You’re complacent and that’s why your engagement sucks

Employee engagement is endlessly chatted about; as a HR professional I find myself in a constant chatter about how we can “move the dial” on employee engagement results. How do we get people to “live the values” and feel connected to their work. Then come the ideas about wellness and team building – activities HR can roll out in the hopes of making people feel better about their work.

But this is only one of the many components and until we get that then we are going to go in circles. Engagement comes in three parts and it’s the third part that for the most part we can all say, we arn’t so great at..

Hygiene

You need to pay people accurately, administer their entitlements and keep them safe. If you don’t do this (or have some focus on improving these areas) then what the hell are you doing.. Seriously, why are you in business?

Team

You need to give people a sense of shared purpose and connection – not because HR said so, but because let’s get real people like to know what the heck they are doing and why

Teams need to get along, understand what they are doing and why it is important. You need to hire the right people, have sound people and task managers (note I mention ‘sound’ you don’t need the worlds best leaders, just people who arn’t evil and want to be good at their job).

Individual

Okay, this is where we become unstuck. This is about the one-on-one interactions with team members by managers. These interactions are more that task driven directions, it’s about reverse engineering motivations to get what you need out of that person. This isn’t soft and fluffy. This is legit – if you know what someone wants, what they value you will get more out of them.

If Sally has 5 kids and it means a lot to her to be able to leave at 4.30pm during the holidays and you make that happen for her, then you have won the type of loyalty money can’t buy. You provide her with the benefit and then you engineer to get something in return, maybe it’s discretionary effort on a project.

If Jenny is just motivated to grind away and get a promotion, then early finishes don’t mean anything to her, she wants coaching and stretch assignments – so you get her to help you on a project you are stretched to complete.

You’ve got to know what people actually want. Often it’s not things, it’s an experience. It’s cheap as chips, but it takes time and attention and that’s what we don’t have enough of.

How do we get managers to give it time and attention?

Senior managers, HR whoever it is for you need to engineer a workplace where it is natural for the time and attention to be spent in that way. That’s pretty broad, but an example is roping it into a performance review / management framework. You can’t guarantee  that they are going to execute, but you have created the attention and time for it to take place, so you are halfway there.

How do I get managers to reverse engineer motivation?

Ask you managers to go on a treasure hunt. Over a month or two they need to find what motivates each employee (that directly reports to them) within their team. Then phase two is workshopping how they can use that to their advantage. It’s not overly complicated, but it requires time and attention, the two things we are really short on these days.

What about my corporate wellness program?

Nothing wrong with that, it’s a tool, a branding opportunity, seeing how common it is, it’s almost a hygiene factor these days – we expect it. Discounted health insurance and memberships show you ‘care’ enough to have them, but not all people get a kick out of it, it’s not an individual you get me program. So don’t toss it, you need it, it’s just not going to solve anything overnight.

 

The below diagram sums up my feelings on the topic at midnight last night. 

IMG_2942

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4 truths every new networker needs to know

I remember walking into my first networking event – Ahhhhhhh! I remember wanting to stand against the wall and eat my free pre event snacks until the session started. Totally normal response by the way, after all these people in the room are actually out to get you and want you to leave (sarcasm).

So these are my top 4 truths about networking. Remember them next time you encounter a bout of omfg-strangers-are-scary anxiety.

Truth 1 – Striking up a conversation (or joining in) is easier than you think

It’s a networking event, 99% of people are there to talk to new people. Keep it simple, I find introducing yourself and saying “Hi I’m Cherish, nice to meet you” and asking a basic question such as “have you been to one of these events before” a good way to kick off the conversation. But what if you walk in and everyone is already in groups chatting away? Then what? Firstly if there is a snack station, go get yourself a drink, you always want to keep one hand free so you can shake hands and interact. Approach a smaller group (1-3 people) and introduce yourself. Admitting you don’t know anyone at the event is a cool ice breaker, we all know those feels and chances are the group chat you have joined.. well they met each other about 2 minutes ago as well.

There will always be the 1% of people who are just not very nice to socialise with. I’ve met them, the type of people who will give you one word answers and show very little interest in your kind attempts to get to know them. They are the exception not the rule. If you find a sunshine hater just excuse yourself and move on (more about that later).

Truth 2 – You do have something to offer 

If you have listening ears then you have something to offer. Networking is not actually about fanning people with business cards and moving on. It’s not about pitching your product, well at least not directly. It’s about getting to know people and that means a bit of active listening. Being in the moment and asking questions. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is constantly looking away from you, looking for god knows what. It just sucks.

Be there in the moment and treat that person well. You don’t have to have all the experience to be interesting to talk to, ask questions, be interested. Stop worrying about your story and focus on understanding the experience of someone else. Naturally you will end up sharing a bit about yourself, without the stress of needing to say or be something you are not. You don’t remember people because they are experienced, you remember them because they were interesting and fun to talk to. You do have something to offer, always.

Truth 3 – It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new

Sometimes you might spend an entire event talking to one person. But most of the time that’s not really what you are there for. It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new. This is BY FAR the hardest part of networking because you want to leave on a positive note. This article, this one and this one all have a number of strategies you can use. You will need to build some courage, particularly if you experience a bit of social anxiety. But it is okay to detach yourself and speak to other people, that’s what you are there for.

Truth 4 – It get’s easier

With every event you attend it will get easier. You may have the urge to drag someone along that you know to every event. If so have a game plan, otherwise you will end up standing in the corner talking about your weekend and internet memes instead of getting out there and experiencing all the fun of meeting new people.

Go on, you rock – get out there!


Image credit – click here | Quote credit: click here 

Learning about learning from DIY projects

When was the last time you truly pushed yourself to learn something new, that didn’t have anything to do with your day job? Mine was yesterday when after much consideration and frustration I decided to build a fly screen for my kitchen. I went through a number of steps to actually get to the end product, including watching videos online, asking the guy at Bunnings to explain it me, deciding how to purchase a hacksaw and then getting home and “contextualising” all the information.

The task was hard at first and it was SLOW GOING as I haphazardly measured the window frame (measure, cut, swear, measure, cut, swear…) but after I while I got into a rhythm and kaboom like magic I had a fly wire. Once I had completed my DIY task of the year, I had the overwhelming urge to celebrate and show off my achievements so y’know I posted to Facebook and gloated to one of my best mates over pizza – glorious.

Why am I telling you this story?

Sometimes we forget what it feels like to learn something new. This is especially true if we are the subject matter expert or facilitate that content all the time. We forget the frustration when trying to apply the learning and the excitement when we master the skill. I think celebration is really important. That’s why in a learning program that I am designing now the “graduation” and “success demonstration” is one of the most important parts – we need to reinforce the good feels to keep that spirit of life long learning alive and bring people on the journey.

So next time you are coaching people to learn something new, remember the small things – remember to celebrate the awesome!

Quick thoughts on the TAE

This week I have been completing my TAE (Certificate IV in Training and Assessment). The mix of students includes mostly technical specialists who will be involved with training others in the workplace. I have had some considerable conflicts with the content and that was to be expected because I have experience and have been exposed to some really great thinkers in the workplace learning space. However most people in that room will not get that experience and as a result will go on to think of themselves as trainers, not facilitators who tell people what they should know, not facilitators for understanding.

One personal opinion of the trainer was that she doesn’t like online learning. Okay I can understand that – and there were nods around the room from people who felt the same. The problem with online learning is that term itself is so broad and online learning has been done poorly in many circumstances! I like online learning in the right circumstance. I have had some awesome MOOC, video tutorial, discussion board and social media platform learning experiences. But that wasn’t explored in this course, it’s outside the scope but we have 1000’s of people completing the qualification each year who don’t understand that online learning is a critical part of the new world of work and ignoring it, saying you don’t believe it works without seeing what good looks like is a massive gap in the skills of our workplace learning facilitators.

The TAE is the baseline qualification for people wanting to be “qualified” in designing and delivering competency based training in Australia because it links to understanding how our Vocational Education and Training system works. So it does have it’s place. But I question whether it really prepares people to truly support an engaging and dynamic learning experience at work, maybe the qualification isn’t about that, but shouldn’t it be part of it?

How should we structure the HR department?

A while back I went for an interview to become a Regional Manager for a large supermarket chain. During the group interview process I sat through an information session about the company and a Q&A.

When I asked who looks after the HR department and that side of things, the senior manager said that HR was a waste of space and an unnecessary business function (oh snap!)

When I asked who deals with those traditional HR items I was told they instilled a Grandfather policy by where you escalated things to your manager’s manager to keep a layer of separation. Any advice regarding policy or legislation was handled by the legal teams and basic admin was completed by payroll. Okay I thought, I get that…

So then I asked about culture, actually I asked something like what events do you celebrate internally and are there cultural milestones that define who you are as a business. I was met with a blank stare and a comment about sometimes people receive birthday cards from their manager and then the conversation was dismissed. Oh.

I asked whether they had a HR business partner to help guide operations in creating HR systems and processes for their teams. More blank stares. I knew then it wasn’t going to work out – if you know me, you will know one of my biggest passions is how we make workplaces more awesome so this role pretty much stomped all over that.

However this interview exposed me to a whole new way of approaching the structure of HR teams which as been swirling in my mind ever since.  Have seen HR set up in a few ways including:

  1. Outsourcing – hire a consultancy to become your HR team and pay for what you use essentially.
  2. Hire everyone – massive HR teams which act as a safety net for managers (and get made redundant in tough times).
  3. Business Partners: Where HR coaches managers how to execute the process, stepping in only if its high risk.
  4. All Admin – the internal team offers no strategic value and external consultants rotate through ‘innovating’ the business.
  5. I don’t need no HR – they totally wing it or build it out all together (as above).

Personally I think the only sustainable methods are to either outsource your HR team or build an internal team of business partners streamlining the admin process. Speaking generally, competent and capable line managers can manage most of the day-to-day things that most large HR teams are dealing with. HR does not need to sit in on every Performance Management meeting or every interview. It’s certainly not my job to sit down with employees I’ve never worked a day in my life with and tell them they need to improve. That’s the manager’s job, but many HR advisors and managers find themselves involved in this stuff.

It’s 100% my job to support managers to make the right decision when it comes to the tough people issues. It’s my job to build systems, processes and provide advice that makes managing people easier.

It’s not my job to manage operational teams explicitly , that’s where we are getting it wrong. HR is spending too much time doing the jobs of managers or doing admin tasks that robots can do.

When I first started my career in HR I was told that the Happy HR Ratio was 1:50 employees and over the past few years I have seen this number stretch out to 1:200+, so you don’t have to be a genius to realise that HR needs to get smarter with how they use their time and where they put their resources.

It’s time to get real and think about the value you offer as a HR professional.

Accredited training programs, why do we use them?

Have you ever wondered why organisations want to have training programs? If you answered ‘no’ you are in the same camp as me because I feel it’s all pretty obvious right? You want to increase the skills of your employees, get your slice of government incentives, build your workforce, build your brand… the list goes on.

Recently an article was published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources  with the fancy title of “Modelling the reasons for the use of vocational training in Australian enterprises”. The modelling was based on a 2005 survey of employers by the National Centre for Vocation Education Research, Australia (the article didn’t cite how many employers were surveyed). The reason for the research was due to a lack of explicit research in the area, which I guess perhaps is true….

Okay, I’ll bite, maybe this article will teach me something new….

*15 mins later after reading*

The article didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already believe to be true, or that I hadn’t read on other VET education blogs. It really confirms the complexity of the reasons why organisations choose to deliver accredited training programs. A couple of the key reminders for me included:

Reminder 1: Connection

The article talked about how employees who are completing accredited training are seen as completing something outside of the organisation and not directly linked to the strategy of the business.  I’ve actually been really impressed recently when talking to RTO’s about their real desire to partner and offer something that isn’t a walk in, walk out service – it’s like insourcing your L&D department now.

Reminder 2: Remember the Why

The article highlighted the trend that the more skilled your workforce the more likely you are to shy away from needing an Accredited Training Program with the exception of industries and roles that are driven by mandatory certifications and training. I agree and disagree at the same time. I think it’s dependant on your Why, why do you want to have an Accredited Training Program? Accredited Training is awesome for building a structure, keeping your eye on what matters and capitalising on funding that you can reinvest into your people. I think that reasoning with that trend without looking at other factors kind of gives Vocational Training a bad name. It’s all in the execution and being clear on why you are having the program in the first place.

In other news the article did cite a fun fact from research carried out in the mid 1990’s:

…enterprises reported that training needs were increasingly fragmented to the individual level and that they were progressively abandoning the traditional approach to training programs that saw large groups of employees receive the same training regardless of individual need…

This observation was from the MID 1990’s – 10 years ago people – and we are still having this same discussion about the need for L&D structures to catch up and join us here in the present day.

If you want to read full article check out the reference below.

Smith, A. and Oczkowski, E. (2014), Modelling the reasons for the use of vocational training in Australian enterprises. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. doi: 10.1111/1744-7941.120

Looking back and forward 2014/2015

In 2015 I’m going to investigate more about….

  1. Communication design principles. Colour, layout, design, writing style, advertising and connection through visual media – I have to know more! I think there is a real gap in the skill set of HR practitioners in this space. Knowing how to craft communications with excellence beyond a boring poster format and policy speak, I think is the most important skill I will continue to learn this year.
  2. Performance Review Cycle Success – that old chestnut. Generally the feel is that people hate completing them, managers hate running them, the administration is a headache and most models don’t scale well.. there has to be a better way.
  3. Photography. This connects with number 1, but I am going to become really good at taking my own photos to communicate my message and the message of projects I am working on.
  4. Mastering Personal Knowledge Management. I think I have a handle on these principles but I want to get really clear on what this means and looks like in practice, then see where I can take it at work and play.
  5. How to find where top performers come from and what (if any) similarities there are between them. I want to go beyond just identifying top recruitment strategies and training and development pipelines. I want to look at top performers and see what they are made off and what similarities there are between them. Maybe it will be a simple finding, maybe not. Either way I am excited for what knowing this information can bring .

In 2014 I learned…

  1. If you haven’t clearly articulated your Vision, Mission and Values the going will get tough. This applies to work and play, if you can’t articulate what you are about, getting stuff done right will be a challenge. I watched the VMV being crafted for multiple businesses this year as well as the articulation of my own. You can’t make the decisions you need to and it’s difficult to make a bold and courageous move without knowing what they are either.
  2. The power of Vision, Mission, Values and “Getting It”. This year I heard the statement “getting it” become part of how we describe performance. People getting it, not getting it for example “they are technically excellent but they just don’t get it”. Getting it is about someone’s ability to really hook into and feel the vision, mission and values of a business and design their ideas and the way they work to fit into that model. Those that Get It are your future leaders, the ones that you will inspire and will continue to inspire you.
  3. Being resilient ensures growth and success. Keeping your cool in tough situations, managing set backs, being told you can’t or that you are not good enough are constants in every part of your life. If you are able to keep going in the face of danger, uncertainty and “haters” it will make you a force to be reckoned with.
  4. The job you do and the boss you work for will be equally as important. My experiences and the stories of others have highlighted this fact this year. Some people can tough out the agony of a great position and a terrible manager or vice versa – but I think fundamentally you will leave or become vey unhappy… sooner or later
  5. Intellectual and creative pursuits will make you better at your job. This year I went on my first overseas holiday and had a raft of other experiences that changed my priorities and energised me to think differently. I read more widely, watched movies not found at your local cinema, played with design principles and made a bigger effort to explore the world around me. Indeed this (I think) has made me better at my job and better in life in general.

Happy New Year!