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What HR REALLY wants Managers to Know (and Do)

Last week I blogged about what your Managers really want HR to do. It was meant to serve as a bit of a reality check for us HR practitioners to ensure that what we think we should be doing is really truly serving the needs of our operations partners. The intent was to give HR Pros something to think about in terms of what we focus on and how we deliver our HR services. I have received a lot of feedback on the article in terms of its accuracy! The good news is that this feedback has come from both HR and operations folks – so that balance is nice to see! However, as many of you know, there is a dark side of HR that comes out from time to time. These are all the things that HR wants to say to operations but they really can’t or are reluctant to do so. So as a good HR Pro, I will present a balanced approach to this debate and give the list of things that HR really wants the managers at its organizations to start doing, do better, or stop doing! HR Pros, feel free to share this post with your managers afterwards. Managers – take note, here is what your HR folks are really thinking!

• Talk to your people – seems like a simple one doesn’t it? However, it is often seen as one of the biggest gaps in the employee/manager relationship. Far too often managers simply fail to communicate to/with their staff. If your employee is not performing properly, than you need to talk to them. Identify where the gap is and what needs to be done to close the gap. If the issue is more behavioural/conduct (i.e. tardy, poor customer service, etc.) than speak to them about it. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away but will really frustrate and annoy your good employees.

HR needs managers to know• Bring HR into the loop sooner – as a follow up to the point above, don’t wait until you have a full blown crisis or performance issue on your hands before you consult with your local HR person. Far too many times I hear the story of an operations manager coming to see HR and the conversation starts with, “I have this employee and something needs to be done,” or “I have an employee who can’t do their job and they need to go.” When you first get whiff of an issue and/or you are unsure of how to deal with it, come and talk to HR. We are more than happy to provide guidance and direction. If you are an inexperienced manager, we will give you the step by step playbook on how to address the issue and we will coach you through it. (And no, we aren’t going to terminate the employee, you are – they are your employee).

• Follow our advice – assuming you brought HR into the loop as soon as you could and your local HR person gave you some really awesome advice on how to deal with your underperforming employee or your misconduct situation, than you only need to do one more thing after that – FOLLOW THE ADVICE! You wouldn’t believe the inordinate amount of time HR spends coaching managers on how to deal with a situation only to have the manager turn around and either not talk to the employee (see point #1), ignore the advice, or put their own spin on the advice. Then when the problem doesn’t fix itself, the manager comes back to HR wondering why their “advice” didn’t work!

• Document, Document, Document – documentation is king. Assuming you follow points #1-3 above, when you have the conversations with your staff, document them. Keep a log of what was said, discussed, etc. If you need to issue something formal to the employee, do it in the form of a letter. If it isn’t documented in some form, it didn’t happen! (I know, I know, managers HATE that saying!) This advice also works well for non-disciplinary things such as performance reviews. Keep a record of your coaching conversations with employees. Document their good performance and moments where they received recognition. Then, when writing their performance review, you have a years’ supply of information to revert back to!

• People don’t grow on trees – yes, I know you know that metaphorically speaking; however you need to understand the cost of investing in employees and then losing them and what it takes to replace them. Your Java developer cannot be replaced tomorrow. No, unemployment is not 20% and there aren’t 50 aeronautical engineers lined up at our door looking to apply. No, classified ads don’t work and nor do Help Wanted signs and no, your brother in law who has an arts degree is not qualified fill that vacant engineering role. It is important to know that our reputation is our brand. People want to work at companies where they are respected, challenged and communicated with. You are far better off to invest in and coach up your current staff than to rely on a quick fix, external replacement because someone external isn’t automatically better or smarter than staff you have now. Finally, no, a new hire isn’t going to be as productive day 1 as the person who just quit. That is why we need to focus on retaining our people and not replacing them.

• We don’t like performance reviews either – but they are a necessary evil. Yes we know they are time consuming and take a lot of effort and we do realize you have other critical priorities too, but darn it, your people are important and this is the one time a year we know you will sit down and talk to them and really communicate because you HAVE to! We would rather your employee dialogue was ongoing and goals and objectives were fluid and supported in a coaching environment, so that we didn’t need performance reviews, but until we reach that promised land, we will rely on the trusty annual performance review.

So HR Pros, what do you think about these examples? Operations Managers, do these sound like things your HR folks would want you to know? Is there a middle ground here were we can all “just get along?” Now that HR knows what operations wants them to do and Operations knows what HR wants them to do, maybe we can move the dial on our working relationship? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. two points

    One is that Performance Reviews are not an evil, necessary or otherwise. They are an opportunity to provide broad appreciation for contributions over the past period and a phenomenal opportunity to plan the next period while teaming up with the employee towards the aims of the company

    Two is that HR is one of the two fundamental functions of any successful business. Jack Welch uses the baseball team as his example. The talent manager is about as important a role as one can imagine for that team. Finding and attracting the best fit people, assessing their contributions and helping to grow them into even stronger contributors within the existing team; all HR responsibilities. HR is not a poor cousin to other Managers et al. Oh, the other vital person, according to Jack, the CFO, the one who keeps an eye on the business success, looks to the future, plans use of existing resources, recommends strategies, and, most importantly, works hand in hand with the HR leader

    • Joseph – thanks for your comments. I agree with your first point; however, in the majority of companies I have seen that simply isn’t true or at least accepted. Because the focus is on everything but dialogue, the performance review is viewed as a necessary evil. That is the reason that I wanted to throw the idea out there that we don’t need them – IF, dialogue/coaching, etc. is present on a regular basis. Even that may be a stretch for some organizations!

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