smoker on your HR team, make sure you are getting the scoop from them because odds are, they are in the know on things!

These are few quick hit ways to get some more insight into the “pulse” of your organization and drivers of dissatisfaction. Regardless of what managers and organizational leaders might think, the REAL top reasons why your people leave are typically things like: (please note – completely unscientific survey alert again):

1) Their Manager – who is either a tyrant, doesn’t support them, is unreasonable to work for, is inflexible, doesn’t provide feedback or is completely apathetic.

2) Poor Communication – from their manager and/or the head of your organization. Perhaps it is a lack of visibility, lack of a clear organizational vision for the future or just plain lack of communication in general about company business. Either way, poor communication leads employees to feel insecure about their jobs and causes them to look elsewhere.

3) No growth and development opportunities – employees who are stifled in their roles and don’t have any opportunity to grow and develop will leave. Companies must be careful not to keep well performing employees in the same role year after year after year just because it works for the company. Employees want to grow, develop and learn. You either provide them the opportunity to do so, or another company will. This also ties in with a lack of feedback from their manager. If managers aren’t providing regular performance feedback to their staff, they will feel like they aren’t being developed as well. In turn, they too will leave because of this.

4) No recognition or rewards – aside from their salary, employees want to feel recognized and rewarded for their work. If organizations fail to recognize good performance (beyond salary increases) and provide effective rewards for exceptional performance, employees will leave. Bottom line, employees want to feel that their company is invested in them and that their performance and discretionary effort is recognized AND rewarded.

So, the next time you start digging into why you are experiencing turnover, you need to ask yourselves, “Why are they REALLY leaving?” Use the above mentioned methods to validate your hypothesis as to the “why.” You may be surprised at the results. Better yet, use the above methods to poke holes in your theory and see if it still applies. That is how you REALLY know why your employees are leaving. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Naypong/

HR as the Great Enabler

Have you ever had one of those days at work where you truly felt you added value? What about one of those days when after it was over, and you reflected on it, you could say to yourself, “Now that is why I got into my chosen profession!” For me I recently had one of those days and it caused me to really be proud of my chosen profession (HR) and the value it can add to an organization, but more about that in a minute.

First things first, I find as HR Pros we often don’t do enough self-reflection. That is, we don’t take the time to look back on what we have done at our organizations and give our own selves a bit of a pat on the back. We are often so busy fighting fires, making sure our organizations are compliant with recent legislative changes, and scrambling to fill position vacancies that we don’t recognize the VALUE we are actually bringing to our companies. I think if we are ever going to obtain that universal respect level we are seeking for ourselves as HR Pros, we have to start by giving that respect and recognition to ourselves and each other for the work that we do and what our profession brings to each and every organization that we work for and represent.

Human Resources EnablerOk, back to our regularly scheduled programming. So what caused me to reflect on my day and feel so good about being in HR? It was because I feel I helped enable our leadership team to accomplish a very important goal/objective. Specifically, at one of our companies, they wanted to put together an action plan to address areas of opportunity that came up in a recent employee survey. The challenge, at the time, was that this team had never done this before and needed guidance on how to come together, build trust, come to consensus on outcomes, dissect the information at hand, analyze it and formulate action plans. Enter HR to help play the role of the Great Enabler and help guide the team to the way ahead!

At the end of the day, the role I played was in helping engage the team in dialogue and providing context to their thinking. Essentially, it was to facilitate dialogue so that each member of the leadership team could express their opinion and analyses on the survey results and have an opportunity to offer solutions for improvement. I felt really good about playing the role as a communication facilitator and kept the team on track by following a step by step framework to guide their thinking towards achieving their outcomes. At the end of the day, it was a highly successful session as the team was able to come up with their own action plan that was real, achievable and that they OWNED!
So why/how did this all work and why did I get so tingly about this as an HR Pro?

1. Leadership – no, not mine, but that of the company leadership. They were invested in the process – emotionally and mentally. They wanted this to work and they were looking for an outcome that they could feel good about being a part of developing and that they could actually own and deliver on.

2. It wasn’t an HR thing – too often as HR Pros we make things into “HR things.” Whether it is a new performance management system or employee surveys themselves. In this case, I didn’t want this to be an HR thing. I wanted it to be an Operations thing. The response/action plan and communication was developed and owned by Operational leadership.

3. HR played a non-traditional HR role – I almost wrote that HR played a non-HR role, but then thought, “Who gets to say what an HR role is?” The roles of facilitator, communication enabler and change agent are all roles that HR can and SHOULD play in any organization. By being that guiding and supporting force that ENABLES operations to accomplish their goals and objectives, HR is, in effect, accomplishing its own goals and objectives. We are playing the role that HR truly needs to play in its organizations.

4. Something got DONE – at the end of all this, all the time and energy that the leadership team invested in the process meant something. They accomplished their first goal, (the development of an action plan), as a team. They identified the root causes, they developed the solutions and they are holding each other accountable for completing the action plan.

So, the takeaways here for HR Pros are this:

1. Do some more self-reflection. Look for how you added value in your role today, yesterday, last week, etc. You will be amazed at the areas where you have made a difference; then, capitalize on those moments!

2. Look for ways to be “non-traditional” in your role. Lead a group session or facilitate an operational meeting. Step up to help an operational department lead a change management activity.

3. Take on the role of enabler. Don’t make it all about HR. Work your magic in the background. Enable your operations clients to be successful in their roles – your success will follow!

What about you? Can you think of other ways that HR can be the great enabler in your organizations? What is holding you (or HR) back from doing it? Is it simply a mindset? If you are stuck, hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn, I would be happy to help share my experience(s) if it helps enable you to achieve HR success! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

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