• Important Info:

  • Pages

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Follow The Armchair HR Manager – Advice from an "HR Fan" on WordPress.com
  • Recent Posts

Remove the Obstacles

Scott Boulton, CHRP:

From the (not so) dusty archives

Originally posted on The Armchair HR Manager - Advice from an "HR Fan":

Back in November, I blogged about what I thought was the most important thing you need to do as a manager in order to be effective. For those of you that didn’t read that post, the theme was one of communication. I felt, and still do, that it is critical for the employer/employee relationship that most important thing that managers are able to do is to effectively communicate with their employees. I am not wavering on that opinion; however, I would like to add to the list of critical skills that I think make for a successful manager.

In reflecting on previous jobs and managers that I have had, as well as observing and coaching other managers where I have worked, it has become apparent to me that great managers also have another skill/trait in common. That is, they are adept at removing obstacles to their employees’ success. Think about…

View original 652 more words

I Hate it When HR is Right!

Before my fantastic HR readers launch an all out assault on me for this title, please hear (read) me out.  I am certainly not trying to disparage my chosen profession – not in the least.  I think good HR Pros (obviously) know what they are talking about and that they are able to provide excellent advice to their business partners.  So much so, in fact, that one of the growing competencies of HR Pros is to function as a de-facto (pre) in-house legal counsel.  For those of us involved in employee relations activities and advising our operations partners on such issues, we need to be aware of the big picture (legal) landscape within which are organizations are functioning.

Listen to meNow I am certainly not advocating that we has HR Pros perpetuate the stereotype that we are all a bunch of risk adverse hand wringers; however, in order to provide the best possible advice, we need to keep our knowledge of the legal landscape up to snuff.  So, to come full circle, what I am getting at is that a huge part of what we do is dispense credible, balanced advice to our business partners.

Here is the thing, and what we have to come to grips with, it is just that – advice.  Operations doesn’t have to do what we say.  If they choose to ignore our advice, we shouldn’t pout and whine.  What we should do, and need  to be doing, is building relationships with operations so that they WANT our advice.  This is very different from a scenario whereby your organization dictates that managers HAVE to do what HR says. (I.e. call centres).  The challenge for HR is to influence without direct authority, but then again, that is what separates good HR Pros from great HR Pros.

My point of this post though, while focused on HR Pros, is probably meant more for those that ask advice of HR.  It has been my experience that most HR Pros I have met know what they are doing.  Sure, like any profession there are those that are lacking in their knowledge, skill and ability; however, most are solid citizens.  So, when they give you advice, 99 times out of 100, you should probably take it.  Now, if you are a manager, and you hear words like, “human rights, sued, labour standards, illegal, can’t, not allowed, etc.” you can feel free to either challenge or ignore that advice as it is based on fear and risk adversity.  Not that it isn’t sound, but it just hasn’t been presented and vetted to you properly.  Your HR person hasn’t properly outlined the pros/cons to what you are looking to do nor has he/she identified a way to help you achieve what it is you want to achieve or at the very least, outlined potential consequences so you can make a balanced decision.

However, if they have given you balanced, sound advice, identified pros/cons, identified potential risks and clearly outlined what Door #1 vs. Door #2 contains, you should probably heed their advice.  If your HR Pro understands your business, your departmental challenges and has spent time on your shop floor, then you should probably take their advice.  If your HR Pro unequivocally tells you, “I can not support you on this and here is why….,” then you should probably take their advice.

Here is the thing, I am blown away by how many times an operational manager completely ignores what their HR person advises them to do (or not do) and then is completely shocked when there are negative repercussions.  The most basic of this type of advice is documentation/documenting.  Many HR Pros will advice managers on how to have an effective performance or conduct discussion.  These conversations typically conclude with the HR Pro saying something like, “above all, make sure you document the conversation in case things don’t change.”  Far too many managers simply choose to ignore the last part because it isn’t important (in their eyes) and besides, after one conversation with them, the employee will completely turn around…right!?

By now, you know how this story ends.  The manager eventually wants to terminate the employee because things haven’t gotten better, in fact they have worsened.  The HR Pro asks to review the file/documentation. It ends up that there isn’t any.  The manager wants to terminate anyway.  The HR Pro tells them that based on the lack of documentation, they should offer a severance package if they still with to terminate; otherwise, they need to continue to document and coach.  The manager, predictably doesn’t want to spend the money nor do they want to spend the time.  The HR Pro identifies what MAY happen and asks if they still want to proceed and of course the manager does….so the employee is terminated.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, the company is served a wrongful dismissal notice and the ex-employee is looking for a $50,000 settlement.  The company involves outside legal counsel to help respond.  Legal asks to see the documentation.  When they find out there isn’t any, they advise that the company needs to settle for something north of $40,000.  Everyone is shocked.  How can this be?  Did HR know what they were doing?  It is examples like this that make me hate it when HR is right.  Believe me, there is nothing that makes competent HR Pros feel good when this scenario plays out.  I have a good friend who works in HR who constantly has this happen to her.  Operations goes against her advice, they get sued, and she gets tired of being right.  We don’t like that feeling.  We hate it when we are right.  We don’t want it to get to the point where is becomes obvious that we are right.

So on behalf of all HR Pros, let me say it here, WE HATE BEING RIGHT ALL THE TIME.  We don’t want events to play out in order to prove we know what we are talking about.  We don’t tell finance folks how to balance books and we certainly don’t tell programmers how to code in Java.  So please, next time you ask for our advice, take it.  We are just trying to save you a lot of time and aggravation, as well as save our company a lot of money and negative exposure.  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leadership (In)Action

Not that this is a new piece of information, but I recently came across the quote (found in the picture) and it really got me spinning. I spend a lot of time blogging about leadership and HR as well as doing a lot of coaching and leadership development in my job. As an HR Pro, I am always trying to manage and align things like employee engagement surveys, talent management/retention practices as well as compensation strategies, with where our organization wants to head. At the end of the day though, most of what I/we do as HR Pros comes down to leadership. Both how we lead, as well as how we support and guide, as organizational stewards, the leaders in our organizations.

Gruenter and WhitakerI also find, rightly or wrongly, that as an HR Pro, I tend to focus a lot on leadership action as it pertains to how it drives organizational culture. That is, I tend to look at what we are doing, how we should do it and what we need to be doing as leaders to define, drive and support the type of company we want the and how we create and define our culture. In short, for me, it is all about leadership action. Taking action as a leader is what drives our organizational culture(s). Or is it?

I shared this quote with a colleague of mine and he gave me an entirely new perspective on it. In his words, “that single statement embraces a lot of interrelated concepts that all focus on one key idea. A company becomes whatever a leader let’s it become not necessarily what they want it to become.  In the case of leadership, inaction can define a company just as effectively as action.”

Whoa – my mind was blown. I found that to be a very powerful statement. Think about it, “inaction can define a company just as effectively as action.” In other words, as leaders, we need to look at how our inactions are forming organizational culture. When I took a step back from this one and looked at the organizations that I am familiar with (not necessarily worked for) during my career, the ones that had weak leadership/cultures were the ones where the organizational head(s) did not take any action to lead or fix things.

Think about this for a minute. A “leader” may want his/her company to be have an innovative and entrepreneurial culture, one where the employees are encouraged to take risks, think of innovative ways to provide solutions to its customer base and one where the staff genuinely enjoy coming to work. However, in this scenario, this same leader allows her operational heads to function as extreme micromanagers, ones whose sole focus is the tactical realization of a $1 profit each day. By allowing this managerial approach to continue, this leader will never have the organizational culture she desires and will never realize the vision she wants to achieve. Additionally, you will probably experience a lot of turnover as you will have initially hired one type person, who quickly realized that they were sold a bill of goods! In this case, leadership inaction has defined this company. The leader may want one thing, but their inaction leads to another.

I have also seen this play out in other forms as I am sure you all have too. For example, an organizational head wants to have a workplace culture that is guided by ethical business practices. He wants the corporate values of truth, honesty, ethics and customer service to guide all decision making. However, this same organizational head also allows sales reps and client service managers to bend and break policies and practices in order to secure immediate and future client business. While he truly believes in the values, they have become values of convenience and his inaction in dealing with those that contravene the values leads to an undesired organizational culture. Again, inaction has, unfortunately, defined this company and ultimately has damaged its employment brand.

What about you? What have you seen in organizations you have been a part of? Is the quote above accurate? Is leadership inaction more powerful than actual leadership action? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of leadershipopportunities.blogspot.ca

If you don’t like the data, discredit it!

Everywhere you look and read there is a new article about the importance and value of “Big Data.” Believe you me, I get it. We all know that as HR Pros, it is important that we are measuring what we do so we can show how we add value. I also get that it is just as important to be able to use predictive analytics to show what might happen if we choose certain courses of action. Like many members of my profession, I am continuing to learn, adopt and apply (big) data in my practice.

Big DataA friend of mine, (let’s call her Brenda) who is NOT in HR, has also been doing the same in her profession. I would describe her role as one of organizational change agent/improvement lead.   We recently had a great discussion about how she is trying to improve her overall comfort level with predictive analytics so that she can better “sell” her executive team on change and improvement initiatives. Other than making me feel better that it isn’t just HR that has an inferiority complex about their knowledge and application of big data, Brenda also regaled me with a fantastic tail of organizational dysfunctionality as it pertains to the use of big data. Spoiler alert – just because you have, and can use, big data, doesn’t mean you will get what you want or easily sway the opinions of others!

Stop me if you have heard this one before, but at Brenda’s company they have a communication problem. Shocking I know, as that is such a rare problem in most companies. However, she has a pretty good idea as to what the drivers are of the communication problem – *cough* *managers* *cough*; however, in order to engage her senior team in a solution, she wanted to collect some data to show what was happening so as to better convince them. Sound approach so far, right?

Brenda went about conducting a survey with that was administered to almost 50% of the organization’s employees, across all departments and locations. The survey was done either in person or via phone so as to provide clear (specific) context as to the questions. The intent of the survey was to determine whether or not certain key business items were being communicated to employees by their manager(s). She had enough responses to the survey so that the results could be considered to be statistically significant in nature. Additionally, when looking at the data, there were some pretty clear outcomes/results from what was shared. As you can guess, across certain office and departments, it was crystal clear that these key business items that the executive team thought were being communicated, simply weren’t being discussed/relayed to employees, thus the reason they were experiencing the communication gap.

So far so good, right? A simple but powerful data collection tool was used to provide concrete results as to what the problem was and where it resided. Brenda consolidated this data and then presented it to her executive team a couple of weeks ago. Here is where our story goes off the rails – rather than providing an “a-ha” moment to this team, one that was meant to enlighten, inform and spur them to action, it turned into an assault on the credibility of her information. Bottom line, the senior team didn’t like the fact that Brenda (and her data) was basically telling them that their managers were falling short in their communication efforts. They didn’t like being told/shown in front of the head of the organization that perhaps they didn’t have their finger on the pulse of what was effecting communication in the company.  Better yet, it showed that maybe they had their heads in the proverbial sand about the effectiveness of some of their managers (and perhaps their own coaching abilities.)

Rather than asking questions and using the information to improve the state of affairs at this company, the “team” launched into a passive-aggressive assault on Brenda and the integrity of the data. Questions and statements such as:

“Did everyone understand the questions?”

“Did you speak to enough people?”

“This isn’t concrete enough”

“How do you know there aren’t other factors impacting things?”

“This is just a moment in time and not indicative of the state of affairs overall”

“They were just having a bad day when they responded to this information”

“This is good information, but we really need to look at this in a different way and take a holistic approach”

“We don’t want to jump to any conclusions here”

Fantastic stuff huh? This was further compounded by the fact that no one on that team stood up to support the data and use it as an opportunity for constructive dialogue. So, be careful how you tread going forward my fellow HR Pros. Just because you can gather, analyze and apply data, don’t assume that your audience is either ready for it and/or will accept it. You need to understand the players, the room and the motivators. Quite often the socio-political factors in your company will trump anything that (big) data tells you. The savvy HR Pro needs to be skilled in the use and application of big data, but sublimely adept at social messaging.   Think of yourself as one part mathematician and one part politician. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I, Robot (Recruiting Edition)

Let’s face it, many of us as Talent Acquisition Pros, (Recruiters) fall in love with shiny new things. Whether it is the latest and greatest ATS, (Applicant Tracking System) the newest “free” feature on LinkedIn, or the latest social media tool, we LOVE shiny new things. So much so, that I find it can cause us, as a profession, to focus too much on our processes, systems and technology (i.e. ways to do things FASTER), to the point that we completely fall in love with them and ignore the basics. We want to automate everything and have our ATS do all the upfront work for us. We continue to feed the technology monster, believing that it is helping us do our jobs better, when in fact it may be having the opposite effect.

Movie_poster_i_robotYou see, as recruiters, we can’t let our environment take over. That is, the technology that we have at our disposal should complement what we do, not BE what we do. We need to make sure that the technology works us and that we don’t work for the technology. Case in point, how many people reading this post absolutely love their ATS? I mean really LOVE it. Hands up. That’s what I thought. How many of you would rather have no ATS than the one you have? Right, so we need to make sure our ATS works for us. None of them are perfect but most are workable – read this great post by Tim Sackett for more on ATS love.

For example, I recently blogged about the hidden nuggets of recruiting that we fail to capitalize on, such as referrals. But here is the thing, how many of us have taken the time to make sure that our ATS actually screens in the right candidates vs. screens them out?   How many of our ATS’s create roadblock or hard stop screen out questions that push candidates out of our system vs. drawing them in?

Here is an example to drive home my point and to show why we need to do a better job of making our tools work for us. Let’s say you have an opening for a Sales Director. Your HR team, in partnership with the hiring manager, has developed a comprehensive job description/performance profile for the role. It is determined that while a university degree would be nice to have, it is not a requirement for this role. The successful candidate needs to be able to demonstrate their proposal writing and presentation abilities by drawing upon their current experience.

This job description/profile is then given to the recruiting team to use in order to make an effective hire. The information is entered into the ATS and the recruiter who has this requisition then begins to communicate the opening internally, looking for referrals, as well as advertising and recruiting externally. Because this recruiter does a good job networking internally, she actually receives several referrals for the role. The candidates are immediately directed to “apply on online” by completing an online application. Of course, no one bothered to check the standard pre-screening questions that the ATS will ask.

Here is the problem, because this company has traditionally required people to have a university degree for all its roles (began as a start up), ALL positions ask the applicant if they have a degree or not. So, what happens? The excited referrals then are either automatically screened out and/or there is no opportunity for them to describe or demonstrate their equivalent or related experience. (Thanks to one of my readers, Christine N. for this great example which I am sure is purely fictitious!).

So, what should we as recruiters be doing? We need to analyze our processes, procedures and technology and make sure they are working for us. Applying some Lean thinking principles here would go a long way to potentially reducing costs and wasted time. Secondly, and probably most importantly, we need to stop working like robots and simply “processing” everything. I have advocated time and time again that the recruiting business is a people business (seems obvious but it isn’t based on the hundreds of horror stories I hear every year.)

As recruiters, we need to find ways to humanize the candidate experience and how we interact with our candidates. In the example above, instead of automatically directing referrals to “apply online,” why isn’t the recruiter making it a point to have a personal discussion with each referral first and THEN have them apply online (as a formality at that point). Candidate referrals should not be handled the same as all other applicants; however, this is another case where we fall into the trap of acting like robots due to the technology at our disposal.

We need to make sure our technology and tools at our disposal are doing for us what they are supposed to be doing. Listen to your candidates and employees. What are they telling you? This two (free) resources are a great place to start when it comes to process improvement. Better yet, have you tried applying for a job at your company recently? How did that work out for you? Did you find you were able to portray an accurate picture of yourself in the online application process?

Finally, and above all else, as recruiters, let’s get back to using the phone more. It helps humanize the entire candidate experience. Not a lot of talent acquisition departments do this anymore, so here is a chance to stand out. If you need any help, just read any of the great articles that Maureen Sharib has written – you won’t be disappointed. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Movie poster i robot” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Little Moments

Typically when I blog, I tend to be a bit more verbose than your average HR guy.  However, today, I wanted to copy the style of one of my favourite bloggers, Jay Kuhns, who tends to write very compact and powerful posts over at No Excuses HR.  I can’t measure up to Jay’s writing style, but hopefully he feels that copying is the sincerest form of flattery!

I wanted to throw out a simple question to all the HR Pros, leaders and managers who follow the Armchair HR Manager.  That is, are you taking advantage of the little moments in your organization(s)?

Thank you messageWe all get caught up in the hectic, day to day workings of our jobs.  Whether we are solving problems, putting out the metaphorical fires or strategically changing our organizations, we often miss the little moments.  The little moments I am referring to are those opportunities to provide a bit of thanks and/or recognition to our employees for what they do, WHEN they do it.  I am as guilty as the next person of inadvertently taking for granted what people do.  I have had the privilege of working with some really great people: great at their jobs AND great people.  So great, in fact, that when they do great things, this often appears to me, at first blush, as being the norm.  Being human, I sometimes forget to thank them and for that, I am not being a good leader and setting the example.

What makes that all the more embarrassing is that I constantly coach my operations partners on making sure they are recognizing and thanking their staff so this serves as a reminder to me – I need to do a better job.  As leaders, we all need to make sure we are not missing the little moments.  Let’s find be more observant at our organizations.  Let’s not take what our people do for granted.  Let’s really look for those little moments where we can thank our people and recognize them for what they do.  Let’s lead the way for how we all want to be treated.  Let’s be stewards for our organizations and the type of culture we want to create.  “Thank you” are two powerful tools we have in our leadership arsenal…let’s make sure we all use them.  Who is with me?

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Little Golden Nuggets of Recruiting

As Talent Acquisition Specialists/Recruiters, we have many tools at our disposal to help us find the right candidate(s) for our client(s). Setting aside technology/social media, the greatest “tool” at our disposal is our ability to build relationships. That’s right, news flash, if you are in recruiting you are in the relationship building business. Great recruiters actively grow and cultivate their networks and actively work to maintain these relationships within those networks. Candidates want to work with recruiters that they know and trust. The only way you get there is by building relationships.

Golden NuggetNow at this stage, I know I am not telling you anything that you don’t know. In terms of tools and sourcing tactics, there are far more qualified folks out there that you can follow and read about that will provide you with a TON of great information. Folks like Glen Cathey, Will Staney, Lars SchmidtMatthew Jeffery, Stacy Zapar and Jeremy Roberts. These folks are recruiting rock stars. What I can tell you though, is what has worked for me. I have probably conducted hundreds, maybe thousands of recruiting campaigns in my career. By far, the single most effective tool at my disposal has always been employee referrals. Depending on what/where you read, referrals seem to be often either overhyped or undersold. In my opinion, there is no such thing as overhyping the effectiveness of referrals. Most people know that (your) talented employees know other talented employees. It has been my experience that talented people don’t just refer someone because they want to receive some sort of monetary referral bonus. No, they refer because talented people want to work with other talented people. If your employees are engaged in what they do and they believe in your talent brand, they will refer others.

The beauty of referrals is that it is like having 50, 100 or even 1000+ recruiters working for you. My first stop on any campaign is to leverage my internal networks. I make it a point to constantly be speaking with employees about current and upcoming hiring needs. That way, we can manage the (passive) referrals proactively and then the (active) referrals during an immediate campaign. You need to make it a point to get the word out to your employees about EXACTLY what it is you are looking for. You should be doing this for all levels of positions; however, typically the more difficult the skillset is to find, the more effective a focused referral campaign probably will be.

Case in point, we recently ran a campaign out on the west coast of Canada for a very unique skill set. We knew that typical sourcing and recruiting tactics would not give us enough reach and access to the types of candidates we needed to be speaking with. Our first step was to get out in front of staff. We spent days spreading the word across our offices about the type of person (knowledge, skills, ability, performance profile) that we were looking for. We also honed in on our employees whose backgrounds were most similar to the type of individual we were looking for. (Thank you HRIS!) By knowing our employees’ backgrounds as well as being able to identify our best performers, we were able to leverage this referral/recruiting campaign with a great deal of success. The end result was that we were able to hire the majority of the individuals through referrals – no other recruiting costs involved. This couldn’t have been done just using LinkedIn ads/searches, internet searching, etc.

So, to come full circle, as I mentioned earlier, recruiting is about building relationships. However, these relationships are not always externally facing. You must look inside your organization at your current employees. Build these relationships and continue to nurture and foster them. Better internal relationships mean better referrals for you the recruiter! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Les Haines/Flickr.com


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,136 other followers

%d bloggers like this: