Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An HR Surprise in Shanghai

I have just returned from Shanghai, China a trip of a lifetime.  Ed Nangle sand I had the honor of delivering our workshop,  "Moving HR from Transactional to Strategic: Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader" to approximately 16 top HR leaders from multi-nationals companies with operations in Shanghai and Beijing.  

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived for our first day of class.  I was definitely nervous.  "How was the language barrier going to play out?"  "Will our HR best practices translate well?"  "Does their political and governmental situation impact the way they do HR?"

Well, language was not an issue, matter of fact I had one attendee say "Bless your heart" to me.  Also, since the firms are multi-national firms, they employ best practices in HR form the US, Germany, Great Britain, etc.  Even though China is a communist country they have some of the same legal implications as we do regarding contracts and overtime for example.

What I thought was fascinating were the similarities faced by HR professionals in China and the US.  When we asked what their top issues were they sited:
  1. Talent shortage (skills)
  2. Employee productivity (getting more with less)
  3. Employee engagement
  4. How to demonstrate HR's value to the organization
Do those sound familiar?  

What was even more interesting is that HR is a relatively new discipline for these companies.  It's maybe 15 years old.  But, what they have learned and absorbed in those 15 years is phenomenal when I think of where we are in the USA after having an HR discipline for 100 years.  

I have never seen a group who wanted to stay AFTER class to chat and ask questions.  We gave them a choice of 3 assignments to compete upon our return in September.  Most of them wanted to do all of them not just one.  Their thirst for HR knowledge was so refreshing.  

I believe the Chinese HR professionals will make great strides in HR.  They have and the advantage of lessons learned and what not to do.  SO, they are taking that knowledge and building on that.  So their attitude is not one of "why aren't we valued" and more of "I'll prove our value."

I think we could use a little bit of the latter in the US!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Changing a Profession Takes Courage

Taking the bull by the horns

Making decisions quick and asking for forgiveness later

Speaking up, demanding to be heard

The three statements above have one thing in common.  It takes courage to do all three.  I have been thinking about some of the common themes I have heard from over 600+ HR professionals that have come to our workshop, "Moving HR from Transactional to Strategic: Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader."  One of the themes I have been giving some thought to is the idea of courage in HR.

I think it's time to rustle up all the courage we have as a profession.  At a time where we have our National Association fighting like siblings over our credentials, our profession continues to struggle.  We have made strides post recession, but as Joe Gerstandt would say, "we need to fly our freak flags."  HR needs to do an about face and revolutionize the way companies manage their most precious asset, it's talent.  We need to make sure we use our INFLUENCE and IMPACT to make our businesses successful AND profitable.

In our workshops, we have heard statements like:
"I feel like I can go back to my company and demand to be involved in strategy.  The absence of HR in those discussions could be the difference in executing flawlessly on strategy or failing miserably."
I could not agree more.   When I ask our attendees why they don't BE MORE DEMANDING, I hear responses like these:

  • HR has been told its broken for years so why bother
  • HR professionals do not realize how what they do IMPACTS the bottom line
  • HR professionals that understand the impact, can't MEASURE it
  • Business leaders outside of HR have preconceived notions that HR is administrative 
  • Courage is not a characteristic usually associated with HR professionals due to lack of respect
The last one of course made me pause for a minute, but then I realized:
 Courage is something that everybody wants — an attribute of good character that makes us worthy of respect
And then it hit and accounting may be a necessary evil, but when they talk people listen.  Those functions are respected.   The same sentiments for sales, the are respecting because they have tangible results.

It's not about the piece of furniture...the question becomes how can I gain my company's respect.  Answer....Be bold, don't wait on invitations, speak up, solve problems, do something innovative, dye your hair, get a tattoo....BE COURAGEOUS!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

HR Metrics Can be as Simple as Asking the Right Questions

I bet many of you thought I had fallen off a cliff or got hit by a bus.  I took quite a lengthy writing hiatus.  I just got to the point where I felt I was repeating myself.  I was not looking forward to Monday mornings when, "I had to get my blog out."  So, I took a break.

So let me catch you up on the last two months:

Well that about does are all caught up.  

So, as I think about the last few months with my HR hat on, I have had many questions on getting started with metrics.  The question makes me happy and concerned at the same time.  Happy that I am asked the question.  Concerned that I am STILL BEING ASKED the question.  We are way passed getting started on metrics.  We should be using metrics, making decisions based on metrics and delivering insights to our leadership team.  

So my best answer to the question on getting started is taking the Nike approach...just do it.  I really thing it begins by asking the right questions in your organizations.  Think about what the most pressing issues are today that your leadership is facing.  Is it growth, rising costs, competition, expansion, product differentiation or market share?  After you've identified the most pressing issue, start asking questions to right people on that subject.  So for example, if growth is the goal, what questions can you ask pertaining to growth?
  • What are our growth targets?
  • What have our sales been in the last five years?
  • Are we on target to make those goals?
  • If not, WHY?
  • If yes, how do we sustain that momentum?
Trust me, if you as an HR professional and you start asking questions like those above, leadership will think differently about HR.  We talk about being more consultative in HR in order to work with our line managers to solve business problems.  One key component of being consultative is the art and science of asking good questions.  Sometimes I hear pushback like, "leadership might think I don't understand their business if I ask those questions."  I think the opposite, you CAN'T understand their business if you DON'T ask the questions.  

Lets say that in the answers to the questions above you find out that sales aren't on target and the reason cited from the sales manager is that turnover in the sales department has been trending upward.  BINGO!  What a great opportunity to use data that you already have in HR to solve a business issue.  

I would start trying to get to the root cause of turnover by looking at engagement and exit interview data.  I would then look at what drives results for those salespeople by analyzing performance data, sales data and engagement data to uncover what needs to stop happening and what need to continue happening as far as salespeople are concerned.  

It's really that easy.  I am sure you are wondering about the analysis and the math part.  That tends to make folks nervous.  If you don't have the talent in-house HIRE someone.  It's worth it!

Monday, March 31, 2014

5 Ways HR can Impact Strategic Execution

I am always honored when I am asked to write for others.  I have had the pleasure over the last year to write for Halogen Software's TalentSpace blog.

I was inspired by this recent article by the 300+ attendees we have had over the last year in our workshop, "Moving HR from Transactional to Strategic: Becoming and Effective HR Business Leader"

Check out the article here, and look around TalentSpace Blog, there are a lot of great writers and info on the site.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

5 Lessons Learned in Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader

Over the last year my colleagues Ed Nangle and Charlette Stout and I have had the PLEASURE of teaching an awesome 1.5 day workshop called, "Moving HR from Transactional to Strategic: Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader." Over this year we have taught approximately 300+ attendees on how they can navigate a change in their HR model, HR services and HR brand using a strategic approach. It has been very rewarding and given us a new sense of pride for our profession.

Like all good learning environments, we have learned a ton of lessons from those same attendees and clients alike about what works and what doesn't during this HR transition.  Some industries adopted a business partner model early on, and others like healthcare and education are just now embarking on this journey.  Timing is not important, making HR relevant and impactful is the end goal.

Here are some lessons we have observed and learned over the past year regarding making a successful transition from a transactional HR environment to one that drives business results:

  1. You have to have your HR transactional house in order.  In other words if you can't get transactions right and on time, you lose credibility.  In order to BE strategic and have your voice heard you have to have CREDIBILITY.  
  2. Culture does matter and it does eat strategy for breakfast (or whatever that saying is).  If you have a culture that is paternalistic or doesn't value accountability…fix that first.
  3. Senior leadership support is critical.  Enough said. 
  4. If you are going make the decision to outsource, insource or centralize the transactional work, make sure you communicate the "why this is better" and "market" who is doing what.  Also, make sure follow your own rules.  (#1 still applies no matter who does the work)
  5. Make the hard decisions within HR regarding skill sets.  If different competencies are needed either close those gaps are hire new ones.  Its hard to be strategic and business focused without the needed competencies.  
There are definitely more than just five lessons, but these are the ones we hear the most.  I also believe that HR is embarking on an era of impact and influence.  It's about HR LEADERSHIP.  It's about being a business person first and foremost and an HR expert second.  

Tell us about your journey and what lessons you have learned along the way.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A New Mantra for HR: Leading, Influencing and Impacting the Organization

I was delighted to be asked by Halogen Software to contribute to their TalentSpace blog.  Check my post out and tell me what you think!  It's all about INFLUENCE and IMPACT for HR.  See how you can make a difference next year and many years to come.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Designing Performance Management with Line Managers in Mind

Today’s Blog comes from Scott Mondore and Shane Douthitt of SMD. They have the only talent management technology with business analytics and have written two books on connecting HR to actual business results: “Investing in What Matters: Linking Employees to Business Outcomes” and “Business-focused HR: 11 Processes to Drive Results”. Visit them at, on LinkedIn and Twitter: @scottmondore @smdhr

Nearly every week a new article comes out about getting rid of performance reviews and starting over because of all kinds of reasons—poor ratings, fairness, poor feedback and managers not putting much effort into them. Those are certainly valid reasons—and every year it is an uphill battle to get managers to complete their ratings on time. As usual there are plenty of new unproven theories (and products!) that actually propose that we do MORE performance reviews and include MORE raters (crowdsourced performance appraisals?!?). This logic seems to say that “we have a bad system, so let’s get more people involved to do more low-impact ratings”. Academics have spun their wheels for years focusing on ‘rating’ training with little impact. But shouldn’t HR look in the mirror and ask ourselves why performance reviews have such a bad image in the first place?  The real issue is that we in HR often focus on the execution and compliance of the process – not the business impact.  Performance management, when done correctly, is simply an extension of the business planning process – and who will argue that we don’t need business planning?  We need to focus more on goal setting, goal alignment, and the impact of the process using analytics.

Think about it from a manager’s (our customer’s!) perspective and this is what they hear from us:
“I need you to have your employees’ reviews entered into the system by November 22nd, so that we have all of them completed on time. Once they are completed you won’t get anything back from us, just check the box. Hopefully you have a good conversation with your employees and you don’t get us into any legal trouble. We’ll see in you in a month to do a calibration meeting where we will change all of your ratings around anyway.”

Not very motivating from a manager’s perspective, is it? If you were a front-line manager, how motivated would you be to put in maximum effort to complete a quality review?
The good news is that performance reviews can be a treasure trove of data—and if analyzed properly can give us tremendous insights on how to drive real business outcomes. If you rate competencies along with goals (which you should), then you can do some analytics to uncover which competencies have the biggest impact on goal performance. You can then create leadership and organizational development programs around those competencies with the biggest business impact. In those talent review/calibration meetings, focus on making talent decisions based on who performs well on the important competencies.

As an HR Business Partner, use the goal ratings data to create development coaching plans for those employees who are struggling or work with managers to create performance improvement plans—or even exit plans.

A question you should ask yourself:

Do you train leaders on how to write strong, measurable goals with specific parameters?
Do you do goal audits?

Here’s an example:
Typical Goal: Hits Sales Quota
Better Goal: Makes 100% or more of sales quota
Even Better Goal: 5 rating: 100% or more of sales quota; 4 rating: 90-99.9% of sales quota; 3 rating: 80-89.9% of sales quota; 2 rating: 70-79.9% of sales quota; 1 rating: below 70% of sales quota
Now let’s revisit our customer’s perspective once we start thinking like business leaders and not box-checkers:

“I need you to have your employees’ reviews entered into the system by November 22nd, so that we have all of them completed on time. Once they are completed I will conduct an analysis that will show us exactly which competencies have the biggest business impact—I will use that information to create development opportunities so that we move the needle on competencies that actually help us make more money. I will also examine the goal ratings and do two things: make recommendations on how we can write better goals (because, as your HR business partner, I have made it my job to understand our business as well as anyone) for employees and how we can get specific under-performers on-track or off of the bus. Finally, I will make sure all compensation decisions are directly tied and aligned with the ratings that you give your people.”
Sound different?

Let’s not fall into the typical HR trap, that if we make something prettier, faster and with minimal thought—it will get our leaders to buy-in more. How about if we tie it directly to business results? Leaders seem to be able to make time for things like that. There is nothing wrong with the classic performance appraisal process (just like there’s nothing wrong with the classic employee survey process)—companies that tie the process to business results and hold people accountable for quality follow-up seem to do just fine. Eliminating performance management is not a solution and would be as irresponsible as the CEO saying, “let’s not have a plan or goals for any parts of our business, let’s just wing it this year”.  Likewise another fad/theoretical approach (like turning performance management into a social media event) will do nothing but erode HR credibility. The process doesn’t need prettier reports, it needs to be more business-focused.

Click here to read about ICC's new Performance Management workshop, titled: Results Driven Performance Management: Driving Employee Performance for Business Results