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Posts Tagged ‘employee retention’

The Dow is up and I’m getting nervous.

Capitalism is sleeping at the switch.  Big explosion coming, but I think that we’re missing some of the clues that will be obvious later.

As I talk with CEOs and CFOs, there is a common theme of “we’re hunkered down, and going to make it if we don’t take chances or make bad decisions.”  Fine with me.  The problem comes in a two-part storm that is coming.

The first clue are the low turnover numbers.  Nobody is going anywhere, fast.  The normal “breathing” of the job market has stopped.  The  normal movement of high performers from place to place is not happening.

High performers have long had careers based on a project world, and when a project is done they either move internally to a new challenge, or move over to another organization.  This is a group of people that seldom have an updated resume, both because they are moving quickly, and because their next employer already knows them and does not need a resume.  (Low performers ALWAYS have updated resumes…)

Therefore, pressure is building for movement within the ranks of high performers.  When the “coast is clear” for movement, it will happen quickly.

The second driver of the coming explosion is health care.  When – not if – our nation figures out a way to get everyone insured with baseline medical care, the handcuffs that are holding people to jobs that they do not like will be dropped.  The good news is there will be an explosion of entrepreneurial energy as the barrier of health care will be lowered.  Bankers will open flower shops.  HR professionals will become consultants or change professions completely, knowing that they can focus on service delivery and not worry about their health care.

The scary part is that I am confident a large percentage of dis-engaged high performers in our organizations will choose to set up their own businesses.  This removes them from the available labor pool.  They don’t leave the economy, but you can’ t hire them.

Here is the really scary part.  Both of these storms are probably going to happen at about the same time.  When the Dow gets back above, say 12,000, kapow.  When health care gets implemented, kapow.  If they both happen in the same quarter, kablooie.

So, what are you doing to stay dry?  I have some ideas…would love to hear yours.

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I attended the Indy SHRM lunch today, and ran into an old friend at the sign in table.  She had seen the postings about performance management and the notes about Jack, and wanted to vent a little.

“I was a big believer in the power of performance reviews and the importance of documentation, but now, looking back on it, I guess that all of that guidance and corrective advice we were giving never really did change behaviors.  Maybe it wasn’t worth the time.”  She laughed.  “Maybe, I’m just getting old and cynical.”  I assured her that she was….and that that was OK.

We all need a little watering, some encouragement, and occasional pruning.  Without the attention, we wither and die…

I was reminded a while ago when I found a dessicated and VERY dead office plant in an office, a great metaphor for performance management in our modern world.

When you feel old and dried up, like this plant, it's time to change jobs.

When you feel old and dried up, like this plant, it's time to change jobs.

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So, HR has been accused of not taking risks.  We’re being told that risk taking – good risk taking –  is an important part of our economic recovery.

Why should we?  For decades, HR has been browbeaten into risk avoidance, not risk taking.  The hiring of HR people has included people with administration backgrounds and legal backgrounds.  In general, neither administrators or lawyers have entrepreneurial leanings.  Neither of these types pushes the envelope and tries new things.  Risk taking is not in the “comfort zone”

What to do?  If we agree that good risk taking behaviors are needed in the HR community, we need to make a few basic changes.

First, we need to make Risk Management a more prominent part of the “body of knowledge” in the Human Resource Certification Institute’s certification process. Teach it, and require it as a part of PHR or SPHR certification.  When I took my SPHR exam, I don’t recall answering any risk questions.  To be fair, I was in enough of a test panic mode that I doubt I could recall any question in the SPHR exam beyond what year the Taft-HartleyAct was passed.  1947, I think.

Second, we need to practice good risk behaviors in our personal lives. This is a life skill, and taking good and prudent risks is not well tought in our society.  Just as negotiation is not a part of the North American culture, the basic midwestern risk profile is to not do it until at least three other people have tried it, whatever it is.  I know people with rotary dial phones in their house – this touch tone thing is just a fad, perhaps…

Finally, we need CEOs and CFOs that recognize and reward good risk taking. Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated.  We have been talking about performance management and performance reviews.  I’ll bet money that none of your review forms have a discussion of good risk behaviors that are a part of the feedback loop, unless the job title has “Actuary” in it somewhere…

Until we’re rewarded and not punished for it, I don’t think it will happen.

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You don’t have to be high tech to “get it.”

Thinking about Hank’s comment to my last post as I drove by a car wash a minute ago.  The staff was out front in neckties and white shirts, waving in a line of cars and selling the service of a clean car.   Me?  I’m cheap and I use a discount gas station.  It’s $3 cheaper.

The local car wash chain ran an interesting series of advertisements a while ago.  They weren’t selling their service directly.  They spent their advertising dollars to have their hourly staff talk about the high quality of their bosses and how much they enjoyed the opportunity for personal development and what motivates them on the job.  They talked about how tough it was to get a job there and what they thought of having to wear a necktie.  They were clearly proud of it all.

And, they clearly think we have more intelligence than the average terrier or sheepdog or whatever breed it was that I recently saw in a parked car.

Seen on the street near my house...

Seen on the street near my house...

They never talked about washing cars or coming to Mike’s Car Wash.

My takeaway was that they are clearly a group of high performers at the bottom of the corporate food chain, and that I get more than $3 of additional service at their place. Also, I am impressed that the leadership team is proud enough of their culture to spend advertising $$$ to sell HR, not coupons.

To me, it is proof that good performance management and communication and high standards for hiring all pay off.  I’m going back there this afternoon for a wash…and I’m expecting a good experience.

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One of my takeaways from the conference – everyone is mad at performance management.  Managers hate doing it.  HR hates administering it.  CFOs hate having a huge asset (people) with no real feedback loops or accountability system.

I have an idea.

Instead of using software to automate a flawed system, use new communication channels (social networking, perhaps?) to build a fast feedback system that is more direct, and get a better result with less hassle.  I’ll be meeting with some social networking wonks and geeks next week, and I will be pushing this idea on them.  They don’t have an HR background, and that may actually be an advantage.  This is a marketing and communication and system design problem, more than an HR issue.  It’s just an issue that we all need to fix.

Now more than ever.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Got the computer working.  Sorry about the gap.  Back to some tidbits from David Kotter’s session.

Overall, this was the best general session of the conference because it came down from 35,000 feet and actually gave tactical advice that I could use.

Kotter also did some very basic, useful things from a media standpoint.  He did not use powerpoint, he used a sketch pad, a sharpie, and had the image put up on a screen.  Kind of a high tech overhead projector.  I have seen professors doing this in college, and Edward DeBono did it in a presentation that I saw.  I like it from an adult learning perspective.

He also illustrated one of his basic points – that people are very creative if the environment is right – with videos of first person interviews.  The one that had a sewer cleaner narrating how he had personalized his truck and equipment was a refreshing reminder of the creative spirit of the American worker.

Overhead projector with a modern touch

Overhead projector with a modern touch

Back to the content.  He made the point that a key executive  skill is getting traction for systemic change, and that there is a basic pattern for making it happen.

It starts with that poorly-defined but muched talked about ingredient – Leadership.

“Leadership is very much associated with vision.  It’s very market oriented, very rational.  It’s very much associated with getting people to really, deeply buy in to this, get aligned and work together, going in the same direction to solve problems.  It’s also about getting employees pumped up, empowered, motivated, inspired to make shifts happen.”

Then he talked about urgency.  He said that most orgnizations clearly aren’t feeling a strong sense of urgency to act when it comes to addressing the impact of our current situation.  This lack of urgency directly relates to the change management challenges we are all facing.

Begin with increasing a sense of urgency.  It helps shake things up and make things happen

Once this is accomplished, employers need to push for positive change, working to achieve some short term wins that will help make the changes stick.

Companies must create systems that managers can both manage and adapt, allowing positive changes to be triggered and implemented at the front lines of customer service.  This is where fear can keep leadership from seeing potential opportunities and, therefore, squelch a sense of urgency to act.  This inaction is the barrier to change.

Combine or alternate this fear with compacency, and things get gridlocked.

“Complacency is when you get a collective group that thinks what it is doing is just fine.  Take Washington DC, for example.  Do you think the two parties are behaving with you in a fundamentally different way than they did five years ago?  Do you think the administration is staffing people with a process that is different than any other administration?  It’s the same.  The same.  The same.”

Kotter urged attendees to avoid the frentetic activity that leaves people emotionally drained and burned out.  “These problems with our serious economic conditions are hurting a whole lot of people, especially the most vulnerable in our society.  This is unacceptable – and also unnecessary.”

I guess what I liked about his approach is that it resonated with the chaos and burnout that I am seeing in modern organizations, and was willing to have the competing issues of complacency and chaos on the same page.

Overall, turn up the urgency, and have a concice plan for change.  Then you will be developing the environment andoffering the tools to get some change done.

Kotter's list of 8 steps

Kotter's list of 8 steps

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