HR – Let’s fix these things!

One of my goals as an HR Professional and HR Leader is to continue to try and elevate not only the status of our profession, but also to try and guide and provide some perspective to our upcoming HR Pros. Part of the mission of The Armchair HR Manager is to dispel some of the myths and fallacy in thinking that HR Pros have about themselves and their profession. I have written many times about what it makes to be a good HR Pro and what good HR Pros should be doing and I find each time that I do, some HR Pro reaches out to thank me for the advice and information as it has typically provided them some fresh perspective on challenges they are facing. (Mission accomplished!)

Fix ItIn that context, I wanted to lay out some things that we can, and should be doing, as HR Pros that will not only help our organizations, but elevate the status of our profession – i.e. add VALUE. Some of these may be obvious, some are easy to do and some are hard. Some are quick fixes and some are longer term solutions. The degree of all of this will vary from organization to organization and HR Pro to HR Pro. My goal is help draw your attention to these items, help you feel like you are not alone in the “fight” to bring respect to HR and hopefully the list will bring some focus and clarity to your own HR role. To that extent, I present The Armchair HR Manager’s list of stuff that HR can and needs to fix:

  1. Onboarding – simply put, this is one of the greatest areas of opportunity for most companies. If you can do anything to help improve, fix and refine this process you should be doing it. Frankly, it is horrible to think that in many companies, employees still show up for their 1st day of work and managers aren’t ready for them, the new employee has no computer access or even a place to sit/work. This is typically capped off by the new employee going to lunch by themselves – uggh.
  2. Communication – another one of the big organizational pain points we can help fix. HR Pros should always be looking for ways to improve organizational communication. Use your hidden IT skills to develop an intranet or SharePoint site. Write a weekly “letter from the President” to update staff on high level organizational stuff. Anything you can do to increase and improve communication will go a long way to enhancing your company’s brand and the status of HR in general.h
  3. Forms – if you are one those companies that have paper forms for everything, than find a way to reduce, eliminate and move online anything that has to be filled out. Get your forms developed in Adobe format and have staff complete things online. No one, and I mean no one, likes to fill out hard copy forms. This may seem trivial, but it is a big improvement!
  4. Job ads – quite simply, they suck. Stop posting job descriptions. Start describing what the person in the job will do and how they will impact things. Focus on a performance profile and less about responsibilities and qualifications. Trust me; your hiring managers will thank you for it!
  5. Supervisor/employee relations – if you have a manager or managers in your company that are acting like a**holes, call them out on it. Speak to them, coach them, work with their manager but do whatever you can to keep the spotlight and heat on managers who treat their employees like crap. If they don’t change, push your organizational leaders hard to get rid of them – you don’t need these types of cancers in your company. Here is the thing, believe me when I tell your employees ALL know who the bad managers are and they are always wondering why you aren’t doing anything about it.
  6. Harassment in general – whether from managers or peers, I am still appalled by the amount of sexual harassment and harassment in general that occurs in today’s workplaces. Despite greater awareness, “mandatory” organizational training and court awards for damages, harassment is still a MAJOR workplace issue. I am disgusted by the stories I hear of how employees are being bullied (my managers and peers), are sexually harassed or harassed due to their gender, sexual orientation or for other means. I am blown away by how employees still think it is “ok” to make inappropriate comments, touch/grab or otherwise make contact with their fellow employees or simply partake in the use of sexual innuendos. Worst of all, companies still tend to turn a blind eye to these issues, or only “try” and deal with them once they become a formal complaint. Having policies is one thing, it is all about your ACTIONS. As HR Pros, we need to FIX THIS – NOW!
  7. Confidentiality – most of all, as HR Pros, you HAVE to maintain confidentiality in your dealings with staff. No one likes or trusts an HR Pro that can’t maintain confidentiality. The most valuable currency you have is trust – don’t break/lose it. If the problem is with your managers, see point #5 above – work the manager and their supervisor and make sure they understand the impact of their actions and then coach their supervisor on holding the blabber mouth manager accountable.

What about you? Are there any other fixes that HR can provide? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

To Measure or Not to Measure Engagement – that is the question

I recently had a fantastic conversation with one of my Operations partners around the topic of employee engagement. Like many companies, we do employee surveys and measure many things, including employee engagement “scores.” Our discussion initially started out focused on engagement scores and what it meant for us, how we could improve, etc. However, about 10 minutes into the conversation things took an interesting turn.

Yes or NoWe really started to ask ourselves, why exactly are we measuring engagement and what does that mean for us? Is it not more important for us to make sure that our employees are effective and efficient at what they do? Can an employee be “engaged” but not effective or efficient? Better yet, is measuring engagement a positive or negative indicator, meaning, are engagement scores a good “negative” indicator vs. measuring something positive? That is to say, is it more important to identify and measure a LACK of engagement in the workplace vs. a LEVEL of engagement? All good questions, right?

We came to the conclusion that a suitably engaged employee, in theory, should be more effective and efficient in their role, so why don’t we simply measure that in the first place? Of course, to be able to do this, you also need to have an effective performance management system in place. In essence, there needs to be an unbroken line drawn from corporate strategy and desired outcomes to individual performance goals and objectives with clearly defined KPI’s – i.e. effectiveness and efficiency metrics.

The other side of the argument here is that it is probably highly unlikely an employee will achieve these efficiency and effectiveness metrics if they are not “engaged” in their work. In other words, if your organization was not hitting corporate/departmental/individual metrics and targets, the root cause analysis should start with an investigation into how corporate goal planning occurred and was it communicated and cascaded down to departmental and individual levels. At the same time, I would also take a deeper dive into engagement levels to see what else maybe effecting an employee’s ability and desire to engage in their work. In other words, you need to determine the source of the disconnect.

In my mind, it IS important to measure engagement but I don’t feel it should the primary measurement of survey “success” or lack thereof. I also don’t think it should be your main indicator of employee “health” and retention. At the end of the day, you may have engaged employees, but for a plethora of reasons, you still have a performance and/or retention problem. Conversely, your engagement scores may be “good” depending on how it is measured and you may not have a turnover issue; however, your overall organizational performance may not be where it should be (possible due to a company malaise, etc.)

What I am getting at it is that there are other measures to take into consideration when determining your organizational health and taking the pulse of your workforce. For example, when looking at engagement, if your company was performing “well”, and we wanted to make a “good” company better, I wouldn’t focus too much on engagement scores. Instead, I would focus on a metric like the Employee Net Promoter Score or eNPS. This has become a popular method for tracking customer satisfaction and is now making its way into organizations as a means of measuring organizational health amongst its employees.

I first became aware of this methodology back in March 2014 when I read a great blog post from The Starr Conspiracy – you can check it out here. According to The Starr Conspiracy, the eNPS, “with a single question, measures the likelihood of your employees to engage with your brand, act as your ambassadors and continue to help grow your business.” Because I know you are wondering, the eNPS question is:

On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or colleague as a place to work?

The “scoring” scale is pretty clear cut – Scores from 0-6 are considered to be “Detractors,” 7-8 are “Passives” and 9-10’s are “Promoters.” I like this measurement a lot because, as The Starr Conspiracy puts it, it is an “effective measure of at least three key emotions that are linked to workplace engagement AND performance:”

1) The employee’s emotional connection to their company – i.e. I belong;

2) The person-organization fit – i.e. shared values

3) Intention to leave – i.e. how motivated is the person to jump ship?

You essentially calculate the difference between your promoters and detractors as a percentage of your employee base. This gives you your score that you can trend over time. Personally, I believe this is a much better measurement to track/trend and focus on than engagement. Your retention activities should be focused on improving and/or maintaining your eNPS score because at the end of the day, it truly does measure everything that you want to know about how your employees are feeling and acting. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

Things that make you go hmmmm…

In today’s post, I present to you a bit of an ode to the obvious and not, unfortunately, a righteous C&C Music Factory jam. In my work and in my HR circles, I am exposed to and advise on a lot of talent management practices. One of the regular themes that pops up is that of employee surveys. Love them or hate them, I think they are here to stay. However, there is one little secret to dealing with the madness of surveys. Ok, maybe two little secrets.

Time to ThinkFirst of all, the key to employee surveys is to not ask too many questions. In fact, in my opinion there is really only one or two questions that truly need to be asked – but that is a post for another day (consider that a teaser trailer!) Once you have narrowed things down to a few key questions, (i.e. what you what to know about) the only other thing to remember is that you have to actually do something when you get the employee responses. Yes, that is right, you need to respond/act/acknowledge the survey feedback. It is appalling the amount of organizations that spend thousands and thousands of dollars to survey their employees each year and then they do NOTHING with the results!

The awesome thing is that when you actually do show that you have listened to your staff, amazing things can happen. For example, in one company I worked for, we used to get routinely slaughtered on questions pertaining to how we recognize and reward our employees. Every year the score got worse and worse and every year we basically paid lip service to the question and did nothing about it. So you get what you pay for I guess.

Then, one year, we actually made a concerted effort to work with our employees to develop a system that better enabled managers to recognize and reward staff and for peers to be able to recognize each other for their results, effort and accomplishments. In fact, the question score improved by over 20 percentage points and was considered to be statistically significant in its year over year improvement.

So for us as a leadership team, it caused some serious naval gazing. I mean, who would have thought that could happen (improve a score by that much?). Really, I mean, think about it. Ask a question, listen to the response and then ACT. The end result – things improve. ASK, LISTEN, RESPOND and ACT. Sounds like a formula for success to me! What about you? As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Is being Anonymous really “Social?”

Confession, I have a healthy dose of curiosity in my DNA. I like to know what is going on, how things are working, etc. To that extent, LinkedIn is like catnip for my curiosity. Each morning I like to check my news feed, see who has moved on to different positions and what people are sharing across their networks. One of my favourite things to check is to see who has been viewing my profile. From a personal branding and LinkedIn profile perspective, it is interesting to see what my “reach” is. Is my message getting out there? Are prospective employees seeing me? What type of person is “finding” me out there?

Bag on headI have to say though, one my peeves with the “whose viewed your profile” section is when I click on that section and I see that greyed out, silhouette head with this message:

LinkedIn member

This member chose to be shown as anonymous

Aaagghh – Really!? You are on a social media site…be SOCIAL! This is a professional networking site, why would you have your settings set so that other people can’t see who you are? Here is the thing, there must be a reason you checked out my profile? So, hit me up with an InMail. If you want to connect for whatever reason, just send me a request with a quick note as to why. But why, why, why would you be anonymous on social media networking site…I just don’t get it. I once read somewhere (apologies to the author) that being anonymous on a social media site like this is like going to a party with a bag over your head. It makes sense when you think about it. At the very least, it is like going to a networking event and lurking around, listening to conversations, but not introducing yourself (while wearing a bag over your head!)

I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you have this setting on and you don’t know it. There is an easy fix:

Go to the top right corner of your main page and hover your cursor over your profile picture. Then, scroll down to Privacy and Settings – Manage. Click on Manage. Then half way down the middle of the page, under Privacy Controls, click on “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.” Once there, make sure “Your name and headline” is selected. It is that easy. Now you are all set to be more “social” on social media! Who knows, maybe you will connect with even more interesting people this way. At the very least, you give me a reason to now check out your profile and connect!

So please, no more “anonymous user” views – let’s be more social. As always, I would love to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/

The Most Important Trait for an HR Pro to Possess

As a profession, I find we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what makes up a good HR Pro. There seems to be a general mindset within our profession that there is some sort of perfect makeup that when it aligns, creates a super HR Pro. I am pretty sure this does not exist. The reality is that I think certain traits, characteristics and abilities (when combined) work well for HR Pros in some situations and not in others. In fact, I firmly believe that the success of HR Pros is often driven by their own personal “toolbox” and how that fits with the work environment and culture they are a part of.

IntegrityIn my career, I have had the privilege of working for and with a variety of great HR Pros, many of whom have had great sustained HR career success. They are all different and unique in their own way in terms of their personalities, knowledge, skills and abilities. They are also definitely unique individuals in terms of their own personal toolbox of personal characteristics, beliefs and values and ultimately I think that is what makes the conversation of what makes a great HR Pro so fascinating. It is that the conversation must encompass and consider individual values and beliefs within the context of different work environment – so there is no one size fits all in terms of what makes an HR Pro “good.”

So here is the thing, while this magical combination of things (knowledge, skills, values, etc.) will vary from HR Pro to HR Pro and their own success will vary from company to company and work environment to work environment, I do believe that there is one trait that all highly successful HR Pros must (and do) possess. This trait is independent of what school you went to, your upbringing and what work influences have shaped you. Regardless of anything else, great HR Pros possess a high degree of personal integrity.

I find, personally, I reflect on my own integrity a lot. This occurs based on the various and complex situations we as HR Pros are faced with in our jobs. As organizational stewards, we must always be the conscious of the companies we work for. We must hold ourselves and others to a degree of integrity in our dealings with each other, our employees and other businesses. As HR Pros, we always talk about wanting to be respected and to elevate the standing of our profession. Well, here is one major way to do it – possess and portray integrity. Hold ourselves, our leadership teams, our employees and the organizations we work for to a (higher) standard of integrity. Make sure that we maintain our own personal integrity in all that we do and ensure that it is portrayed in the advice and counsel we give our leaders and employees.

Remember, integrity is not circumstance dependent. We can’t have integrity in some situations but “flex” it in others. Integrity is a 24/7, 365 days a year thing – let’s make sure we hold ourselves and each other accountable. Who is with me?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

The Emperor has no clothes – A tale of courage

A huge part of being a great HR Pro is having leadership courage. In our case, because many of us coach and counsel senior leaders in our organizations, up to and including the CEO level, we are faced with advising our leaders on some very difficult and sensitive situations. As HR Pros, we often need to be the voice of reason in the room and provide that moment of pause and reflective thinking that is required so that the best possible course of action can be derived.

Fear CourageI have been involved with many situations in my career, as I know many of you have, where you are in a room full of organizational leaders and you are discussing how to deal with a challenging and highly sensitive, organizational impacting, situation. THE most senior leader (CEO, President, etc.) begins to outline how “we” are going to deal with the situation. However, his or her plan (well-intended or not) is fraught with holes and negative repercussions that are obvious to everyone in the room…EXCEPT the President! As you look around the room, all the Sr. leadership is sitting there stone-faced, not making eye contact with anyone, but most certainly they not speaking up and disagreeing or providing an alternate perspective to what the President is proposing.

You know in your heart of hearts that the majority of the room has the same sick feeling in the pit of their stomach that you do about the (horrible) plan that is being laid out. Yet, no one says anything. Whether it is through fear, intimidation, or overall trepidation, NO ONE in the room SPEAKS UP to tell the President (Emperor) that he/she has no clothes on. As an HR Pro sitting in that room, what would you do? Would you be the first to put your hand up and point out the flaws? Would you feel confident in stating the obvious (negative) impacts to the President’s plan? Would you do so even knowing that it is highly probable that no one else would say anything? Or, would you do so knowing that the President may respond negatively to you?

That my friends and fellow HR Pros, is leadership courage and it isn’t easy. As mentioned, I have been in that situation many times over my career and it isn’t fun and it sure isn’t easy. But as a profession, we always bemoan how we aren’t viewed as being part of the big team and how we want to be seen as more than tactical paper pushers. Well, here is our chance. The next time we are faced with this situation, let’s make sure we put our hand up and give the entire team pause for thought and oh so tactfully point out that the Emperor really doesn’t have any clothes on. Who is with me? Remember, you are not alone in this…we are all dealing with it. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Connect the Dots

I consider myself a pretty voracious reader. I am pretty much a sucker for a good business, HR or leadership book. LinkedIn and Twitter are great because they are a never ending supply of bite size pieces of content for me! I also like to share, with my network, articles that I come across. Quite often, something I share strikes a chord with at least one person in my immediate network. This then usually results in some great discussion. Typically what hits a nerve with my broader audience is something pertaining to leadership tips, tricks, etc. Everyone wants to know what the secret ingredient is to being a good leader. Man, if I had the “right” answer to that, I would write a book! (Oh, the irony.)

connect_the_dotsHowever, I have experience in coaching and developing leaders so this did get me thinking a bit more about the topic. Obviously there are many characteristics, in my opinion, that make up a great leader. I don’t want to get into a laundry list of this here, but if I had to capture everything into one phrase, I would say that a good leader’s job/responsibility is to connect the dots for their staff. This is purely based on my own observations, as well as direct and indirect experience(s) coaching leaders and being in leadership positions myself.

When you think about it though, that phrase pretty much covers everything in the leadership toolbox. You need to be able to connect the dots to the corporate vision, the business plan and to department and individual goals. You need to connect the dots with your employees as it pertains to how they contribute towards the success of these organizational goals and objectives. You need to connect the dots for your employees in terms of how the work that they do will lead to personal/professional success for them. You need to connect the dots for your staff in terms of their career development – i.e. how they go about improving and positioning themselves for future roles. Finally, you need to connect the dots for them in terms of how/why organizational changes are for the greater benefit of the company and ultimately the employee. Stewarding your staff through times of change is basically one big exercise in connecting the dots! That is what leaders do!

A great leader that is able to connect the dots is skilled at communication and coaching. They show their employees vs. “tell” them. They help engage staff through the act of making these connections. A great leader is involved and present with their employees in order to be able to be a “connector” for them. So if you don’t communicate, don’t/can’t coach and/or aren’t present with your staff, it is going to be pretty hard to help connect anything for your employees.

So, the next time you are wondering what it takes to be a great leader, or if you are wondering if you are doing the “right things,” just ask yourself, “Am I connecting the dots for my staff?” If you aren’t, then you need to re-focus (see above areas). If you are, carry on my friend, you are doing a great job! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

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