Posts Tagged ‘staffing’

I felt I had been here before.   Image a large room full of marketing types and business leaders, all wearing name tags and juggling coffee and folios and talking about how great they were doing.  It was the new incarnation of the Business Rally, and I was happy to be back in a room of artificially happy people. The smiles were nice, even if they were forced.

Ron Brumbarger, CEO of Bitwise, had pulled this together, and was happy with the turnout.  I was happy for a free cup of coffee and getting some energy from a room of marketing types.  I think everyone needs a dose of happiness every now and then, even if it is partially artificial.  The rules on the invitation were clear – this was not a job search event, so if you were looking for work, look elsewhere.  That also meant that the requests for 20 minute networking meetings were eliminated.

What was different and refreshing was the presence of several key Human Resources professionals, and how they might have the answer to the turnaround.  Yes, there were bankers in one corner talking about cash flow and operations types in another corner talking about new tracking systems.  The surprise was a pair of HR experts, and the answers that they had for american industry.

Chuck and Chris make it simple for us

Chuck and Chris make it simple for us

Chris Woolard, whom you may already know, is a national expert on employee engagement at Walker Information.  Chuck Gillespie, ex-senior HR person at a local logistics company, is now leading the charge at Peoplebase, with a new take on HRIS systems.  Between the two of them, an organization could make sure that their high performers were fully engaged, and then use that knowledge to produce a better outcome.

It just made me feel proud that, here at ground zero of the business turnaround, that HR was at the table along with the money and the operations.

It also made me proud that people clearly knew who they were.  All of that work that HR has done to be taken seriously is starting to pay off…

The coffee was brewing, the suits were talking, and HR was in the room.  This was good.


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Looking for a job in Human Resources has special challenges.  Simply put, it stinks.

Problem – HR is cautious and may not share.  When you try to network people as a part of your search, HR people generally don’t respond well.  If you are looking for work and approaching other HR professionals, the people you are approaching are often threatened by your request.  “…hey, I want to keep my job, and if I know of openings I probably want to apply myself and don’t want to share that knowledge…

Problem – HR is overwhelmed right now and not in touch.  When people are slammed by administrative work because of a reduced workforce and high work levels, everyone hunkers down.  Therefore, if you ask them for a 20 minute meeting to review trends and current market conditions, they feel that they are out of touch and have no useful knowledge.  Truth is, they are probably right – they don’t.  They don’t have the reserves and they have let their own networks slip.  They won’t take your meeting because they feel they don’t have much to share.

Problem – Everyone knows that conventional “networking” meetings don’t work, yet nobody wants to admit it.  When we are approached for job search advice because we are in HR, we step back to the classics.  “Get a copy of “What Color is Your Parachute” and start networking.”  Yet, we seldom make the time for a classic networking meeting.

Problem – Searching for HR jobs on most job boards is a significant hassle because the boards do a poor indexing job.  If you search for “Human Resources”, you get EVERTHING that has HR as a response point in the ad.  Polymer Chemistry postings, Call Center postings, Insurance Sales postings, and so on.  You have to grind through all of the results.  Aargh.

These are real, and a real problem. Care to add any?  Comments welcome.

At the recent New York State SHRM conference, we had a very lively discussion of these issues, and came up with some clever (or so we thought) ideas around this.  I’ll post some of our answers in the next blog post.

Clearly, someone with a recent bad hire...

Clearly, someone with a recent bad hire...

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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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So, we hire poorly, screen poorly and then are surprised when the last line of defense – performance management – fails?

I spent quite a bit of time at SHRM National listening to the full range of topics, all themed on improving productivity and getting the “HR Thing” right.  Much of it was spent on the administrative side of our world.  Why?  Because it is safe, and it is what we see as the “bedrock” of our world.

It’s wrong.  We should be looking at a better bedrock.  We should be spending our time evenly split on workforce planning and helping guide the organization to a higher level of performance and profitability, and management development, helping guide the individuals inside the organization to higher levels of personal performance.

I’m writing this during the monthly meeting of the Human Resource Professional Development Association.  Elizabeth Stahl is presenting, and she gets this point.  She is pushing people to have courage, take risks, and gain influence.  All of which is true, especially as my data shows that we in HR have a very slow decision cycle and are cautious, and want to protect our paychecks. It is also clear that for this group of mostly senior HR people that we, as a group, think higher levels of risk taking is a good idea…within reason.

Within reason?  Hey, we’re in a “seige mentality”.  We’re under attack, and everyone is hunkered down, protecting their paycheck.  This is a lousy time to take risks.  At the same time, our organizations MUST take risks to survive.  Our CEOs need to have us taking good risks, and helping the organization survive.

Maslow got it right.  First we are focused on survival, then on safety, then on community.

Focus on survival.  Take some appropriate risks.  And accept that these are mutually exclusive.

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Parallel worlds

Parallel worlds

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From a session –

Why do dissatisfied employees stay and make us crazy?

1. Fear of the unknown

2. Some people are underacheivers and have found a place to hide

3. Golden handcuffs – medical or personal issues

4. Demographics – a child in school or close to retirement

5. Love the work.  They just aren’t good at it.

6. Work is a social club and they’re a member.

7. They have a personal bond with their boss, and they’re boss isn’t holding them accountable

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