Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Staff Development: Make Your Grass the Greenest

Okay, you’ve heard it before, and even more than that, you’ve felt it: Unemployment is low, skilled people are in high demand, and you’re in serious combat with other companies to hire the best and the brightest. What can give you the advantage?

According to Elizabeth Hawk, a principal at Sibson & Company in St. Louis, companies on the leading edge seek growth opportunities for their employees. “One of the things we’ve found,” she says, referring to a recent study of about 1,200 U.S. workers, “is that about half of them are unhappy with growth opportunities at work.” In other words, the grass really is greener at companies that provide these opportunities. Alongside the stock options and benefit plans touted in Fortune Magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to
Work for in America” issue, it was reported that these top companies provide an average of 43 hours of training, per employee, each year. Sure, keeping employees happy is great, you say, but what about the cost? In Hawk’s view, “It absolutely costs too much not to provide growth opportunities. In many organizations, the real competitive advantage is its people. The people who are ‘belly-to-belly’ with the customers really make the difference.” The broader their perspective about the business, the more satisfied they’ll be—and satisfied employees are less likely to have a roving eye toward the next pasture. To make sure your grass is greener, Hawk recommends that you seek growth opportunities for staff at all levels of your organization because “everyone is a representative of the company.”

Growth Concepts

Find nontraditional career growth opportunities for employees. Allow them to learn more about the business as a whole, this includes lateral learning. Often they can offer ideas that have not been considered before, because they bring a different perspective to problems. Even if they end up doing the job they had before, their new, broader perspective of the totality of the business will help them make better decisions in their own roles.

Help people develop their skills in working with others, including problem-solving, communication, and team work. The bottom line, says Hawk, is this: “When people get invested in an organization, they are more likely to stay. You want them to feel great in three ways. You want them to say, ‘I work for a great company; I have a great job; and I get great rewards.’ If your people can make those statements, that’s as close to bullet-proof as you can get.”

Adding Depth to Development

When you have identified an area in which to expand growth opportunities, you’ll want to find ways to include junior staffers. You can help less experienced employees make a good impression, as well as learn more about the business, by using experienced staff to help bring them along.

Train your experienced staff on how to delegate then make sure they do.
Have experienced employees get in the habit of asking themselves, “How can a staff member learn from me?”
Develop strong mentor relationships and hold senior staff accountable to contribute to the program.
Include technically proficient, but less experienced, employees in business development meetings.

The benefits realized from this type of interaction will be worth the effort involved. Employees will be more satisfied with their careers and their company, and the company gains perspectives they might otherwise have overlooked—truly a win/win proposition!


Monday, August 27, 2007

Marketing Techniques For HR

For years, Human Resources professionals have been applying the fundamental business concept of customer service to their functional area. They have found that, just like buyers of their company’s products and services, HR’s customers (employees, supervisors, and management) respond favorably to good customer-service approaches. What human resources still needs to learn is that marketing and sales principles can be equally useful in improving HR effectiveness.

What ‘Power Marketing’ Can Do
Many HR professionals consider sales and marketing inconsistent with their customer-service responsibilities. But if you take a moment to think about it; if your internal customers don’t understand and enthusiastically buy into the services you’re providing, you’re wasting a lot of valuable time and resources, and your credibility is compromised. The fundamental tools HR uses to “market” its services are memos, meetings, newsletters, and brochures. Since there’s a captive audience, so to speak, it’s easy to think these tools are satisfactory. Yet one of the most common complaints HR hears year in and year out is that communication is poor. The reason is that HR simply doesn’t leverage the power of proven marketing techniques in day-to-day communication and business practices.

Here are just a few examples of how human resources can apply the power of marketing principles to realize amazing results:

#1 — Referrals
It is important to remember that referrals truly represent the most inexpensive, predictable, and profitable single source of growing and expanding your business. Translated to the HR arena, an obvious way to get reluctant managers on your team is to leverage your base of satisfied supervisor/manager customers by developing a referral strategy. Next, establish an expectation agreement to be sure you and your “new customers” are on the same page. Then, deliver … what you promised … on time … on budget.

#2—Unique Selling Propositions
Believe it or not, you have competitors. Identifying your company’s unique selling propositions can give you a distinct advantage in recruitment over your competitors. Attracting and retaining talent is key to the success of your organization. Learning to identify and communicate your most powerful advantages over competitors is vital.

#3—Education and Follow-Up
Your external customers want to know only three things:
What is it?
What will it do for me?
How much does it cost (in time, effort, and money)?

HR professionals often overlook this fundamental marketing principle. The typical HR approach is to develop and distribute an information tool and conclude that the job is done until it has to be revised on account of business strategy and/or federal, state, or local law changes. If your employees aren’t satisfied, they won’t be cooperative. HR needs satisfied internal customers to successfully introduce and implement new initiatives. Providing employees with consistent, frequent, and useful information is essential to lower attrition and increase retention. In other words, you can increase your chances for staffing success by improving your marketing knowledge and skills.

#4—Strategic Alliances
You undoubtedly are aware that your company has probably established strategic alliances with other organizations to maximize competitive advantages in the marketplace. You can use the same marketing principles internally to expand and enhance your own visibility, credibility, and career opportunities. The technique is simple, yet often overlooked: Develop a personal strategy to host or promote others’ ideas and get others to host or promote yours. This approach is particularly effective in organizations with multiple business operating units. HR can help facilitate strategic alliances that cut across the organization, offer win-win solutions for everyone, and make all your HR customers happy.

The Bottom Line
Clearly, introducing a marketing approach could be a very valuable way to enhance your human resources and staff development programs. The potential bonus is that it could also be customized to increase the effectiveness of your HR business practices.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Communicating Effectively With Employees

The Human Resources field attracts people who are skilled in interpersonal communications. This is vital because you, as an HR professional, often deal with employees at a sensitive time—when they are having problems. You are also an ambassador for your company, conveying the benefits of working for the company and addressing individuals’ needs. Therefore, it is always a good idea to review the characteristics of good employee communications, including:

Recognize that HR Is a Partnership
Human Resources is an interactive process dependent on the cooperation of the employee, the HR department, and company management.

Attitude Is Important
Often, being treated with respect and understanding is more important to employees than
having their problem solved. Employees may forget the solutions to their problems, but they will not forget how they were treated.

Learn to Listen
The process of problem solving in Human Resources involves asking the right questions and listening for clues to a solution in the answers. Giving the employee your complete attention is essential to resolving problems efficiently and generating employee satisfaction.

Be Clear Without Using Jargon

If employees don’t understand the jargon you are using, they may be too embarrassed to ask for clarification. On the other extreme, they may also become resentful, feeling that you are “talking down” to them. Try to explain situations to employees in the simplest, clearest language possible. Paraphrase what the employee says. It demonstrates understanding and concern. If needed, give the employee a photocopy from your employee handbook or a prepared booklet to help understand the issue at hand. If employees have a problem with English, you may want to have someone who speaks their native language accompany them to any meetings.

Use Diplomacy
Employees who come into the Human Resources department are often frustrated or angry. They may not understand why a situation exists or what can be done to remedy it. They just want to know what the outcome will be as it relates to them personally. This is when you must deal with the situation in the most diplomatic manner possible. Remain calm. Use the employee’s name often when you talk. Show empathy by acknowledging the employee’s feelings, even if you do not agree with them. Reassure the employee. Don’t lecture. An employee may refuse to cooperate or may even get up and walk out. Being diplomatic can help ease tensions.

Role-Playing Can Help
If you set up a “what-if ” role-play about a situation, even reserved individuals are more likely to say something or react in a less-inhibited way. You may get the information you need without asking too many questions and this helps the employee to create a picture of what you are communicating to them.

Employee Satisfaction
The effect of good Human Resources communications on the company’s image with employees can be profound. Once employees believe that you have their best interests in mind, they can feel more satisfied and less frustrated in their jobs. For the Human Resources professional, knowing how to deal with people effectively can result in lower turnover and a greater sense of satisfaction with your job.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Self-Development—It’s Time to Empower Yourself

Think it’s time for a little self-development? There is no better time to start than now!

Self development takes some time and attention, but when you do it right, it is not as difficult as you might think. If you take a little time to think about it, self-development techniques can be easy to apply. The perfect starting point is to literally ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do today to stretch outside of my comfort zone in the area where I want to get better?” This can apply to any area of development from listening skills to being strategic, from conflict management to business savvy.

Identify your GAPS
Your first step is to analyze your needs or GAPS. Using this simple acronym can help you define the four areas most critical to helping you uncover your development objectives.

Goals: what do you really care about, what are your interests, values, and career aspirations?
Abilities: how you see yourself, what do you think you are capable of, what you are good at and not so good at?
Perceptions: how do others see you? Find out what those around you think.
Success Factors: what matters to others, what is expected of you to be successful around your workplace?

Do A Little Every Day
The key is to be consistent. Look at your self development the same way you would look at exercising to stay healthy, you have to be consistent or it doesn’t work. You can’t just go to the gym once for a great workout and think that’s all it will take to stay on track. Unfortunately, this is exactly how a lot of people approach their self development. They go to a seminar and think it is all taken care of. No matter how good your intentions are, this is not the ultimate solution. What happens is they are all fired up after the seminar and think, “That was great; I can’t wait until I get back to the office on Monday and start using what I learned.” Then Monday rolls around, that seminar feels like it was a lifetime ago, and they fall back into their old patterns.

Start With What You Know
Conferences, seminars, classes, and books can all be helpful, but better yet, put into practice the stuff you already know. You are a wealth of knowledge, start practicing what you have learned. This will help you get in the habit of growth and self development. Most people know what they need to work on. So, next, take the time to reflect on what you want to do. Taking time for your self development can be difficult, but you deserve it! You may want to get a coach, mentor or a friend in the HR profession that you can be accountable to. This individual will help give you some guidance and then you can go from there.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

Managing Your Career ... Roadblocks and Opportunities

Change is inevitable. One of your job responsibilities is to help your company manage change with the least amount of disruption and the maximum return on investment. The same criteria apply to your personal HR career. The challenge is to turn roadblocks into opportunities. Your job is to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of waiting for change to happen. You are the agent for change for yourself and for your company.

Turning roadblocks into opportunities

I don’t have control. You may not have direct or absolute control of a workgroup but you can influence managers to look to you for solutions to complex HR problems and for improvement ideas that will help them, you, and the organization.

I don’t have senior management approval. Senior management most often looks at the big picture and depends on you to do the things that support those goals. If you understand the company goals, and initiate and implement programs that specifically support those goals, approval will follow.

I’m too busy. HR people are always “too busy.” Unfortunately, many times, the reason they’re too busy is they’re focusing on a thousand-and-one little things that are not really important. If you focus on the strategic issues that can affect your company and your career, the small stuff tends to work itself out.

There’s not enough money in the budget. It’s not unusual to see money thrown at issues that aren’t consistent with the real strategic needs of the organization. You can gain immense credibility with management, and often get the budget you need, if you prepare and manage a business plan that demonstrates your ability to distinguish between tactical and strategic goals.

Flavor of the month. Many times, if a previous attempt to implement change or
improvements didn’t work, the knee-jerk reaction is to roll out a different model. Over time, this approach discourages future change attempts. Take time to thoroughly evaluate the practical aspects of any program you want to sponsor before you launch it.

Fear of working oneself out of a job. This is the greatest compliment one can gain! Individuals who can affect change in an organization are in high demand these days—both inside and outside their own organizations.

In our ever fluid business world, change is our only constant. Embrace change and flourish in the opportunity!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Are You an HR Survivor or an HR Leader?

Are you a survivor or a leader? The most successful human resources professionals are learning to be both.

It’s human nature to resist change, but change is inevitable and happening at a faster pace than ever before. John F. Kennedy said, “The one unchangeable certainty in life is that nothing is unchangeable or certain.”

This is not news to HR professionals, who are increasingly challenged to find ways to lead change, quickly and effectively, within their organizations. When change is in the air, you need leadership tools and techniques at your fingertips.

Be aware of the things that can sabotage your organization's change initiative. In order to survive change, you need to prepare yourself and others for the inevitable, avoid falling into these traps:

1. Lack of clear process for translating a change vision into action at all levels.
2. Failure to clarify ambiguous goals or clearly define priorities during the transition.
3. Inaccurate assessment of the gap between critical organizational competencies and individual and teams skills.
4. Not enabling people to succeed in the transformed organization.
5. Lack of integration of change expectations into HR management systems.

If you want to be a leader, you need to help management and employees adapt to change and
facilitate alignment between the organization’s culture and ever-changing strategic goals.

Key techniques you can use to help adapt the culture to change include:

❒ Challenge assumptions.
❒ Challenge beliefs.
❒ Look for two or three things that will have the biggest impact on the organization in the future.
❒ Evaluate the implications of the trends on the organization.
❒ Confirm the mission is still valid.
❒ Get rid of the old hierarchy in favor of a fresh approach.
❒ Question the usefulness of past policies, practices, procedures, and attitudes.
❒ Use three or four compelling messages (rather than 50) to communicate mission statements,
goals, and values.
❒ Expand leadership responsibilities to include more individuals.

Ways to align culture with changing strategic goals include:

❒ Identifying the business realities and trends that will affect the organization’s future success.
❒ Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the existing culture opposite future goals.
❒ Exploring all opportunities to facilitate change.



As your HR Coach, I would like to help you excel in your HR career and your life! This Blog has been created to prvide you with information and solutions to you everyday HR needs.