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Hi, my name is Scott and I work in HR

If I used this line at a dinner party, networking event or at any other social event, the eye rolling would start and I am almost certain that I would be met with a series of passive, “oh, hi’s.” Bottom line, no one would be all that interested in meeting and speaking with me if that was how I approached them. Funny thing, in our everyday jobs in HR, we as HR Pros do this all the time. Perhaps not quite as blatant and awkward as this, but we still use this approach when trying to work with our internal clients. Quite often we are the awkward kid at school who is trying to integrate into social circles.   Instead of identifying ways we can add value to the business, we like to remind our clients what our function is – like it is some sort of security blanket for us. We do this as if HR is some sort of oversight function through which operations must obtain approval before making business decisions…as if. Which begs the question, “Why do we do this?”


I got inspired to write more about this topic based on the thought provoking blog post that my colleague, Sabrina Baker, wrote last week related to her speaking engagement at the California HR conference. Sabrina wrote about Moving from HR Leader to Business Leader.” You can read her post here and as is her custom, she also supplied her slide deck here. You should check them out and give her a follow. The point(s) of hers that really stuck out to me though were the following where she wrote:

“It isn’t enough these days to be an HR leader, we need to be business leaders. We need to understand the business as well as every other leader. We need to know finance, marketing and sales as well as the individuals running those teams. We need to be able to speak and understand the lingo. We need to know how decisions impact the business and how to create people strategies that help achieve the business strategies.

And we need to do it all without asking for permission.”

As HR Pros, we should all read that last line again. “…we need to do it all without asking for permission.” So here is the thought that I want to piggyback on to Sabrina’s writing. Let’s stop introducing ourselves as the girl or guy who works in HR. No one cares. No one is impressed by that statement. Why don’t we start introducing ourselves as a problem solver? We need to stop thinking of ourselves as an internal department and think of ourselves as internal consultants. If we were consultants, we would HAVE to add value and solve problems; otherwise, we wouldn’t be in business. As a department, we tend to get a bit lazy and assume that because we are a department, people HAVE to use us…wrong!

So, as consultants and problem solvers, let’s start introducing ourselves as such. To Sabrina’s point, we have to stop asking for permission to do this and just go ahead and DO IT. How do you think your role will be received at work the next time you try one of these lines: (exaggeration and simplicity done for dramatic impact purposes)

“Hi, my name is Jane/John and I can help solve your resource issues by_____”

“I would like to propose a solution to your succession challenge”

“I have an idea on how to reduce your labour costs by introducing a contingent workforce plan”

“I have identified a low cost solution on how we can easily implement a mentoring program in your department to help with your skills shortage.”

Any one of these is a great opening line at a work party, I mean, as a work conversation. Your internal clients will be much more receptive if they see you as a solutions provider and not some bureaucratic department. Here is the beauty of all this, you don’t need to ask for permission to do this! (Thanks Sabrina!) Be a leader, go forward and just do it! You won’t get in trouble. Really…you won’t. It’s ok. Take the first step. Try introducing yourself differently. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Maialisa/Pixabay.com


What Your Managers REALLY want HR to do

I got inspired to write this post based on what one of my favourite bloggers, Tim Sackett, recently wrote about. In his post, Tim was looking to crowd source some ideas for his 2015 SHRM conference presentation. One of his ideas was, “Why CEOs Believe Weird Things.” His take was that “every SHRM conference has a ‘what your senior executives want presentation.” Tim in his own brilliant, witty, sarcastic way I am sure will do this topic justice. However, his blog post inspired me to take the topic idea down to more granular level and write about what line managers want from their local HR folks. Based on my experience, the operations managers that HR supports are looking for a handful of things from their local HR person to help make their jobs easier. So, with inspiration from Tim, who I hope doesn’t feel that I ripped off his topic idea, (and that I have given proper credit to) here are my thoughts on the topic in terms of what your managers want from HR:

Manager Help• Your managers want HR to find them good people….quickly. (and discuss the issue with them with no B.S.) Yes, I know all the stories about how recruiters find candidates and present them to hiring managers and then the resumes sit on the manager’s desk for weeks at a time and then the (good) candidates are no longer available. What the hiring manager wants is for you to come to them and tell them which one (or two) of your slate of candidates is the real deal and then have the candid conversation with them. There is no need to fluff things up and over sell the slate based on skill sets, current market conditions, etc. You don’t need to tell them that if they don’t move on your entire slate they will lose them all. You need to tell them, “Look Mr. Manager, I know you are busy. I am busy too. I really want this to work out so you need to move on Candidate A. She is exactly what you need. She has the bulk of the skills you are looking for but not all of them. However, what she lacks in the balance of the skill department, she makes up for in the fact she has worked in some crappy industries/companies and is able to put up with a lot of crap. In fact, so much so that will easily be able to deal with the environment here and thrive. Hire her and you won’t be replacing this position again for a long time.”

• They want you to make the bad employees go away. Again, I know that hiring is a two way street. Bad managers don’t want to manage, but good managers inherit bad employees that they then want gone because they are a complete drain on time and resources. Don’t give them the song and dance about what should have been done, could have been done or what they can’t do. Managers don’t want to be lectured or given a history lesson…or worse yet, they don’t want to hear the “I told you so” line. Tell them what they CAN do. Tell them what it will cost and what the risk is to make the “bad” employee go away. Spell it out for them and then work with them on a solution. Give them control and ownership into the situation – don’t babysit them.

• Your managers don’t want to fill out forms. At the very least, make the necessary forms easier to fill out/complete. In HR, we fall in love with our forms and processes, especially the performance review form. There isn’t a manager in the world that wants to fill out an 8 page performance review in Word format for 30 of their staff. Shrink the form down – make it two pages max. Make it goal and behaviour based with a simple, clear rating system. Make the form easy to complete in digital format (PDF or online). Bottom line, no paper copies and have digital signatures. You will get a lot more up take with managers when it comes to them completing performance reviews on time if you do this.

• They want you to help them build an effective performance rating system. Maybe not in those words, but your operations managers find this whole performance management thing challenging at the best of times. Help them to baseline performance expectations for their jobs and employees. They are also fine with the fact that it may only be a usable 80% solution (vs. your current unusable but “perfect” HR system.)  Also, your operations managers want you to remind them over (and over) again about the importance of documenting performance examples so that they have something to put on the nice form you created. (Really, they don’t mind the reminders at all because it makes their jobs easier – you just have to be ok with being a nag.)

• They don’t want you to write stupid policies – stupid policies are any ones that are written to deal with an issue with a small group of employees but then apply to everyone (i.e. dress code or attendance). Stupid policies are any policies that are written with no clear goal/end state in mind other than to create a police state or compensate for bad managers. Stupid policies are ones that are not clearly understood and/or communicated. Stupid policies are ones that ultimately are not supported by HR, even though THEY (HR) wrote them (yes, this does happen.)

• They don’t want you to make them jump through hoops or give them the run around – this could take the form of having to fill out 20 forms to get a job requisition approved, to have someone’s job evaluated or to deal with a payroll/benefits issue. Make it easy for them to take care of their employees. Remember, managers have project deliverables as well as responsibility for taking care of their people. HR beats them up when they have turnover, absenteeism, etc; so make their job of taking care of their people that much easier for them.

So what do you think about these examples? Do you think they reflect the way your operations /line managers see HR contributing to the company? Do these sound like the sort of things that your operations managers want from you? If you really want to be a true HR “partner,” try keeping these themes in mind when working with your operations managers. To provide a balanced approach, for my next post, I will write about what HR wants from its operations managers – it will be a beauty. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The HR identity crisis

Those of us in HR have an identity crisis. There, I said it. I think admitting it is the first step. Seriously though, everywhere you read, go, hear, etc. all you hear about is that HR needs to be more strategic. HR needs to add value. HR needs to have a seat at the table. HR has to be a “business partner.” Oh my god – it is enough to make my head hurt. The more HR professionals I speak with, the more I believe we are truly in a crisis situation with our professional identities. Well, maybe “crisis” is a strong word; let’s just say we are in a precarious situation.

We have to keep in mind that there a couple of distinct groups in the HR profession. There are those HR Pros that are part of larger corporate teams – i.e. upwards of 15-20 HR staff in a given HR department. Then there are the HR “departments” of one or two individuals. Both groups have similar challenges with their professional identity, yet both have some different ones. The HR profession has been making a successful move, in larger groups, to establish “centres of excellence” (COE’s) and shared services groups. Essentially, transactional items like payroll and benefits administration have either been outsourced or established as part of a leaner, shared services group. Likewise, many corporations have also made the move to shift recruiting out of HR and make it its own stand-alone function – again, leaner and meaner. The end result is that now HR is supposed to have all this time to be “strategic” and move forward with all kinds of strategic HR projects that will allow our companies to be the next Google.

600px-Hello_my_name_is_sticker_svgFor smaller companies and/or HR departments with only one or two people, there is nothing to move away or outsource. These smaller departments have to do it all – process payroll, administer benefits, recruit/hire, onboard, etc. So are they any less strategic than their peers in other companies that don’t have to do these transactional or seemingly trivial items? I say seemingly because it is us (HR) as a profession that uses these labels to diminish the work that we do – not our operations clients.

The funny thing is, if you ask the managers and employees of your company what they feel is the most important thing that you do, I bet they could care less about your strategic HR project. They want to get paid on time and accurately and they want to make sure they get their performance review and pay increase on time. If you can make that happen, I bet they feel you are being pretty darn strategic!

Seriously though, my point is this. HR pros have to stop diminishing the work that they do. The main thing is that you need to make sure you always apply a forward thinking (strategic) approach to your HR practice as a whole. That is, if you are applying a continuous improvement mindset to your practice (i.e. figuring out ways to save the company money, improve a process, free up company resources, etc.) than you are being strategic. If you are coaching managers to become better leaders, or if you are working diligently with your leadership team to ensure your performance system is helping to effectively engage employees in the achievement and reward of meeting their goals, than you are being strategic. If you are keeping abreast of the latest changes in employment law and occupational health and safety legislation, thereby ensuring your company has the necessary programs, practices, policies, etc. in place in order to be compliant, than you are being strategic. Finally, if you are doing things like keeping on top of social media changes and coming up with a plan on how to leverage SoMe in your recruiting practices and making sure your LinkedIn company page is active and relevant and providing your company with an active talent pipeline, than you are being strategic.

So HR Pros, my message to you is this. Give yourselves a break. For many of you, what you are doing now IS strategic. This profession of ours is a journey, not a destination. Make sure you aren’t being the policy police – that is most definitely NOT strategic. However, if you are applying a business lens to everything you do, that is, you are making sure your HR practice aligns with business goals, than you are well on your way to being strategic. If what you are doing is helping to find qualified people, reduce turnover, reduce absenteeism or is essentially solving some sort of problem your business is facing – than you are being strategic. Now, go get yourself a coffee, you deserve it!

What about you? Do you think HR is too hard on itself with this whole “strategic” identity crisis? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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